THE STONE NOT THROWN
(A biblical reflection on the 5th Sunday of Lent [Year C], 13 March 2016)
Gospel Reading: John 8:1-11
First Reading: Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalms: Psalm 126:1-6; Second Reading: Philippians 3:8-14
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again to the temple; all the people came to Him, and He sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?” This they said to test Him, that they might have some charge to bring against Him. Jesus bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. As they continued to ask Him, He stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more He bent down and wrote with His finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before Him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.” (John 8:1-11 RSV)
The “Accused”, a young woman, was forced in front of the crowd. The “Accusers”, the Scribes and Pharisees, experts of and devotees to the ancient religious law, publicly announced her offense. The “Judge”, Jesus, also an expert lawyer (but more people-than law-centered), was challenged to pronounce the verdict.
This charade was orchestrated by the enemies of Jesus, not from a sense of justice but to publicly embarrass both Him and the woman. If He granted her freedom, He would be openly rejecting the law. If He observed the law and permitted her death for adultery, He would be contradicting His own previous teaching. The baited trap, deviously set, appeared inescapable.
Momentarily He studied the dust of the earth, the origin and destiny of the human body, then let it run mutely through His hands and doodled in it with His finger. Did He think of how human nature, like the dust, was so easily manipulated – pushed this way and that with little resistance, clinging to what it touches? Did He silently wonder why this woman, known to the Hebrews as the weaker sex, should be condemned to death when the man, presumably the stronger, should go free?
The woman’s fate – to live or die – seemed to hang in the balance awaiting His decision, but in reality there was never any doubt concerning the verdict. She would live and He would tell her of God’s love, which would kindly lead her to repentance. Jesus challenged the self-justified accusers to judge their own hearts as they had this woman. This dramatic yet tender message of mercy, demonstrated by Jesus and told by John, is the story of “The Stone Not Thrown”.
Even today, many people still believe in throwing stones which kill the good name of another – character assassination through gossiping, etc. Often those who smugly stand in judgment and hurl their condemnations are guiltier of the same sins than their accused victims.
Jesus doesn’t snuff out the smoldering wick or break the bruised reed. He could trace the sins of any of us in the dust – not for others to see, but to show us that He knows, Jesus doesn’t write them in rock to remain but in dust, to be blown away with His forgiving breath.
Dear Sisters and Brothers, the story of “The Stone Not Thrown” summons us to judge our own hearts; to live and let live.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, a sinner. I love You, Lord, and I want to belong to You. Truly, I will never understand the depth of Your love for me, but it amazes and humbles me beyond words. Thank You, Jesus. Amen.
Note: Adapted from Rev. James McKarns, GO TELL EVERYONE – A Commentary on Sunday Readings Cycles A-B-C, Makati, Philippines: St. Paul Publications, 1985, pages 210-211.
Jakarta, 11 March 2016
A Christian Pilgrim