The scribes and the Pharisees bring a woman "caught in the very act of committing adultery" to Jesus asking him what they should do with her.
I am struck this morning by this woman. Think for a moment about what this event must have been like for her. She is caught having sex, in the "very act" of sex. She must have been married as she is accused of adultery, so imagine her embarrassment, her shame at the public airing of her sexual transgression in the temple, to this itinerant rabbi, who is not paying attention to her or the scribes and Pharisees, and who is drawing something on the ground. She must have been confused as well, for she had gotten herself caught up in the political scheming of the scribes and Pharisees and their plotting against Jesus.
Jesus looks at her, looks at those accusing her and says "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her." Imagine her terror, her fright during that wait to feel the first stone strike her body. And this itinerant rabbi goes back to sketching in the sand at his feet, ignoring her and all those around her. I wonder who she looked at: the scribes and Pharisees around her? Jesus who is ignoring her? Did she keep her eyes closed?
And no stones hit her. And then Jesus stands up and asks her "Where are they?" And she sees that they are gone. What did she think about this man who the scribes and Pharisees asked if they should stone her to death? And then Jesus says that he will not condemn her either, but that she should live a better life from this point forward. Is there shock from this woman? Delight and wonder? Numbness and exhaustion from the ordeal? Sheer joy at the reprieve? We are not told, as so often happens in these Gospel accounts of Jesus' actions.
Jesus is showing human compassion today. Jesus is admitting his own humanness today by not casting the first stone. Jesus is teaching us about caring for those who make mistakes. Jesus is showing us a forgiveness and a loving kindness that we are called to emulate.
And isn't this story one of waiting and anticipation and self-examination and one with a surprise ending? Isn't this just what Advent is all about?
Copyright 2010. The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.