Throwing Stones

woman_caught_in_adultery

I’ve come back to a story in the Gospels that grips my heart every time I read it. It is the story of the woman caught in adultery, found in John 8. Jesus is teaching in the Temple courtyard, with a large crowd gathered to hear Him. Suddenly, the Pharisees & other religious leaders burst through the crowd, dragging a woman caught in the act of adultery, and throw her down in front of Jesus & everyone. They boldly assert that Moses’ law says they can stone her to death right on the spot, but ask Jesus, “What do you say?”
Now, as I try to imagine this whole scene, the shock and drama of it become clear. Wherever & however they found this woman, they must have burst in on her and her lover, caught them in the act (which was a terrible sin, no doubt), dragged her out and down the street with probably little if anything on, kicking & screaming, all the while spitting on her, kicking & hitting her, taunting & verbally abusing her, all the way to the Temple. (Interesting how they seem to have left out the other guilty party, the adulterous man!) By the time they arrived with her, I imagine she was bloodied & dirty, sobbing uncontrollably, rightly fearing for her life. Then she was dumped unceremoniously at Jesus’ feet.
With the crowd in shocked silence, the self-righteous Pharisees demanding an answer, Jesus mysteriously stooped & wrote in the dust. No one knows what He wrote, but He suddenly stood up, looked these men in the face, and demanded, “All right, but whichever one of you has had no sin in his own life, you throw the first stone!”
He then stooped to write in the dust again, the sobbing woman in a huddled heap beside Him. Whatever He wrote, coupled with what He had just said, one-by-one the accusers all turned to leave. Standing up, Jesus leaned over her and said, “Lady, where are your accusers?” Through her disheveled hair and sob-swollen eyes, she replied, “They’re not here, Lord.” And I imagine Jesus throwing a robe around her and helping her up as He said, “I don’t accuse you either. But now go and leave your life of sin.”
What an amazing scene this is! The cold cruelty of the religious leaders, who just wanted to use the occasion to try to trap Jesus in some way- contrasted with the uncompromising compassion of Jesus for this woman, is astounding to me. Many believe this woman was the same one who sometime later burst in on a dinner Jesus was attending, and anointed His head and feet with perfume, out of love and gratitude. Could this be Mary Magdalene, one of the most passionate and devoted followers of Jesus? I know this- Jesus once said, “He who has been forgiven much loves much, and he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
May I always love much, realizing I have been loved and forgiven much.
May I always see people through the eyes of Jesus- not excusing their sin, but loving them with His love, which alone has the power to forgive and restore.

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