“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and, making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” John 8:3-5
*I was terrified. No sooner than we’d been discovered, I was yanked from my lover’s arms. I told myself we weren’t hurting anyone. Our spouses would never need to know about our secret meetings. We’d just be careful, cautious. I thought we had been, but then we weren’t. In an instant we were exposed for whom we were. I’ll never know why I was the one that was hauled into the streets, through the alleys. Men were yelling at me, laughing at me, threatening to stone me to death, depending on what Jesus said.
I knew nothing of Jesus, only his name. I was too busy leading my secret life to worry about some wandering prophet. Rumors were flying, but I paid no attention to them. Suddenly, my life was being put into his hands. The men were rough both in their actions and in their words as they drug me to the temple. Word got out quickly, because more Pharisees and scribes joined the people who pushed and shoved me. With my arms pinned behind my back, I couldn’t break free.
Fear, shame, horror, guilt and terror, most of all terror filled me as I was shoved, pulled, dragged. I thought I would die. I expected to. Even today, I shudder at what could have happened. I thought of the people who would be hurt when the word spread. I thought of my children, my parents, my husband’s anger and shame. I thought of my lover’s family and all the repercussions there. What I told myself was innocent, wasn’t. How would my children live without a mother in their life? Would my husband ever forgive me? If I survived this, would I be able to hold my head up again. But most of all, I wondered if I would survive the day. Meanwhile, the men mocked me, laughed at me, threatened me with the stones they held in their hands.
I began to pray for mercy, to beg for mercy. The men were intent on hauling me to the temple though, to be judged, to be stoned. Some laughed about the way they were going to force Jesus’s hand. I knew nothing of this Jesus they talked about. I only knew that I was going to pay the price for my sin. Would he demand I be flogged, beaten or stoned? What kind of man would determine my fate?
Along the way, people watched and jeered my approach to the temple, telling me “I deserved any punishment I got . . . I deserved to be stoned . . . I deserved to be dead.” I wished a thousand times over that I could undo the past. I wished I had stayed home. I wished that I had never gotten involved with the man. I wished, but I couldn’t change what happened. I would face my fate.
I wasn’t a person to these men. I was a thing, someone to point to. I was a woman to shame. I didn’t know the scribes and pharisees could be so cruel. I didn’t know that I could be so ashamed of who I was.
Then, we were at the temple and I was pulled right into the center of where this Jesus person was sitting, teaching with a circle of people listening to his words, where he taught in the Court of the Women. Around me were the curious. In front of me was Jesus. I was forced to stand with the scribes and Pharisees, there in the center of the temple court.
Between them, the Pharisees and scribes got the whole ugly story out of what I’d done, and then they asked Jesus what they should do. One of the Pharisees shouted out that the law says a woman like me should be stoned to death. I was petrified. Would that be my fate? One after another, the pharisees asked the same question. What should they do? Didn’t the law say I should be stoned to death? I held my head down, not daring to look around. I grew more and more afraid. I started to shake, my knees buckled under me. All that kept me from falling to the ground were the two men who held me up. All I could think of was my family. What had I done to them?
But, Jesus did something odd. He didn’t answer the men. He stooped over and began to write on the ground. He didn’t say a word at first. The men kept pushing the question of what they should do to me. What did he say? Shouldn’t I be stoned to death? I didn’t know who Jesus was. I didn’t know what to expect. I was sure he would condemn me. At any moment, I thought he would simply say to “Do what you will with her.”
I didn’t even know I was holding my breath, then he said those awful words. “ Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” I waited for the stones to start hitting me. I waited for the men to drag me to the edge of the city, where others had been stoned. I waited for bones to be crushed, my head to be broken, my life to end. I thought the loudest Pharisee would be the one to start the stones flying. Or the ones who had yanked me and dragged me there. Instead there was a deep silence. Jesus returned to his writing. Later some would later say that Jesus wrote the sins of the Pharisees and scribes in the dirt. I didn’t understand what was happening at first. But then I saw a man put his stone down, and then another. No one wanted to be the first to throw the stone. I looked up and saw that all of the older men were gone, stones laying on the ground where they had stood. Then the younger ones began to disappear. Till at last, it was just Jesus and me.
I was sobbing by then, terrified in shock. Even those who had gathered around Jesus before we arrived had disappeared. Only he and I were there. I could stop the sobs, but not the tears. They just kept flowing. I was sure he despised me for the kind of life I was living. I was positive he would tell me how awful I was, how I may have escaped stoning, but God would punish me for my sins. I expected him to tell me I was doomed for eternity.
I thought about how selfish I had been. I’d only looked at my needs, my wants, my desires and not anyone else’s. This had always been about me, me, me. I never considered how what I did would impact someone else.
I shuddered when Jesus stood up. What condemnation would he give me? Then he asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
Bewildered by what had just taken place, I could only say, “No one, sir.”
Then Jesus looked into my eyes with kindness, compassion and mercy. He spoke so softly, I almost didn’t hear the words, the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard. He said, “Neither will I condemn you.” In his voice I heard the words of forgiveness. I heard grace and I heard mercy. Looking at me with the kindest eyes I’ve ever seen, he spoke again, “Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” John 8:11
Since that day, I’ve learned a lot about Jesus. I started listening to him when he was in Jerusalem. I paid attention to the stories I heard about him. One day I took my little ones to be blessed by Jesus. I knew that I could never go back to where I had been. Jesus had set me free. He set me free from my sin. He gave me another chance in life. He gave me dignity. He gave me back my life.
Sometimes, I wonder why he did that. I wonder why he didn’t just tell the Pharisees to stone me. Some say that Jesus is the messiah. God’s chosen one. The son of God. I don’t know about that. I only know, that one day I was about to be stoned to death. On that day, Jesus saved my life. For that, I will forever be grateful.
I try to be gentler, kinder and more forgiving of others. Having stood in a circle of condemnation. I refuse to condemn.
*This is one of a series of monologues I wrote and used in the churches I served, prior to retirement. The woman of the story, is accused, shamed and condemned, while the man seems to escape any consequences for his actions. Those who brought the woman to Jesus, are not interested in justice, but only in using her as an object lesson.
Additional Material for Ash Wednesday through Easter came be found here.