Sunday, October 5, 2014

Waiting for the rocks

One of my two favorite stories in the Gospels is the story of the woman caught in adultery.

We were discussing that story over breakfast. (A lot of times, posts on my blogs come from discussions I've had with people.) We'd been talking about how people form a relationship with Jesus. 

As many do, I suspect that this woman was a known adulteress, and that several of the Pharisees had availed themselves of her "services" before. They saw her as an object, a great way to relieve some tension before going home to critical, demanding wives (don't get me started). But in her they began to see a great way to set a trap for Jesus - and their "valuing" of her turned to betrayal. (How do I know this? because the Law said that both the woman and the man should be stoned; where was the guy???

They dragged her, naked, through the streets. They thrust her down in front of Jesus. "Rabbi! [don't you love how they toss that term around when they mean anything but that?] This woman was caught in the very act of adultery. The law of Moses says that such as these should be stoned. What do YOU say?"  (Read the story in John 8.)

The question was asked; the trap was set. 

And Jesus said nothing. 

The woman was crouched in the fetal position, sobbing, trying to escape as much public humiliation as possible. She fully expected the stones (big, heavy projectiles, not little pebbles!) to start flying any minute; she'd seen stonings before. Everyone had. 

He squatted on the ground beside her; He wrote things in the dust. What He wrote, we are not told. When pressed for an answer to their cleverly-designed question, He said simply (and this is how it appears in the Greek) "Whoever among you is without this sin, let him be the first to throw a stone." 

The Bible tells us that they dropped their rocks and split. Okay, it says that they left one at a time, beginning with the older ones, until all of them were gone.

Let's use our sanctified imaginations at this juncture. Here is the scene: A ring of robed men with big rocks in their hands, Jesus and the woman in the middle. Jesus is squatting and writing on the ground. The woman is sobbing in the fetal position with her head in her hands (as I've described) fully expecting the arrival of the first rock. 

She hears a rock hit the ground. She thinks it missed her. Her breath catches. 

One by one, the rocks fall to the ground as the Sanhedrin members realize their trap wasn't quite so clever after all, and they leave, convicted by their own consciences (possibly helped along by what Jesus was writing on the ground?)  And the crowd that gathered around them hushes. 

Jesus turns to the woman. "Where are your accusers? doesn't ANYONE condemn you?" 

And she looks around in wonder at the circle of rocks where the robed ones once stood. "No-one, Sir." 

The love in His voice was unmistakable. "Neither do I." 

Freeze frame right there. Before He says, "Go and sin no more," stop and think about what "I don't condemn you," means. 

Had she sinned? Oh yes.  Did she deserve death? According to the law of Moses, yes. Her lifestyle was totally exposed for all to see who were there. 

But He didn't condemn her. 

Photo "Stone And Sand Background" courtesy of
gubgib at
She was waiting for the rocks to hit her. She'd been hit by hundreds of rocks before - all the dirty looks people gave her every day on the street felt like rocks hitting her soul. The way mothers shielded their children's eyes as they walked by the street-corner, the way men would leer at her, the contempt she saw when she passed by the scribes and priests in the outer court of the temple, all felt like sharp projectiles striking her, judging her, wounding her. 

I've felt those sharp rocks, those disapproving looks, those judgments from other people. I've felt the hot sting of shame for things over which I felt I had no control: my family, my socio-economic class, my (former and current) lifestyle, my parenting choices, and the list goes on. Each is an emotional stone - and does damage to the one it hits. The emotional rocks make the inner prison walls stronger, the sense of helplessness and hopelessness more intense. There is no escape.

Each of those sharp emotional rocks had made their mark on her ... every bit as real as the "real" rocks ... and now there was this day. This day she was sure she was going to feel the physical rocks hit her body. This is the day her life would end. She knew it.

And yet ... there they all are. The rocks are on the ground. She looks around and tries to grasp the idea that the Man before her actually saved her life - and restored her dignity. She looks up and sees the love and compassion in His eyes. For her

It rescues her. It sets her free. 

"I don't condemn you." Those words of forgiveness make her into a new person, one who doesn't want to live that lifestyle of shame anymore. He took her shame away, and gave her a clean slate.

Now. NOW, doesn't "Go, and sin no more" sound more like, "Here, let Me take off those chains. You're FREE!" than it does "Go study the rulebook and get your life straightened up"??

It sure does to me.


  1. Judy. . . your writing is powerful. . .I love this rendition of this beautiful story! What a great read on my Sunday morning! Thank you!!! :-)