This is absolutely the worse day of my life—and probably the last! I can’t believe I was caught in the middle of the act. I’m struggling to cover myself as the religious teachers and Pharisees are dragging me through the street. They seem almost smug as they talk about a teacher they are taking me before. If they are this merciless, I can only imagine how this teacher will judge me.
As they toss me into the dirt, I see a crowd gathered, still somewhat perplexed by the intrusion. The men who drug me here then turned to the teacher and stated my offense—caught in the very act of adultery!
“The Law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” one of the Pharisees demanded.
The teacher seemed like he was in mid-sentence before the interruption, mouth still poised as though he was ready to continue his teaching. Instead, he sighed deeply as he looked to the man that had asked the question. The teacher seemed greatly disappointed, but not with me—he seemed disappointed with them!
Suddenly my mind was a buzz. Who was this teacher? Why was he disappointed with them? Perhaps they should have brought my lover along also….and how did they know what we were doing?
The crowd began searching for stones as the teacher was looking at the religious leaders with an expression of great sadness across his face. Then, he simply bent down and, of all things, started doodling in the sand! What he was writing didn’t seem to have any meaning, yet the crowd was focusing on the patch of dirt intently as though some great wisdom was going to manifest itself from the dust. It was then I noticed that all of the attention had been taken off of me—everyone was focused on him instead! He…he was taking all my guilt and shame onto himself!
Yet, it wasn’t long before one of the Pharisees began demanding again that the teacher give them an answer. The teacher slowly stood up, closed his eyes, and let out another long, disappointed sigh.
“Alright,” he said with sorrow as he opened his eyes again and looked at an elder at the head of the crowd, “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” As the teacher looked compassionately at him, tears began to well up in the elder’s eyes. He averted them to the stone in his hand, focusing on it as though he was thinking back to some deeply traumatic event. As tears began to stream down his face, he dropped his stone and slowly turned to make his way through the crowd and away from the scene. As he was walking through the crowd, others looked stunned at the elder’s tears and began similarly looking at their stones. One by one, they began sorrowfully dropping their stones to the ground and walking away. A few in the crowd looked to the religious leaders still remaining who at first seemed infuriated, but then remorse seemed to slowly overtake them as well as though they were the ones who were naked and exposed. One by one, they too began to slip away.
When I looked back to the teacher, he was again doodling in the sand. This time, though, what he was drawing began looking slightly more familiar—three crosses like the Romans used to crucify people. For some reason, tears began to well up in my eyes also.
He then stopped doodling and looked at me with a deeply compassionate gaze and said, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” I was sure there was a glimpse of a smile as he asked.
I struggled to find words as the entire situation had twisted so much. As I looked around again, I timidly said, “No one, Lord.”
“Neither do I condemn you,” he replied as his face burst into a warm, radiant smile, “go, and from now on sin no more.”
For a moment, I felt as though I didn’t want to go. It was so beautiful here in his presence, and I truly felt free of sin. As he gently smiled again at me, reality snapped back and I realized that I was at the Temple half nude. I quickly stood and hurried back to my home.
For some time after that encounter, I wondered just who he was, and why he had told me to “sin no more.” Sure, I had never committed adultery again, but how is it possible to never sin again? Later, I heard someone proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom has come near!”—Just turn around, the kingdom is right here! These words seemed to penetrate to the depths of my soul, and it flourished again reminiscent of when I was in the teacher’s presence. Yet, I still felt unable to break totally free of sin, and I still felt too ashamed that I would be recognized in public if I began to seek answers.
As I was again turning over these things in my head, I reached the outskirts of the city to dispose of my refuse. I was relieved that it was unusually dark that day, making it less likely that I would be recognized on my journey. As I looked, I could barely make out the silhouettes of three crosses on the top of the hill. Suddenly my heart stopped and I felt I couldn’t breathe as I remembered the teacher’s drawing in the sand. I dropped everything I was carrying and ran frantically up the hill. The soldiers standing guard looked at each other perplexed as I hesitantly approached the battered body on the middle cross. It…it was him….the teacher who had saved me from being stoned not long ago. Just above his head was a sign, “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.”
The teacher…was Jesus—the one they say is the Messiah. Suddenly, what was happening washed over me like a tidal wave. Just like he had taken away my guilt and shame, he was now taking away the guilt and shame of the entire world! He was freeing everyone to “sin no more.”
I fell to my knees and began to sob uncontrollably. “This isn’t right!” I screamed aloud repeatedly as I rocked and moaned—the King taking our place….taking my place….As I again gazed up to him, he had opened his eyes and was looking in my direction. There was still such passion in his demeanor, and for a brief second, I almost thought I saw the glimmer of a smile as he was looking at me. Then, he took one last agonizing breath and said, “It is finished…”
6 thoughts on “Wood and Stone”
You made the Pharisees more real to me, I can see them, just as broken as the women they stood to accuse, and just as in need of Jesus. Beautifully written insights!
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Thanks! Yes, the brokenness of the Pharisees is one of those things Jesus keeps trying to show me, and how we all need him. It just might take a different approach depending on where each of us it at in our walk with God :).
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“This isn’t right!”
John, what a powerful piece of writing this is. And that short scream of indignation so often used in a whimper of self-pity: This isn’t right!
This isn’t right! I was watching a video of Eugene Peterson (The Message) and Bono (U2), and Eugene said ” we have to learn how to cuss without cussing” – we have to find ways in art, music and poetry, to show others how mad we (Christians) are at some of the stuff going on.
Your words and this post are one “cuss without cussing”.
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Thanks Paul! Yes, it’s often for me personally that when I let all decorum fall and just cry out with what’s on my heart that I come face to face with God again.
And I keep meaning to watch that video but haven’t gotten around to it yet :).
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