Christian Articles Archive

Neither Do I Condemn You

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-1586). Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery "Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery," by Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-1586), oil on canvas. The Hermitage, St. Petersburg.
Is this really happening? Jacob ben-Joseph wondered. One minute a crowd was sitting in the early morning shadow of Solomon's Porch. Only doves cooing and children playing quietly at the edges of the crowd were heard besides Jesus' powerful but gentle words which echoed from the pillars and cobblestones and temple buildings. People listened in rapt attention.

All of a sudden a woman was screaming, "No, no," as a group of well-dressed men dragged her through the seated crowd to where Jesus was sitting. Tears streaked her face, and she clutched her thin nightclothes to her bosom in terror and embarrassment.

Jesus had stopped trying to teach and waited. The spokesman for the group--an elderly Pharisee, one would judge by the way he was dressed--flung a challenge at Jesus. "Teacher," he bellowed so all could hear, "this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"

Jacob recognized the woman now, and in the few seconds it took for the crowd to quiet again he could see what was happening. She was from the Essene quarter of Jerusalem, where for months folks had whispered about her affair with a tradesman from Egypt. If these Pharisees had really cared about upholding morals, Jacob knew, they would have arrested her months before. But this morning they must have broken in on the couple in bed--with the required two witnesses- -and hauled her into the temple courts just to put Jesus on the spot. With his reputation for welcoming tax collectors and prostitutes and sinners to his meetings, the Pharisees were trying to set him up--Jesus against Moses--and then stand back to watch him try to wriggle out that.

This would be interesting indeed! Jacob thought.

After the elderly Pharisee's challenge, Jesus, who had been sitting on the stone courtyard, glanced down from the man's glaring eyes to the pavement, and began to write--maybe doodle, Jacob thought--in the dust covering the stones. The Pharisees, furious that he didn't answer, shifted about and muttered to one another.

Just then Jesus looked up to the old Pharisee towering over him, "The one of you who is without any sin ... why don't you throw the first stone at her?" he said quietly. Then he leaned over and began doodling in the dust again.

Jacob gasped. Amazing! If I am ready to pass sentence on someone else's sins, what about my own? Who will show me mercy?

The Pharisees were fuming. Jesus had given them permission, but who would pick up a rock and begin the ritual execution? The crowd waited to see. Which one would be willing to expose his life's actions to the scrutiny of his neighbors? Which one would have the audacity to pretend he was sinless?

The seconds ticked by, and it soon became obvious that nothing was going to happen after all. The younger Pharisees glanced up at their elders for a signal. None came. Then the elderly Pharisee began to edge into the crowd and move away, trying not to attract attention. The younger men followed as soon as they could do so without appearing to run. All eyes followed their retreat till the echo of the last footfall died away.

Jesus looked up at the woman, conspicuous now, standing in front of the seated multitude. Jesus seemed to address her as if she were all by herself. "Woman," he asked gently, "where are your accusers? Has no one passed sentence on you?"

"No one, Lord," she whispered.

"Then neither do I pass sentence on you," the Master said. "You can go now.... But woman," he added, as she began to leave, "you must leave your life of sin."

Jacob could almost see her thin body inhale deeply. Hope filled her eyes. She nodded to Jesus, and began to walk to the temple gate with the determination of a woman who had finally decided what to do, and had made up her mind to do it.

Based on the Bible account in John 8:1-11.

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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