John 8:7-9

John 8:7-9 “When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stopped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman standing there.”
I sit among the people as Jesus speaks in the temple courts. I know who he is though many here do not. Suddenly, there is a commotion, and a woman stumbles in among the group. Powerful people leer at her from behind as she trembles in her disheveled robe. They accuse her of adultery, sending gasps and whispers throughout the group, and they want Jesus to condemn her. All the while, she stands looking at me here on the ground, and I recognize her. I’ve seen her pass me by on her way to the temple. More than once, her tears hit my face. I wait for Jesus to say something, but he writes on the ground instead.
The men who brought her pick up my brothers and sisters. Their voices form a cacophony of disgust, anger, and amusement. When I’m lifted from the ground, I tremble too. I know what happens to women like her. I know, and I do not want to be a part of it, but I can’t change their minds. I see the hatred and self-righteousness in the men’s eyes, and I wonder if anyone can change their minds. Please, someone, try. I don’t want to be the death of this woman.
Jesus finally speaks and grants them permission to do what they want. The condition he places on them is that they too must be without sin. If they want to send a woman to her death for her sin, they must have no marks against them. I know these men. I know their secrets. I’ve heard their whispers and have seen them lie, cheat, and steal. I know they are not pure, but I wonder if that will matter. They’re so filled with hate, so eager to prove their own righteousness.
As the woman cries, awaiting her fate, the men freeze. The young man holding me grips me so tightly, I’m afraid I might break. I’m afraid. This man is determined, and I know that he has justified his sins to himself. I know that he has made excuses disguised as reasons for his actions, and I fear that one strong throw will make me her executioner.
Then, I see one elderly man, the oldest of the group. Slowly, his determination fades as his face starts to reflect the woman’s shame. He’s lived a long life, has committed more sin than perhaps anyone here. His grip loosens on the stone he is holding, and my brother falls back to the ground. The old man walks away with his head hung low. Guilt makes his shuffling feet heavy, but he’s not alone. All around the circle, my brothers and sisters fall, released by the men’s own indiscretions.
Only one man stands now, but the danger has not yet passed. He grips me even tighter, and his hand shakes in anger. He could throw me now. I could still deliver the blow that sends this woman to her grave. I want to cry out to Jesus to do something. He’s the son of God. He knows this man’s heart. Surely, he knows the capability of this man and the reasons he would give as justification for his actions, but Jesus is still writing on the ground.
Time slows. For a long moment, the man’s determination and hatred send tremors through him. Then suddenly, I am falling through the air. I don’t want to hit her. I don’t want to cause her death. Perhaps she deserves it but no more than any other. Each of us was created by God, and we are all loved. Every life is valued. I land among my brothers and sisters just as before, and I’m relieved. The young man didn’t throw me. He simply dropped me. He walks away like the rest, head low, feet shuffling, and eyes so full of shame, they threaten to overflow.
When Jesus looks up at the woman, she stands alone, no one able to condemn her because of their own shame. He’s the only one on Earth who is blameless enough to punish her. He’s also perhaps the only person on Earth who still loves her, and he dismisses her with the command to sin no more. We both know she’ll try to keep his command, but she’ll fail. They all do. She may not sin in the same way, but she is human. She will sin again just as surely as the men who accused her and the ones who watched on and said nothing. Jesus knows, but it doesn’t matter. His grace is greater than all their sin.

Written by Tammy Hoppenjans

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