How has it come to this? I’m standing here with a rock in my hand in the middle of all this anger. The anger is not mine, but I can feel it. It’s all around.
I didn’t see this coming as I sat at breakfast with my wife Anna and my two little ones. I think of myself as a good father, a good husband. I have a good job working with the dairyman. We sell our milk from a cart near the sheep gate. I almost have enough saved to buy a few cows of my own.
But at noontime, as I sat in the square eating the lunch my Anna had packed for me, I saw her. I have known her for a few months. I say known – not really – but our eyes often meet. The few words we have traded have been slightly suggestive and flirtatious, but it meant nothing.
When I first saw her, the words of my father rang in my ears. On my wedding day he told me that I must be like Job and make a covenant with my eyes if I wanted to be faithful to my Anna. But that day, my wedding day, my eyes saw only my sweet bride, and I can remember thinking I could never be tempted with such evil.
The day I first saw this woman in the market, she caught me staring. I looked away immediately, but I’d been caught, and perhaps captured. The next time, I let my eyes linger a bit longer.
Once I saw her walking through the temple gate with a man who I took to be her father. I later learned it was her husband. Not a great match for her.
Today, she walked right up where I was eating, and sat down beside me. I told her she should not sit beside me right there in the square because people would whisper.
“I just need someone to talk to,” she said, right on the edge of tears. “Where can I talk with you?”
I took her to a place I knew would be quiet – empty – at this time of day, and she began to cry in earnest. She began to tell me of her life, and I was just listening – at first. I told myself she needed me to listen. She needed a friend. She just needed to talk about it. I needed to be compassionate. I needed to listen like a friend.
Soon I was holding her as she sobbed and shook.
The rest is a blur. What started as a comforting touch became an embrace, and soon I found myself overwhelmed. Compassion became passion and the next thing I knew the door burst open.
A group of men broke in, some in religious robes, including my own rabbi, the one who had married Anna and me, the rabbi who had circumcised my little Yacob. They grabbed us and started dragging us out into the square, but my rabbi called out, “let the boy go, I know him.” Her husband was among our intruders. He was screaming, “you Jezebel, you harlot.”
I followed this angry group out into the square where they had gathered up stones. I’ve lived in Jerusalem my whole life, and many people have done lots of things, but no one has ever been stoned in the streets. We read about it in the law of Moses, but we never actually did it. My rabbi stood beside me. He bent down and picked up two stones. They were bigger than a man’s fist. He took my right hand and forced me to take that cold, hard lump of hate.
I dropped it, but he reached down, picked it up, and gave it back to me. He said to me, “if you will not do this thing, you will be up there with her.” I could hardly breath.
Then the crowd started moving again. One of the rabbis called out, “Yeshua is in the outer courts, follow me and let’s hear what that upstart will have us do with her.”
Soon the woman lay face down in the dust. I could still hear her sobs. Before her stood a man dressed in common robes. There was already a good size crowd with Him before we pushed our way through.
“Rabbi, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?”
I saw then that this was not about this woman, or about her sin, or about the law. It was a test for this preacher. It was not the woman in the dirt who was on trial here. It was this Yeshua, He was the one being tested. They wanted to see what He would do.
Would this ‘Son of Man’ side with the sinner or would He side with the religious leaders? They hated that title He had taken, ‘Son of Man.’ They worked so hard not to be seen as mere men. These priests and scribes, these Pharisees craved the esteem of men, they were anything but common.
But this Yeshua, He would eat with sinners, not ashamed to be with them in their homes and in the streets. How would He deal with this woman? Would He take her part and defy the Lord God’s own law? Would He take up a stone with us and break faith with the people?
This had me nervous. If He took up the law, I might just be next.
As I stood, stone in hand, and waited for His judgment, I thought back to those glances that brought me to this place. It really wasn’t so innocent. There was a place in my heart that I had sought out this adultery. I allowed my eyes to draw me into dissatisfaction with a life full of blessing.
Yeshua positioned himself between those of us with stones and the woman. She was still weeping with her face in the dirt. He knelt down and started writing in the dust.
I could not see what He was writing, but in the silence my guilt and shame were mounting. Again I heard my father’s words. “Remember son,” he would say, “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”
How had I fallen so far? How could this Man without speaking one word expose my heart?
Then He stood, and looked at us – me – and He did speak,
“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
After a moment, He got back down with her in the dirt and started writing again. As He wrote in the dust, His finger was tracing the law in my heart, and I saw for the first time the wickedness of my actions.
I was not the only one either. First the elders began to back off, some dropping their stones, others taking them away as they quietly pulled back from the crowd.
As I stood there, I could hear my own voice speaking my vows to my Anna those eight years ago.
What I wanted to do was fall down and beg Him to forgive me. That’s when I had to leave. I wanted to run, but I just dropped the stone and backed away. My sin, my unfaithfulness, filled my heart. I had to be rid of it. But I didn’t know how. How can I be free of this guilt? I never knew this darkness of guilt and shame until I stood in the presence of such holiness, such wisdom, such purity.
Who is this man?
What must I do to be saved from this condemnation that fills my heart?
If you find yourself asking these same questions check out this post – What Peace? – where I lay out God’s plan in simple terms.
If you like this, you might enjoy “What am I lacking“
This encounter with Jesus is fictionalized from John 8:1-11
Copyright – 2014 – Benjamin Nelson