How has it come to this? I’m standing here with a rock in my hand amidst 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 steady 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, but not really, though our eyes have met often. The few words we have traded have been suggestive and flirtatious, but meant nothing.
When I first saw her, the words of my father rang in my ears. On my wedding day he told me 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 eyes saw only my sweet bride, and I can remember thinking such evil could never tempt me.
The day I first saw this woman in the market, she caught me staring. I looked away immediately, but I felt temptation’s net, and it had me. The next time, I let my eyes linger a bit longer.
Once I saw her walking through the temple gate with a man I took to be her father. I later learned it was her husband. Not a great match for her.
Today, she walked right up to where I was eating and sat down beside me. I told her she should not sit next to 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 empty and quiet at that time of day, and she began to cry in earnest. She told me of her life, and at first I just listened. I told myself she needed me to listen. She needed a friend. She just needed to talk about it. I needed to be compassionate, to listen like a friend.
Soon I was holding her as she sobbed and trembled.
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. This rabbi had married Anna and me; he had circumcised my little Yacob. They grabbed us and started dragging us out into the square.
“Let the boy go,” my rabbi said. “I know him.”
The woman’s husband was among our intruders. “You Jezebel! You harlot!” he yelled in our wake.
I followed the angry group out into the square, where they had gathered up stones. I’d lived in Jerusalem my whole life, but I’d never seen anyone stoned in the streets. We read about it in the Law of Moses, but we never took it that far. 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 the cold, hard lump of hatred.
I dropped it, but he reached down, picked it up, and gave it back to me.
“If you will not do this thing, you will be up there with her,” he said to me. I could hardly breathe.
Then the crowd swelled forward. One of the rabbis called out, “Jesus is in the outer court. 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.
“Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?”
It was then I realized this was not about the 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 Jesus. This was a test for Him. They wanted to see what He would do.
Would this so-called Son of Man side with the sinner, or would He side with the religious leaders? They hated the title He had taken. They worked so hard to be more than mere men. These priests, scribes, and Pharisees craved the esteem of men; they were anything but common.
But this Jesus, He would eat with sinners. He was 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 awaiting His judgment, I thought back to those glances that brought me to this place. I wasn’t so innocent. A place in my heart had sought out this adultery. I allowed my eyes to draw me into dissatisfaction with a life full of blessing.
Jesus 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 wrote something 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 man’s eyes are never satisfied.”
How had I fallen so far? How could this man expose my heart without speaking one word?
Then He stood and looked at us—at me!
“The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone,” He said.
After a moment, He got back down in the dirt with the woman. As He continued to write in the dust, His finger tracing the law in my heart, I saw for the first time the wickedness of my actions.
And I was not the only one. 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 dear 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 how? How could 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?
To read the original story, see John 8:1-11.
If you find yourself asking these same questions check out this post - What Peace? - where I lay out God's plan in simple terms.
Copyright - 2015 - Benjamin Nelson
This story comes from my book "Encounters With Jesus. Forty days in the life of Jesus through the eyes of those He touched." You can get yours today at Amazon.com.
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