Our gospel passage this Sunday is one of the finest in the entire Bible. In telling the story of the woman caught in adultery , and Jesus’ response to her, it superbly illustrates everything that Lent is about: the forgiveness of sins, the lifting of the burden of condemnation, guilt and shame, and the hope of a new beginning in our lives.
Note that the scribes and Pharisees in this gospel do not seek Jesus out when he is alone but come to him while he is surrounded by a large crowd. Note also that it is only the woman who is described as having been caught in the very act of committing adultery. Where is the man she was caught with ? He is allowed to make his escape, while only the woman is to be charged. Yet the Jewish Law mandates that both the woman and the man are to be killed. The scribes and Pharisees want to make Jesus , in the face of all those people, either advise against the dictates of the Jewish Law by telling them to free the woman, or be judgmental and lacking forgiveness in contrast to his preaching.
Jesus, of course, puts the onus on their shoulders. Why did the scribes and Pharisees drop the stones and leave ? Jesus’ simple statement forced them to reflect on what they had in common with the woman..that, they, too, were sinners in need of the merciful forgiveness of God. How can one be harsh in judgment toward another when he or she calls down the same judgement upon him/herself? We cannot demand from God mercy for ourselves, yet justice for others who have offended us .