In the story of the woman caught in adultery, “Jesus is accosted in public by a group of Temple leaders. … They point to the place in the law where stoning is required for such women. They attribute this requirement to the authority of Moses. They demand that Jesus say what should be done. (There was a double trap in this situation. The Romans had prohibited the Sanhedrin from imposing capital punishment for any violation of religious codes; therefore, for Jesus to assent to stoning would be to place himself at odds with Roman policies; on the other hand, to treat the woman’s alleged offense lightly would reveal Jesus as being “soft” on the law. Their question to him was meant to be a source of consternation and embarrassment to him, leading to a public affirmation of the charges that he set aside important aspects of the law.)”
In this story Jesus is being shamed by the potential exposes of his ‘laxness’ with regard to the law, and the woman is being shamed by the public exposure of her alleged sexual misconduct.
James Fowler comments: “Jesus’ response initially reflects his shame for the accusers and for the woman. He averts his eyes, looks and bends downward where he begins to write with his fingers on the ground, refusing to credit their questions. When they persist in demanding a response, he ‘straightens up’ meets their gaze, and says to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her’. Eye to eye, straightforwardly, he throws the shame, directed at her and himself, back upon them. Then he kneels down again, resuming his writing on the ground. ‘The crowd melts away, led by the elders, leaving him alone with the woman. When they have gone he stands again, looking at her, and asks, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She says, ‘No one, sir’. And he says, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again’.”
Jesus does not ignore the woman’s guilt, but he focuses on “dealing with her shame and her misuse at the hands of those who would have entrapped them both.”