Woman, In Adultery
The earliest manuscripts sometimes left this story out. It is easy to see why; the immature mind might have taken this as approval of adultery. That entirely misses the point. It must be stated that there is no sense of approval for adultery. It must also be stated that there are worse sins.
St Augustine has pointed out an interesting history, based upon this verse:
(Psa 45:4 NIV) In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds.
The Pharisees have tried the assault upon his truth, and failed; they have assaulted him about his humility, and lost, and now they must assault his righteousness. So they construct this clever trap. Will the Friend of Sinners call for the wrath of God as expressed in the Law of Moses?
An answer in truth, humility and righteousness
As if Jesus was answering not just this assault but the previous ones, his reply contains truth, humility and righteousness.
The truth is simple: these people were sinners too. We are apt to forget this (how many of you condemned President Clinton for his affair?) But Jesus does not point this out in anger; just in fact.
If there is a prime characteristic of humility, it is that it does not pass judgment. That Jesus did not pass judgment on the woman is clear, but notice also:
· He does not ask, "Where is the man?" Therefore he does not pass judgment on him.
· He does not even pass judgment upon the Pharisees! Rather, he points out the truth, and gives them time to repent.
Righteousness is not neglected. Having dismissed the Pharisees, he tells the woman to leave her life of sin. There is no thought that she has done no wrong; rather, mercy has triumphed over judgment. Mercy is unnecessary for the sinless. The sinner counts it precious.
The same problem arises for the Christian today. Are we so sure of our own righteousness that we can condemn others? We must examine ourselves for truth, humility and righteousness.