1. Jesus is preaching and the scribes and Pharisees present him with a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. The scribes and Pharisees are “big on the law,” and so they remind Jesus that according to the Law, the woman should be stoned. And then they ask him what his opinion is on the matter. Once again the scribes and Pharisees are trying to TRAP Jesus. Recall that Jesus had a reputation for going easy on the sinner.
2. Well Jesus, the old fox, ends up setting an even better trap for the scribes and Pharisees. He says: “Let him who is without sin throw the first stone!” That takes the steam out of the Pharisees. So they leave! And Jesus tells the woman that he does not condemn her. Go your way and sin no more.
3. Three little reflections on this scene.
3.a. First – we should not be like those scribes and Pharisees who are great at seeing fault with and condemning others, while they do not see their own sinfulness, their own fall-short of the mark. It is not up for us to be judging and condemning others. That’s God’s task.
3.b. Second: where the law and others condemn, Jesus does not. Jesus experiences and reveals to us a compassionate and forgiving God, not a God who is out to get us. Jesus’ God is a God who accepts just as we are, sinners, broken, fallen people who frequently fall short of the mark. Jesus’ God not only accepts us as we are, but is always there to forgive. Jesus’ God is not out to nail us, is not a wrathful God, a God who has to be appeased. His love and compassion always walk ahead of us. Jesus’ God loves and accepts DESPITE, despite the fact that we fall short.
3.c. Third: Often times people have a difficult time believing that God really does love us and accept us unconditionally, precisely as we are, sinners. But I think that says much more about ourselves than it does about God. It says that we, not God, are pretty petty. We forgive only when we are first appeased; only when “amends” are made. That may be true of us. But that is not Jesus’ God. Jesus’ God loves and forgives unconditionally, even before we ask for it.
---and so we end up being harsher on ourselves than God is. It is WE, not God, who cannot accept ourselves as sinners, as short of the mark. God has no problem. God can and does deal with that easily. That’s the doctrine of redemption.
4. Jesus has good news for us: God loves and forgives unconditionally. And that unconditional love and forgiveness, that “love despite” should empower us to first accept and love ourselves “despite,” and then in turn to accept and love all others “despite,” despite the fact that they fall short. For those who cannot, Jesus has set for them a trap: let him who is without sin cast the first stone.
By Rev. Don Buggert. O.Carm (Viet O.Carm forwards...)