Jesus and the Sinful Woman
by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
AFTER THE Feast of Tents Jesus stayed near Jerusalem, making his home in Bethany, for nearly two months, until another feast came, the Feast of the Dedication of the Temple. About two hundred years before that time, the Temple had been held by enemies, who had stopped the services, had set up images in the building and had done many things to make it vile. At last the enemies were driven away; and then the Jews made the Temple clean again, destroyed the images and began once more the regular service. After this, every year they kept the day of the reopening of the Temple as "The Feast of the Dedication." At this feast the Temple was lighted up every night very brightly, and on that account the feast was also called "The Feast of Lights."
During the days of his stay, Jesus went often to the Temple and sat down in a room called "The Court of the Women," because on one side of it was a gallery where the women worshipped, looking down on the services at the altar. It was also called "The Treasury" on account of the gift-boxes on its walls, where people dropped in their money for the poor and for the support of the Temple. In this court, which was very large, and open to the sky, without a roof, the Jewish teachers held their classes for the study of the law; and many came to Jesus to listen to his words.
One morning the teaching of Jesus was interrupted by a noise in the court. Some of the scribes and Pharisees, who were enemies of Jesus, planned to get him into trouble with the Roman rulers. They came, dragging in a poor woman who had done a wicked deed; and bringing her forward directly in front of Jesus.
"Teacher," they said, "this woman was caught in a wicked act. Now, Moses in the law commands that any person committing that crime shall be stoned to death; but what do you say should be done with her?"
Jesus very well knew that they had brought this question to him hoping, whatever he said, to make trouble for him. If he should say, "Let her go free," they would declare that Jesus was a breaker of the law and cared nothing for crimes. If, on the other hand, he said, "Let her be punished," they could say to the Roman rulers, "This man is acting as a judge and claims to be the King of Israel;" and this might cause the Romans to put him to death. So, whatever Jesus might say, they could find some reason to accuse him.
But Jesus seemed to pay no attention to their words. He stooped down, and began to write with his finger on the floor. But as they kept on asking him the same question, finally he rose up, looked his enemies full in the face, and said:
"Let the one among you who has never done wrong throw the first stone at her."
Then he stooped down again and continued writing with his finger. They stood silent for some time and then began quietly to go away, the oldest men first and the younger men later. After a while, Jesus looked up and saw the woman standing alone before him. He rose up and said:
"Woman, where are those men? Does no man say that you are guilty?"
She answered him, "No man, Lord."
Jesus said to her, "Neither do I call you guilty. Go away, and never sin again."