Caught in the Act

Posted: January 26, 2008 in Back Stories, Of Spiritual Things
Tags: , , , ,

My thoughts on John 8:1-11  Caught in the Act

It’s late, very late, or maybe it’s early, very early.  She thought she had finally found a man who would love her.

Her past was bruised and ugly.  Her father left home early in her childhood leaving a huge space that she never could fully fill. Even though she tried, often and with many different things. Nothing ever really satisfied. Her mom had to work the fields just to keep food on the table and often she would stay at her uncle’s home while her mother worked late into the night. Her uncle cared for her, a little too much. It was early in her life that he told her how much he “adored” her. His hands wondered and soon he was taking advantage of a young girl who thought she was being loved, but soon realized she was being abused.  As a young girl she started working just to pass the time, something to do, or maybe it was to be away from something she didn’t want to do.

There were other men who started to show interest in her as she matured into a young woman. But so often they only stayed as long as they could get something from her. They too only wanted to use her, she kept giving herself away hoping for something in return. Somehow she became known and began to live on the edge.

One day on a visit to a draw water for her daily supply she ran into a man who offered some money. Others had offered money before but not this much. This would take care of her for a month, maybe more. It would be worth it, just one time more, maybe this would be the last time.

It was late when they met at the stable, the moon was peeking through the clouds that night giving her just enough light to make her way down the trail. The wood hinge on the gate squeaked slightly as she opened it. Inside he was waiting. He was actually very kind, maybe this one would actually care for her, maybe it would be alright. Just maybe. She let herself go.

Suddenly the gate flew open and in crashed several men yelling at her in angry voices. They grabbed her arms and threw her off the nameless man across the stable and onto the dirt floor. Other men tore her garment and pushed her into the animal refuse in the corner, as they began to shout insults at her. Yelling that she was going to be stoned at sunrise.

Crying in fear she scrambled to her feet and ran for the open gate only to be smacked down to the earth again. They grabbed her wrists and proceeded to drag her out of the stable and down the deserted street. The next few hours she spend in a room alone, locked up like an animal, waiting to be slaughtered. She felt like like some kind of animal.

Many things went through her head in those long hours. She knew what she was doing was wrong and that according to the law she was to be punished by public stoning. She had seen that one time before when she was a little girl. It was to horrific to watch, the images started to plague her mind as she sat quietly weeping in the dark corner of the cold room. Alone. the weight of the darkness was heavy.

The agonizing hours turned into a sunny morning. She use to love going to the market with her mom when the sun shown bright, she would hold her mom’s hand singing a Psalm. This morning instead of her holding her mom’s hand the men returned grasping her wrists and forcing her to walk down the busy street.  She knew that most women would be taken to their father’s house and stoned at the door, but where would she go? To the edge of town? To the city dump? She was sure they would take her there and would leave her body in the dump to eaten by wild animals.

But this wasn’t the path to the edge of town. The men were taking her into the heart of the city towards the temple. This didn’t make sense. As they entered the courtyard of the temple she saw a large crowd of people gathered around something. The men made a lot of noise as they entered, causing the crowd to turn and watch the procession enter. She was taken and thrown down on the dirt in front of a man. A common man, she assumed he was a powerful rabbi with this kind of crowd gathered around.

She was confused. First the law said that if a man and woman were caught in the act of adultery that they would both be stoned, but the man from last night wasn’t there. She was alone in the middle a big crowd who were gathered around to find out what this was all about. She mustered up her strength and stood in front of the teacher with her tangled hair falling around her head as she hung it in shame, her clothes torn, her skin dirty and smeared with excrement from the stable. She waited, scared, shaking.

Just hours ago she was giving herself away again, thinking that just maybe this man could have been the one, and now she was preparing herself to die.

The men shouted accusations at her, they were ugly, and sounded evil and then they asked what this rabbi was going to do about it. They wanted him to pronounce judgement on her. She knew what the judgement would be, the law required it-death by stoning. He had to make this proclamation. If he didn’t he would be going against the Law and who would follow a rabbi who went against the Law?

She waited.

The rabbi slowly knelt down and reached his hand out to the dusty courtyard and methodically drug his finger through the sand, like he was writing something. What was it? She couldn’t quite make it out. 

Several of the men who had caught her started to pick up stones, they were getting ready. “How could they be so excited about ending a life?” She thought to herself. “Am I really that evil?”  They continued to shout accusations at her, some were true, some were made up. The man just kept drawing in the sand.

Then he stood up with authority, he was going to talk, he was going to make his judgement. He opened his mouth. She winced.

He said, “You’re right. Let her be stoned.” Terror rushed through her body like lightening, she began shivering with fear and tears streamed down her cheek. But then he said something crazy, “You who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he knelt back down and concentrated on drawing in the dirt. He didn’t even look up again.

She kept her head down waiting for the first stone. They were sure to start throwing, they are the religious leaders, surely they are sin free. She heard a rock drop to the ground. She flinched, but nothing hit her. Then another rock dropped to the ground followed by footsteps. And then it happened again. And again. And again. Soon it was quiet. Very quiet. She looked up and saw that none of the men who dragged her in where there any more.

She didn’t know what to do. She was alive. Why? What just happened?

His Words cut through silence,  “Young Lady, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” He spoke so softly, with so much kindness, gentleness. It was like there was life in his voice.

“No one, sir.” Was all she could get to come out of her parched lips.

And then he said it. He said the words that she would remember the rest of her life. “Then neither do I condemn you,” He said, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

She just stood there, shocked, perplexed. She couldn’t figure out what happened. The crowd was still gathered and somehow inside of that short sentence she felt he was teaching the crowd, or maybe the crowds, or maybe he was even teaching or speaking to people who couldn’t hear his voice. She felt something bigger happened here, something bigger than just forgiveness being given to a worthless dirty girl. His words felt like a healing salve, like a cleansing water was washing over her and even though she stood there physically dirty and disgraced, she felt clean, even pure. His words made her desire deeply to change to run from her life of continually looking for love in men. She felt as if she had just been released from a prison.

She wanted to jump up and down and shout and sing. But she didn’t, she just stood there. The Rabbi looked at her and smiled. It wasn’t a grin or a courteous smile, it was a genuine smile with teeth and dimples and a sparkle in his eyes.  Then he turned and continued to teach the crowd.

The girl followed this Rabbi for many weeks, holding onto every word that he spoke, capturing every miracle and healing he did. She followed him all the way to a place called Golgotha, the place where this kind, gentle Rabbi died a gruesomely harsh death on a cross. It was evident to her that in his death he was doing something much bigger than just dieing. There was something about that death that had eternity written on it. Something in that day on that hill that was going to heal many, many more people like she was healed. She would soon find out that it was in his death and resurrection that true life begins.

  1. keithcarpenter says:

    Just an add on thought.

    It is truly amazing to me that this event was a perfect reflection of what we deserve as humans born in sin. The girl knew that the penalty for adultry, according to the law, was death. Period, no exception. She was caught in the very act. She should have died. We have the same judgement on our heads, except Jesus, an innocent man, paid that price for us. In my thoughts, I want to believe that this girl was at the cross when Jesus died, and she truly understood the events of that day in the Temple.

  2. margaretthompson says:

    Thank you.

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