Roman conquest, the Jew had lost the right to carry out death sentences.
Here the Scribes and the Pharisees were placing Jesus in an apparently
impossible dilemma. If he opted for obedience to the Mosaic Law and its death
penalty, he would lose his reputation for being a compassionate man, a
friend of tax collectors and sinners (Mt 11:19), and he would also come into
conflict with the Roman authorities. If he opted for leniency towards the
adulteress, he would be accused of breaking the Law of Moses and condoning
adultery. Jesus sidesteps the legal trap laid before him. His approach was not
legal like that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, it was moral-personal, he
answered it at the personal level of the conscience. ‘Let the one among you
who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her,’ and this enabled him
to simultaneously condemn adultery (sin) and forgive the adulteress (sinner).
Jesus’ balanced position is compassionate enough to give a second chance to
the sinner, to challenge the sinner to a life of holiness.
God’s Word for Each Day Fr Jerry DeSouza SJ