Fifth Sunday of Lent – Do Not Judge

Gospel: John 8:1-11 (excerpt)
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives, and he sat down and taught them.
Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery 
They said to him,
“Teacher, this woman was caught committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”
Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.
But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them,
“Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
Again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
And in response, they went away one by one,
So he was left alone with the woman before him.
Then Jesus said to her,
“Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?”
She replied, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”

Three parts of this poignant and dramatic story stand out for me:

  1. We are thrilled that the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees is exposed by Jesus. We like it when the self-righteous get their comeuppance. It’s easy to imagine them slinking away.  For just a moment, we forget how self-righteously judgmental we can be.  Oops, I guess that’s part of the point Jesus is making.  If I don’t let the scribes and Pharisees off the hook, neither should I excuse myself.
  2. I love the drama Jesus creates after he throws down the challenge by offering the first stone to any sinless one in the crowd. He doesn’t berate, doesn’t babble on with more words. He just writes, doodles on the ground and lets them stew in their own guilt. I just love the power of silence to work havoc on our own guilt and thoughts – many times even worse than what others might charge us with.
  3. The culmination of the story – Jesus and the woman alone. The criterion established by Jesus as who can condemn her is met. The drama intensifies – Will Jesus pick up and throw the first stone of condemnation? We know the answer. As so, not only for that woman, but for me and my sins Jesus says – “Neither do I condemn – go, and do not sin any more.” What a great ending!

How have you been treated like the woman in this story? Have you treated others like this? This week, let’s try not to judge and have mercy on others as we’d like mercy from God.

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