Monday, March 5, 2012

From Rocks to Redemption

She found herself in the most humiliating of circumstances. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d set foot in the temple and yet, now, she found herself flung down in the midst of a group listening to a respected teacher who had been in the area for only a short time. While she felt the teacher probably didn’t know who she was, the woman was certain most of the audience knew her all too well. 
You see, there had long been stories throughout the community, stories of her trysts with various husbands of other women. And now, she had been caught in the very act of one of her rendezvous. She’d barely had time to grab some clothing as the men snatched her out of the adulterous embrace. She was disheveled, confused, but mostly ashamed. As she looked up at the mob surrounding her, several men in the gathering looked away quickly, not wanting their eyes to meet hers.

Laying there at the feet of the teacher, the woman reflected on her life. She had long led such a wanton life, she saw herself as worthless. What did it matter whom she had met in the shadows? She meant nothing to the world. At least in those brief, passionate moments, she felt some sense of love, albeit shallow and fleeting. Abandoned and rejected by her own family, the woman was starved for any sort of human warmth. For this, she had paid the price with her dignity, living a life of tortuous abandonment from the rest of society.

Oddly, the religious leaders seemed more interested in debating the legalities of her situation with this new teacher. She sat in surreal silence, listening to them berate the teacher about what the law said should be done to her.

"Moses commanded us to stone such a woman! Now, what do you say, Teacher??"

Stoning? It never occurred to her that her punishment would be that severe. The woman swallowed hard as she realized the same men that had refused to look at her were now holding jagged-edged rocks. Now their eyes were directed toward her, filled with hateful resentment.

Heart pounding, she turned quickly to see how this teacher would respond. Her life, it seemed, had been thrust into the hands of this stranger. To her utter dismay, he was merely squatting down, writing something in the dirt with his finger. He appeared completely disinterested in her situation. But the men kept up their insistent ranting at the teacher, demanding an answer.

She thought her situation helpless. She was guilty as charged and the only ally she might have was doodling something in the dirt. As her despair reached its absolute depths, the teacher finally raised himself up and faced her tormenters. Finally, he was going to speak...

"He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first."

With that, the teacher went back to his writing in the dirt...Was that it? No legal argument made on her behalf? The woman’s heart sank with disappointment. She felt hopelessly doomed.

But a remarkable change in the air began to occur. The hatred she had felt directed toward her was beginning to dissipate. Piercing the sudden silence, she heard stones thumping the ground as they dropped from the grips of the men. Heads down and without a word of response, the older men in the group began walking out. The younger men soon followed, until she found herself alone in the teacher’s presence.

"Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?"

The good Teacher reached down, took her by the hand, and lifted her up from the dirt in which she’d been cast. She gazed upon his face, feeling a warmth and love that she had never experienced from any other person. Still quivering and shaking, she managed a weak reply.

"No one, Lord."

Softly, He told the woman, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."

She had been dragged into the temple under circumstances beyond her comprehension. Now, as she left, the woman felt suddenly fortified that perhaps her life did have significance. It would be a long, arduous journey ahead, but she now felt she could encounter life with a newly uplifted spirit. She turned to see her Deliverer once more, but He had gone. Wonderfully, however, she felt His presence beside her as she walked out from her darkness into the daylight.

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