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Gospel Reflections » International

The Woman Caught In Adultery

March 17, 2013

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The passage about the woman taken in adultery does not really belong to John’s Gospel. Many see it as a piece of writing by Luke, for it fits better into his style and context. However it is an authentic part of the Gospel, and displays in a telling manner one more example of the compassionate Christ.


The situation is a familiar one: Jesus is seated in the Temple precincts teaching his disciples, when a crowd of scribes and Pharisees drag a woman before him. She had been caught in the very act of adultery, and his opponents want to use her  to trip him up. They argue that Moses commanded that such offenders should be stoned. What do you, rabbi Jesus, say about it?


Jesus is aware of the trap, and says nothing. In fact he deliberately bends down and writes something in the dust. The Pharisees harangue him for an opinion. Still he continues to ignore them, and keeps writing. As the cries around him increase, Jesus finally stands up and says: “That one of you who is without fault shall throw the first stone,” and he bends down and continues writing.


And the crowd around breaks up, silently going away one by one, beginning with the eldest.


The lesson of the story is, of course, not that sin is of no importance, nor that God does not punish sin, but that God extends his mercy to the sinner so that he may turn away from sin, and change his life. The world is quick to condemn. Jesus, in the story, does not condemn the woman, but accepts her for what she is, and through this acceptance he gives her new life.

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