Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone

let he who is without sin cast the first stone

Reclaiming the spirit of the law


A feverish look shines from the eyes of a young woman as three men in cloaks  of fine linen march her into the village square. Her skin is the color of olives; her long, dark hair is not plaited.  She wears a plain robe woven from wool and on her feet sandals of leather. Derisive catcalls and cries of “Adulterer!” “Harlot!” greet her from the gauntlet through which she is pushed and prodded. The white disk of the noonday sun allows no  forgiving shadows.

 The local Inquisitors are using the young  woman as bait, setting a trap to ensnare an itinerant rabbi from far-off Nazareth, who teaches in parables and dares to question their authority. They confront him as he stands near the well, observing the trial about to begin. The laws of Moses command that adulterers be stoned, they taunt him, what say you about this one?

Jesus knows his foes well, these thin-lipped dogmatists of the letter of the law. In all their studies of the prophets, they have forgotten nothing and learned nothing. He has foiled their stratagems before, and he regards them with an expressionless scorn. The crowd impatiently awaits his reply.  Stones in hand, they have their work to do. Jesus does not speak immediately, but instead writes on the ground as he composes an answer to reclaim the spirit of the law. Rising to his feet, he looks over the crowd and says in a voice that carries to the far side of the square:

“He that is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her.”

Jesus fixes a steady gaze on the Inquisitors, as their smirk of arrogance fades. Those among the crowd who a minute ago were crying for the woman’s blood now have silent tongues. The faintest of breezes rustles the leaves on the sycamore trees. Somewhere in the distance, a child cries. The  Pharisees are reduced to shuffling away in silence; not a word of response have they spoken. They are convicted by their own consciences. The crowd disperses, pondering Jesus’ words. “What does it mean?” a voice asks. No one has a ready answer.

The young woman alone remains with Jesus. She stands silently, in a daze. The cold sweat trickles down her back. I do not condemn you, Jesus says, and she feels the strength returning to her legs. She begins to weep, as relief flows  through her like a river. But Jesus is not one for situational ethics.    He places a hand on her shoulder and says,  “Go, and sin no more.” Before leaving, the woman gets a cool cup of water from the well and offers it to Jesus. He smiles, but with sadness in his eyes, and thanks her.

For one sun bleached afternoon, the law tempered with mercy is redeemed from the ones with bloodless lips who would see it etched into stone. Jesus has spared a woman who broke one of Moses’ laws; in so doing, he has invited the wrath of the patriarchs.  Jesus knows that soon they will have their day.


11 thoughts on “Let He Who Is Without Sin Cast the First Stone

  1. Leela Gupta

    “What would Jesus do?” is something people should think about more rather than picking and choosing which dogma to take literally out of the Bible. I saw an article about a church that had a sign saying they would stone homosexuals. I hope someone reminded them, “Let who is without sin cast the first stone.”


    1. Emily Rose Lewis

      There was a gay parade going on weekend before last in downtown where Elevation Uptown, our church, is located. My teenage son said, ‘We need to put up a huge banner across the front if the church that says God Loves Gays.’ I thought that was a pretty great idea.


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  3. saintcharlotte

    I am a Christian and this is a wonderful rendition of Magdalene’s story Tom. This is one of my favorite passages in the Bible, because it taught me a lot about compassion, giving people a lot of chances, mercy, forgiveness and arrogance.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tom Schultz Post author

      Thanks for your response. This is one of my favorite Biblical stories also. Actually, one of my favorite stories period. I just tried to re-imagine it a little bit by bringing out the character of the woman, her terror and the relief she felt at finding a strong, but compassionate Protector. I also like this story because it’s part of what I think is the best story-telling ever, in the Book of John, where the reader is offered the chance of getting to know Jesus through his intercession in the lives of ordinary humans. The woman at the well, Mary Magdalene’s reaction at the sepulcher, and others.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. beholdinghimministries

    Blessings again…and thanks for the invite. God used you to reveal His great love and compassion despite our sin. What a merciful God who gives the opportunity to have life and be set free from sin being our master. It has been my blessing!

    Liked by 1 person

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