The Unforgivable, Forgiven
I want you to imagine an early morning scene with me. Light is beginning to streak across the temple walls of ancient Jerusalem as the sun peeks over the horizon, and you have gathered with your close friends and family to say your morning prayers and hear the teachings of Jesus. That’s right, the Jesus you have been hearing about, this Rabbi with unspeakable power and wisdom, has placed himself in the middle of the temple grounds to teach.
The sun is beginning to warm your skin and his words are likewise warming your heart. You feel a peace sweep over you as you listen to his teachings. They are much different than you have heard in the past, but words you unflinchingly want to follow. Just as you find yourself settled you are shaken from your trance by a commotion behind you. Abruptly, a woman’s shriek forces your attention towards the direction of the interruption where you see a half-naked woman being dragged through the crowds by a group of men.
You are mortified. You recognize the men, it’s the Pharisees; the religious leaders; your Rabbis. But you also recognize the woman. She is one of you. And now she stands, humiliated in front of everyone; ashamed and disgraced in front of Jesus! You can see she is now trembling in an uncontrollable way. Your eyes are ripped from her as one of the leaders speak, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law says she deserves to be stoned. What do you think should be done to her?”
All eyes fall on Jesus.
He is still sitting; writing something on the ground. Why is he still sitting? Why has he not done anything, why has he not lashed out? Maybe he is trying to think of an answer? Surely Jesus wouldn’t have her stoned, right? Not after everything he was just teaching us….but to teach against the law? Also unspeakable. Suddenly, you feel very small. You shrink back into the crowd a little further, hoping to avoid any attention to yourself.
More questions are shouted towards Jesus, but you can’t hear them at this point. Your mind is racing with all the faults in your life and the events that you are about to witness. That could be you out there. Standing, fully exposed, all your sins for the world to see. Maybe not the same sin, but the same guilt and shame and dishonor nonetheless. What would your family think, your friends? What would Jesus think if he saw you like this? You find a deep pain for this woman.
What seems like an eternity later, Jesus stands. At that moment, all the air in that courtyard must have been breathed in, and you can testify because all of a sudden it feels harder to breathe. Without a word, Jesus walks towards where the woman is still standing and where the men have gathered around her, stones gripped tightly in their hands. He stoops down and also picks up a stone...and your knees begin to weaken.
Something inside of you wants to cry out! You want to shout, ‘what about mercy, what about love!’ What about me? All my sins! If this woman deserves to be stoned, so do I! There has to be another way!” - but, like everybody else, you remain silent.
Jesus now stands between the woman and the group of men. A stone nestled firmly in his hands, and he reaches out.
But his reach has no force behind it. He does not arch the stone behind his head in a traditional throwing motion. In fact, he is not even facing the woman’s direction. He is facing the group of religious leaders. And instead of throwing, he is extending the stone in their direction.
You are confused. His he giving them another stone to hurl at her? Is this some cruel game against the woman to prolong the process? Then Jesus speaks, “Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”
The courtyard becomes deathly silent. You can feel the tension in the air. The sun has made its way over the horizon by now, and you are beginning to feel its battering heat against your skin.
All eyes are on the religious leaders.
You see it in their eyes first. Slowly, each of them begin to recollect and waken the sins in their life. Their sins. All of a sudden those stones become heavier. Then you hear it. The sound reminds you of rain pattering on a straw roof. It’s the sound of stones hitting the ground. It begins with one of the older men in the group. He turns and walks away from the scene. Following suit, each of the other men in the group begin to do the same. Suddenly, the men are gone.
All eyes are on Jesus.
He looks to the woman. She is now hunkered on the ground, still waiting for the wave of stones to shower her. There is a soft sobbing coming from her direction. After dropping his stone as well, Jesus walks to where she is. “Where are your accusers,” he asks, softly, gently, lovingly. Looking up for the first time, you can see the the woman’s eyes open wide. “Sir, they are not here,” she responds, disbelief blanketing her voice.
“Then neither do I accuse you. Go, and from now on do not live a life of sin.”