Updated on December 6, 2018
Scandal, Mercy and Grace
Every once in awhile I enjoy using my creativity to imagine what some of the stories we read in the Bible must have really been like. For my blog this week, please enjoy my take on what this story of scandal and mercy must have been like for the adulterous woman who encountered Jesus…
The setting is ancient Israel…a riot takes over the crowd in the marketplace. Men in leadership, Pharisees, are leading in their pious way through the street, robes of dark crimson flowing as they make their way to the town square. Following quick behind them are more of the same, dragging a young, exposed woman for all to see. She was naked, her body completely bare, save for a thin sheet that was quickly thrust at her as they snatched her from her home. Taking the long way through town to the square, the Pharisees had it in their nature to publicly humiliate those “not as righteous as them” as much as they possibly could before reaching their destination. Doing so only exceeded the height of their status in other peoples eyes, or at least, so they thought. Arriving at the center of town, the girl was thrown to the gravel as those nearby began to make a mockery of the scene. All the woman could see were the dozens of sandaled feet covered in a reddish brown dirt several layers thick. She didn’t dare look up at the faces staring down at her. She didn’t want anyone to recognize her in this moment of such shear shame, embarrassment, and humiliation. Men threw jokes at her like dung in the face, as if to let her know that was all she was worth. Women looked on with compassion for the girl, while covering the virgin eyes of their young. Some of the voices she swore she recognized. Fighting back tears so as not to show weakness in the midst of an already unbearable moment, the woman kept her eyes unmoved on the ground before her.
Suddenly, a hush came over the crowd as a man walked through the mobs of people. Who he was, she did not know, only that his very presence held the power to silence a crowd. Using her long, dark brown hair to cover her face, she waited for what she knew could be the last few moments of her life. For at any moment, she knew she could be stoned for the accusations against her. Lying with a man other than your husband always carried a penalty of death. And now, she fear death awaited her.
The man that passed through the crowd seemed to be headed straight for her. Was he to be her first accuser? Stopping just short of her, he knelt to the ground and began to write in the dirt. Uneducated as she was, and unable to read or write, the woman could only wonder what it was that was being written. Her death sentence? A negotiation? A man in the crowd broke the silence with a rough tone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law says we must stone such a woman. What do you say?” Teacher? This man was a teacher? The pieces slowly began to come together in her mind. Jesus! This is the man that so many had been speaking of! The one who made blind see and lame walk. Jesus. Could he help her? Would he help her? The moments that followed awaiting an answer were quiet enough to hear a piece of dirt scrape on the gravel as the man called Jesus knelt back down to write in the sand again. The few moments that followed felt like decades as the woman waited in anticipation for what was to come. Questions began to rise from the crowd, more vigorously now than before and Jesus answered them all with one convicting requirement… “Anyone who is without sin may cast the first stone at her.” All voices ceased. Without sin? Fists raised in anger began to drop to their sides, realizing they didn’t qualify. Stones ready for execution, held a moment longer as if some thought they might be exempt from the statement. Yet after a couple seconds, dropped one by one to the ground with a thud in the sand, breaking the heavy silence. Starting with the eldest of the group, wise enough to know their own sin, all the way down to the youngest standing, the crowd began to slowly disperse.
Still desperately afraid to raise her hazel eyes, the woman couldn’t help but feel relief as she heard each stone drop to the ground, each one releasing more of the breath she’d been holding. In just a few moments time, the accusers were gone, leaving only her and Jesus at the scene. He knelt to the ground once more, but this time not to write, but to gently lift her eyes to meet his. The moment they did, her heart was overcome. His eyes held such peace, such calm, such love. The tears she had earlier refused could no longer be held back, and she began to weep. With compassion Jesus asked, “They have all left, has no one condemned you?”
“No one sir” she replied with tears and disbelief.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said. “Now go, and leave your life of sin.”
Written by Amber Cantorna