But look at the way our Lord’s answer upheld justice without forgoing clemency. He was not caught in the snare his enemies had laid for him; it is they themselves who were caught in it. He did not say the woman should not be stoned, for then it would look as though he were opposing the law. But he had no intention of saying: “Let her be stoned,” because he came not to destroy those he found but to seek those who were lost. Mark his reply. It contains justice, clemency, and truth in full measure. Let the one among you who has never sinned be the first to throw a stone at her....
|Jesus and the Woman taken in Adultery, Magdeburg ivories, ca. 962-968|
This, unquestionably, is the voice of justice, justice that pierced those men like a javelin. Looking into themselves, they realized their guilt, and one by one they all went out. Two remained behind: the miserable woman, and Mercy. The Lord raised his eyes, and with a gentle look he asked her: Has no one condemned you? She replied: No one, sir. And he said: Neither will I condemn you.
You see then that the Lord does indeed pass sentence, but it is sin he condemns, not people. One who approved of immorality would have said, “Neither will I condemn you. Go and live as you please; you can be sure that I will acquit you. However much you sin, I will release you from all penalty, and from the tortures of hell and the underworld.” He did not say that. He said: “Neither will I condemn you; you need have no fear of the past, but beware of what you do in the future. Neither will I condemn you: I have blotted out what you have done; now observe what I have commanded, in order to obtain what I have promised.”