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The Adulteress

The Adulteress by Louis Glanzman

Artist Narrative:

"The scribes and the Pharisees led a woman forward who had been caught in adultery. They made her stand there in front of everyone...'Teacher,' they said to him, 'this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. In the law, Moses ordered such women to be stoned. What do you say about the case?' When they persisted in their questioning he straightened up and said to them, 'Let the man among you who has no sin be the first to cast a stone at her...' Then the audience drifted away one by one... This left him alone with the woman... and he said to her, 'Woman, where did they disappear to? Has no one condemned you?' 'No one sir,' she answered. Jesus said, 'Nor do I condemn you. You may go. But from now on, avoid sin.'"
(John 8:2-12)

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Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.
Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?

Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.

The woman was possibly a prostitute since the accusers did not bring the man involved. These scribes and Pharisees were strong believers in following the letter of the law. One verse to which they could apply their action is Leviticus 20: 10 which states that adulterers were to be put to death. They overlooked Deuteronomy 1: 16, 17 in which Moses advised his judges to judge righteously. Probably, they were less concerned about the woman than in trying to find a cause against Jesus.

 

Jesus had the men convict themselves and release the woman. They were not prepared to claim sinlessness. They knew that they were wrong and thus lost what they had hoped to gain. By allowing the woman to speak, Jesus prepared her for His response.

 

Jesus let her know that she was doing wrong. He gave her the opportunity of changing her life. At another time, He said that it is the sick, not the well, who need a physician (Matthew 9: 12). In this situation, He applied that statement. He forgave the woman. Now, it was up to her to respond.

 

Too often, we are like the scribes and the Pharisees in this story. We are ready to accuse others unjustly of wrongdoing. We fail to see that we, ourselves, are guilty of sins. Judging is necessary in life, but it must be done fairly. Even as we judge, so we shall be judged (Matthew 7: 2). Sometimes, our motives for judging are for improper purposes as in this story.

 

We must be prepared to help people who are ignorant of many things in life as Jesus did here. We may never know what effect we have had in the lives of those who have done wrong. Salvation for those persons result from our efforts. However, the ultimate decision to change has to be that of the other persons.