What It Means to Be Human: Mercy

David Bast

Read: John 8:1-11

Let him who is without sin . . . be the first to throw a stone. (v. 7)

One day, as Jesus was teaching at the temple, the religious authorities approached him for the usual reason—to try to discredit him. But they came with an unusual case, a woman “caught in adultery” (v. 3). Here is where my questions start. Why is this the story of “The Woman Taken in Adultery”? Why not “The Couple Taken in Adultery”? Is this another example of society’s notorious double standard, where the woman is charged and the man let off? It seemed like Jesus was facing an inescapable dilemma. He would either have to forfeit his reputation for mercy or seem to contradict the law’s sentence. What would Jesus say?

At first he didn’t say anything, he simply scratched words in the dirt (the secret sins of those Pharisees? Bible texts about God’s mercy? Wouldn’t we like to know!). Then he spoke the words that made them all slink away. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” But what about Jesus himself? After all, he was without sin. Jesus could have thrown that stone. But he didn’t.

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” As the noted preacher G. Campbell Morgan commented, “That one sentence put me out of the stone-throwing business for good.” “Neither do I condemn you.” That one sentence gives me hope. —David Bast

Prayer: The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.