The Gospel of the Day – 2016.03.13 (Sunday)
A Woman Accused
Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At daybreak he appeared in the Temple again; and as all the people came to him, he sat down and began to teach them.
The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman along who had been caught committing adultery; and making her stand there in full view of everybody, they said to Jesus, ‘Master, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery, and Moses has ordered us in the Law to condemn women like this to death by stoning. What have you to say?’ They asked him this as a test, looking for something to use against him. But Jesus bent down and started writing on the ground with his finger. As they persisted with their question, he looked up and said, ‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Then he bent down and wrote on the ground again. When they heard this they went away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there. He looked up and said, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one, sir’ she replied. ‘Neither do I condemn you,’ said Jesus ‘go away, and do not sin any more.’ (NJB)
The Sacrifice of Mercy
The sacrifice of mercy. That is what Jesus offers here. It is the only sacrifice desired by God; God creator of the universe.
There is little else to remark on in this narrative.
Jesus is at the Temple, he is in the place that is the center of cultic ritual for his people. His understanding of their tradition, is challenged by a group of Pharisees, who are his peers, and a group of scribes who are students of the sacred texts.
He is presented with a problem which is on its face a legal matter; how to deal with a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. Testimony was not given. A defense was not offered. A group had gathered; intent on killing her, intent on squeezing the breath out of her by placing large stones on her chest. A stoning in the tradition of the Hebrews.
It was the view of the crowd that they had a sacred obligation to fulfill; according to the laws of Moses. The adulteress must be put to death; to satisfy a sacred obligation, a human sacrifice in the temple precinct.
The Pharisees and Scribes wanted to test Jesus, and the crowd who gathered wanted the spectacle of a killing.
Jesus responds by offering the only thing that God desires, the only thing that anyone their had freely to give. He offers her mercy, and through her, the offer is given directly to God.
Do not read the story as if Jesus defeated the crowd. He passed the test, and thwarted the efforts of his opponents to trip him up; yes, that happened.
The crowd; the crowd he brought with him, into that sacred place beloved by God; the place of mercy, and compassion, a place of justice.
Jesus was the first to make the offering and one by one as the crowd dispersed, they left an offering of the same.
5th Sunday of Lent