“Teacher, this woman was caught
in the very act of committing adultery.
Now in the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women.
So what do you say?”
I watch the Pharisees and the scribes dragging the woman to the temple where Jesus is teaching. They found her “in the very act”. Oh, their enraged righteousness, their raw desire for vengeance, their thirst for blood and death… Their legitimate anger. A woman belongs to a man, whether father, husband, or son. The unfaithful, adulterous wench. Kill her!
Here is the opportunity to kill two persons with one stone: Jesus and the woman.
To be the woman, on her knees, clothes torn, dusty, and bloody from the blows. Feeling hatred and contempt in the air. The murderous glares, the mouth-twisting insults. How ugly they look. How terrifying as well.
I can feel the dusty ground under my hands, my knees and my legs. The smell of my sweat, mixed with my fear. The morning sun blinds me. Smudgy tears run down my cheeks. I can see the sandaled feet of my accusers; I can overhear their snarls, their growls. How I would like to disappear! Oh, that it would be over, that I might die fast.
They wait for your answer, Holy man. Silence surrounds you, as if coming out of you and taking me in. You look at me the sinner; no judgment in your eyes, no blame in your eyes. Just this immense peace, this profound kindness. Who are you? Then, I hear you say,
“Let the one among you who is without sin
be the first to throw a stone at her.”
I wait for the first stone on my back or on my head. The fury, the insults have died down. My head down, from the corner of my eye, I notice people walking away, leaving me alone with you.
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”, you ask.
“No one, sir”, I reply.
Oh, your eyes, sir, just at the level of mine. And then you add, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.”
Sin, teacher?, I think. It will take me the rest of my lifetime to find out all that sin is. But I promise, on my child’s head, that I will not sin again. Your eyes give me the strength I need. Why is it that you believe in me when no one else does? What do you see in me that makes me feel loved and precious, honorable even? How do you do it, rabbi?
How did you do it, Jesus? So few people can make others feel the way you could make people feel. Where are you to help us today? Your love gave women you knew the strength to stand up and walk tall. We need you to come back and be our advocate with today’s scribes and pharisees everywhere in the world.
Until then, O Risen One, until you sweep everyone of us upward, I will remember your love and your smile, your peace and your inclusiveness, and I the sinner will walk tall and sin no more.
Art: Woman Caught in Adultery, John Martin Borg, 2002