This one is slightly more of a stretch than my previous ones, since I made up a lot in terms of background. I did a lot of research on the laws and what Jesus was writing, and discovered that, apparently, the priest would write down the law that was broken along with the name of the people who had committed the crime somewhere non-permanent (which was usually the temple floor). On top of that, both parties should be brought forward and not just the woman.
This got me wondering why the woman in this story had been alone, resulting in this interpretation of her life, which is personal and not anything found in the Bible. Of course, any and all interactions with Jesus has been kept exactly the same. 🙂 Enjoy!
Silence, louder than anything I have ever heard before, fills the temple, and I swear I can hear the thump thump thump of my heart crying out in fear as I stand and await my judgement. I know the price of what I have done, and I have seen it happen before, but I guess I just never thought to think I would be one of those. The image of my child flashes through my mind. Who will watch over him when I’m gone? Will my husband, even after he finds out about my infidelity? Or will he throw him out to the streets like he threatened to do more than once.
I cannot bear the nothingness that I am hearing, and I glance up, peering through the thicket of hair that has fallen in front of my face, to find him – my judge and jury, the man who holds my very fate – is bent down, dragging one finger through the sand in deliberate movements.
My heart sinks.
Soon, enough, he will ask for my name, and once he has written that, it will be the end of the process, and I mentally brace myself for the first stone. It will hurt, I know that much, but I don’t know how long it will take before I am killed. I cannot bear to look any longer, and allow my head to drop back down, closing my eyes in absolute defeat.
“Must you go so soon?” I murmured, watching him stand and move towards the entrance of my house. I sat up in bed a little more, pulling the sheets to cover my top.
He turned to offer me a gentle smile, sadness written in his expression, and for a moment, I wondered what he was thinking. “I’m sorry,” he said, not meeting my eyes. My childhood friend and neighbour, the only one who understood me and sympathised with the situation I had with my husband, reached forward and opened the door, and I screamed as four men came rushing in.
“Get up,” one barked at me, calling me a name that made me wince.
Desperately, I looked towards the man I thought was someone I could trust, but he wasn’t facing me any longer, instead accepting a small bag from one of those who had entered. “How much am I worth?” I asked, already feeling the prickling at the back of my eyes, tears spilling out as I blinked, hot and fresh.
He didn’t glance back once, even as rough hands grabbed at me and forced me out of bed. Through a blur of tears, I slipped something on and allowed them to lead me out of my house and down the streets. I could hear the people around me murmuring among themselves and, though I refused to look, I could feel the stares sent my way. A sob rose in my chest, but I pushed it back. I would have said I refused to give them the satisfaction of seeing me cry, but it was too late for that; the most I could do was gather up whatever remaining dignity I had left and not break down.
I would die brave. I owed myself that much.
“Well? What do you say, Teacher?”
I blink myself back to the present time. Dwelling on memories and the past will do me no good right now, and even as I feel the wetness on my cheek, I do not reach up to wipe at it. He is still writing in the sand, and I can feel the tension of the men beside me. They want answers and they want them now; they want to see me die for my sins and nothing less.
I take a deep breath, trying to steady my nerves, but I can feel my body shaking with fear. I swallow another sob. How had it come to this?
We were standing out in the fields together, him watching his flock and me having come out to invite him to our place for dinner as my husband had instructed, when he turned to me and fixed me with a sly grin. Reaching out, he slipped his hand into mine, and I let out a soft gasp, pulling away at once. He chuckled. “Something wrong?” he teased.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I replied, half-horrified, half-amused. “What you’re suggesting is…”
“An escape? Nobody need find out,” he replied, interrupting me, and for the first time, I realised he was being serious. My eyes widened. Laughter rang out, warm and infectious, and I couldn’t help but laugh as well. “Come on. What’s the harm in it?”
“But the law…” I started, but he dismissed it with a wave of his hand.
“The law doesn’t compensate for your husband hitting you. He doesn’t love you, my dear. I do.”
My heart pounded and I felt my face flushing; I could tell he was being serious. I had grown up with him, and he knew me inside out. He was the one I came to crying the first time my husband laid a hand on me, and he was the one who comforted me and told me it was going to be okay. And now he was telling me that he loved me? I averted my gaze, suddenly shy, an emotion I had never felt around him before. “I… I’ll think about it,” I answered, genuinely.
I could hear the smile in his voice as he replied, “I’ll be waiting.”
Again the memories make my head hurt, and I do my best to push them back. I am about to die. Why would any of that matter?
“You have yet to answer, Teacher. What are we to do?” one of the men asks.
And, finally, Jesus straightens. There is a moment’s pause, during which I feel his eyes on me, but I refuse to look the man who sentences me to death in the eye. His voice is firm, but it holds no judgement, and although my initial reaction is to flinch, the words slowly clarify themselves in my mind, and I dare not breathe for fear that this is all part of my imagination. “Let he who is without sin among you be the one to throw the first stone.”
My heart skips a beat, and I force myself to look up, only to find he is once more writing in the dust. If he hadn’t been writing my judgement, what had he been doing? But, that is not the most pressing matter; what I am more worried about is how my accusers are going to react. It is obvious I am guilty of adultery, and even as the hurt of being betrayed presents itself once more, I don’t allow my mind to linger there, instead focusing on my current situation. Will they stone me anyway?
Nothing happens for some time, and the seconds drag out, each one feeling like a century, and then I hear footsteps – only, instead of coming towards me, it is leaving, the echoes fading and dying out. More footsteps join, the crunch against gravel making my fear vanish like the darkness at sunrise, and I stand there and wait and listen as everybody leaves.
Though I can’t hear anyone else around, I still stay where I am, not able to bring myself to move. I have barely escaped with my life, but is it worth it? My dignity is all gone, having been publically marched here with all my neighbours watching. I have nobody to go home to – no friend, no loving husband, only a two year old child – and I’m not sure if my parents will accept me after all this, if I tell them the truth; if I admit that my husband has been hurting me. Perhaps they might be able to understand, and I can move back to where they are, away from this city, and start over.
“Woman,” the voice of the one who has just saved me says. It is gentle and yet holding authority without him needing to put effort into doing so. I look towards hm. “Where are those accusers of yours? Does no one condemn you?”
I don’t need to look around to confirm my answer; the quiet humming of the air as it blows freely though the hall is more than enough proof that we are alone. Jesus smiles at me, and it holds no judgement, only love. There is something different about him; he is no ordinary teacher, not like the Pharisees claimed. There is so obviously something more – much more.
Slowly, I shake my head. “No one, Lord,” I murmur.
“Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more,” he says, then, and my breath catches.
How, I begin to think. How does he expect me to not sin?
But the answer provides itself when he smiles at me again, causing a symphony of emotions to erupt inside, for it is warm and inviting and kind and loving, but at the same time there is something powerful about it – about the way he looks at me – and it fills me with both fear and awe. I nod at him, understanding. I don’t have to be perfect; I have to try, but I don’t have to be. And this man – this Jesus, this professed Son of God – will be there for me when I no doubt fail again, just like he was today.