One of the most poignant and moving gospel stories is the woman caught in adultery. She is caught, and then accused, by a number of men, including religious leaders, of adultery. Nowhere in this incident do we see or hear about the man. It does take two to tango, as they say. The man gets off scott free.
We all know the culture of the time was steeped in what is referred to as the “double standard:” a woman could be stoned to death for this sin but not the man.
Jesus levels the playing field with his famous reply, “Those who have never sinned cast the first stone.” Jesus in no way approves of what the woman did but calls us all to place ourselves in her shoes. Who of us hasn’t been a part of something sinful? We can make judgements about actions, and we all do, but we can’t judge the dignity of any human being. The men in this gospel weren’t just judging the woman and her action, they were judging her dignity. Perhaps Jesus was writing in the sand, “Where is the man?” Certainly, the man’s dignity, even his participation in a sinful action, was not called into question. Jesus was undermining this cultural reality that treated women as second class citizens, at best. This one provocative scene certainly contributed to Jesus being despised and eventually sentenced to death.
We all carry the stones of hurtful and hateful words that we sometimes “throw” at people. We can psychologically and emotionally “stone” a person by hurling insults that can shatter their self image.
We are ALL sinners, who need forgiveness. The one thing we all have in common: our sinfulness. And we all need a Savior to do just what Jesus did to the woman in the gospel: show mercy.