My intention was to sit down and write a part 2 to the post, “Confessing our Skeletons”, as an encouragement to women who battle with lust, like me. I’ve been sitting at John 8 for some time now and for whatever reason, when I began to write this post, a narrative came out instead. The truth is, while our battle may only be inward, the Law speaks the same condemnation over us as it does the adulteress we find in John. What we are looking for when we seek lust is Love. The crazy part is that the Love that we are looking for, we have been freely given in Jesus. It’s just that we forget. We have forgotten our total and complete pardon from darkness. As I wrote this, I was reminded of how Jesus doesn’t just “let me off the hook” for being an adulteress of heart. He was the perfect Law keeper for this continual Law breaker. Jesus hung on the cross as an adulteress so that He could set me free. His gaze upon me as I continually fail in this area is not one of anger, it’s one of compassion and love. He loves us even when we’ve been caught red-handed. The Law shuts us out and drags us to our death. The gospel draws us in and sets us free. My hope is that this will serve as a reminder to us forgetful-yet-deeply-loved adulteresses of heart, so that we can walk freely in the light and love we have been given by Jesus.
Is this what it feels like, she wondered as his breath hit her cheek and his hand swept up the back of her neck, into her hair. She was clearly the only person on his mind at this very moment. That thought brought so much comfort. She knew in just a short time he would be gone and the pangs of loneliness and shame would set in. She would see him in town tomorrow and he would have to pretend that he didn’t know her. She couldn’t bear the weight of that thought, so she shoved it down as quickly as it had appeared. Tomorrow didn’t matter anyway, because for a brief moment today, she was his and he was clearly happy to be with her. He was such an important man, every woman in town admired him. He could have any of them easily, but he chose her. Her stomach fluttered at the thought of being special to him. She felt so safe and cherished in his embrace. It was worth it, to feel this way even if just for a short time.
The door burst wide open, letting daylight fill the room. The ecstasy of the moment vanished as a crowd of men piled through the doorway. She sat up, startled, and from the corner of her eye she saw her lover bolt away, taking every notion of his love for her with him. A cold sadness filled her heart. She finally recognized these men that stared at her. They had never spoken to her or even looked in her direction before. She was sure that she had never stood next to them on the street and she tried to remember a time when they were ever on this side of town. Confusion set in as to why they would be here with her now, these men who were close to God. Her face flushed at the realization that she was completely exposed. She started to reach for a covering but the men seized her and to her horror, began to drag her through the door.
Her feet drug through the dirt behind her as they walked her through the town outside of her home, shrieks and gasps could be heard as they passed through. They approached the temple and she remembered being inside of it as a little girl, hearing the scriptures read aloud. She remembered the Law. A thought of of sheer terror crossed her mind. Women that did the kinds of things that she did behind closed doors with married men brought shame to their father’s house. Adulteress. She had broken the Law and these men of God were dragging her to her death. She frantically tried to pull away but it was no use. They had a firm grip on each of her arms. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she began to sob uncontrollably. She could hardly breathe.
They finally stopped before a crowd near the temple and pushed her toward one man in particular. She recognized him as a Galilean. She had heard stories of a galilean that came to town healing people and performing miracles. She wondered why these men of God would bring her to this man? What would a man who heals the sick have to offer a woman like her– an adulteress with a broken heart, awaiting her death sentence?
One of the men spoke to the Galilean saying, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such a woman. So what do you say?” Her heart began to race as the Galilean looked her over. There was something so completely different about him from the other men. He looked her in the eyes. At first she wanted to look away in shame, though there was something there in his eyes that held her gaze. She wasn’t sure what it was but it was something she had never seen before and he didn’t seem to hate her like these religious men.
The Galilean bent over and drew something in the dirt, though through her tears, she couldn’t quite make out what it was. The religious men continued to question him and at last the Galilean stood up and spoke, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” His words came out with such force and authority that the men who held her arms released their grasp. It was slow, but they did. Then, one by one, they all walked away. She stood frozen before the Galilean. She was astonished. Without sin? Who could say such a thing to these men? They never so much as had a hair out of place, she couldn’t imagine them doing anything that could be considered sinful. She, on the other hand, was full of sin. These religious men had seen it first hand. But now, these men who were close to God, were they admitting that they too were guilty of sin?
She was certain now that this had to be the Galilean everyone was making a fuss over. She remembered hearing a story about this man claiming to be “The Bread of Life” and how anyone who came to him would by no means be cast out. That was so different from how these religious men had treated her. Sinners like her couldn’t get anywhere near them. Yet here was this man, stopping those men from giving her the death sentence she deserved because they were sinners just like her. Her thoughts quickly faded when she realized the Galilean was staring at her. Was he the one without sin who would be the one to stone her? There was nothing in his face that indicated that was his plan.
“Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” His voice was soft and reassuring.
He was looking her in the eyes again. It felt so safe. Not like the imaginary safe she felt in that coward’s arms that had left her to be dragged off by an angry mob. No, this was a real safe. He wasn’t ashamed to be standing with her in front of a crowd, even though she was an exposed sinner. “No one, Lord”, she answered him. She could barely get the words out, her mouth was so dry.
“Then neither do I, go and sin no more.” His words captured her heart in a way that no man’s words ever had before. This sinless Galilean gave her a pardon. She stood speechless knowing that for the first time in her life she had come face to face with unconditional love.
The compassionate eyes of Jesus shifted from her to the crowd and he said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
Photo Credit: Woman Caught in Adultery, John Martin Borg, 2002