There was a crash and then blinding light as the door burst open. A half a second later, darkness again, as three forms filled the doorframe. Dark robes, almost all the way to the ground blocked out the brightness of the sun which had just lit up this dark room, this dark act. For a moment I was stunned, confused…who were these men? I grabbed my robe, hands shaking, wrestling it on as rough hands grabbed my shoulders and pulled me up to my feet. We’d been discovered, caught, in the very act of adultery. These were the Pharisees. There would be no hiding it this time. We were exposed. I did not even open my mouth to protest. I was frozen in fear. They pulled me out into the street. I heard a cry, almost a wail. What was that noise? Then I realized that it was my voice I was hearing. I was the one crying out. They pulled me so roughly that I lost my footing. Rocks cut into my hands where I had tried to brace my fall. Dust filled my eyes, my mouth, my nostrils. Rather than wait for me to stand, one of them began to drag me down the dirt road by my hair. I grabbed his wrist to try to keep him from tearing it out. I scrambled back up to my feet. As they dragged me toward the temple, stumbling and weeping, I kept scanning the road behind me. Where was he? Surely I would see him any moment, also being dragged out for judgment. I kept looking back. He was not there. No one was there. Would I be bearing this shame alone?

My heart raced wildly. They had brought me to the temple. I could see that a crowd was already there, but not for me. They seemed to be in the middle of something, listening to someone, possibly a Rabbi. I expected them to drag me on past, but they did not. They brought me straight up to the feet of this Rabbi and stopped. My legs gave out. I crumpled to the ground. People drew back from me, forming a large circle around me. My face was down in the dirt. My fingers clung to the ground, looking for something, anything to hold onto. The open space on either side of me felt like vast caverns separating me from everyone and everything. I have never felt more alone.

Then they spoke. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says to stone her.” I was familiar with that law. Very familiar. I knew that I was to be stoned right alongside the man with whom I was committing adultery. He had explained that to me before. That is why we had tried to be so careful. He knew the law. He was an expert. He was a Pharisee. And yet, only I was here, awaiting judgment.

I am not sure if I was even breathing. I remember the fear. I remember feeling like my heart would pound right out of my chest. I remember the taste of dirt and tears in my mouth. I remember despair. But then, facedown in the dirt, I did not see, but I sensed that someone had crouched down next to me, filling the space beside me with His presence. He did not touch me, but I felt Him there. I opened my eyes, still not daring to lift my head, and I saw His hands, strong, steady and clean. He extended His hand and touched the dirt. He began to write in the dust. When he was finished, his hands were as dirty as mine. When I read what he wrote, my whole body began to shake. He stood up and addressed my accusers. With a clear voice he said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone.” They went silent. I’ve never experienced such silence. And in that moment, once again, He knelt down next to me. He was so close to me that I feared He might be struck by their stones. He wrote again in the dirt. The Pharisees did not see what He wrote. They were not looking. But I did. One by one, my accusers dropped the rocks they had gathered for the purpose of judgment. The stones that would be my death fell out of their hands. I heard one dull thud after another until the last stone hit the ground.

When the last of the Pharisees had walked away, He spoke to me. “Where are your accusers?” I looked up into His face. “Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” I answered Him, “No, Lord!” He answered me, “Neither do I. Go, and sin no more.”

I went.

It has been years since that day. Looking back now I can see how much I did not understand at the time it was happening. I did not know that the Pharisees had exposed my adultery not out of a zeal for righteousness, but out of a desire to trap this Rabbi, Jesus, whom they hated. They thought they could pit Mercy against Justice. They tried to make Him choose one or the other. If He had told them to go ahead and stone me, His message of repentance and mercy would be undermined in the eyes of the people. If He had let me go free, he would have been violating the Mosaic Law about how to deal with adultery. With anyone else, that trap would have worked. But the Pharisees did not understand who He was. Because He alone could choose both. He poured out Mercy on me. God poured out justice on Him. I would walk away changed, forgiven and free. He would walk away and be condemned and crucified for sins not His own.

He saved me that day. He saved me in every way a person can be saved. He saved my life, and then my soul. I did go and sin no more. Not that I’ve lived a perfect life since then, but I’ve lived a forgiven one. And I have learned what love looks like. It does not look like a few illicit stolen moments in secret. It looks like a man kneeling beside me, in the dirt, in my shame, and writing words that only my eyes would see. It looks like a Man placing Himself between me and my accusers and absorbing the punishment for my sin, out of love. I know what love looks like. It looks like the place where Justice and Mercy meet. It looks like Jesus.





*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here:The Gospel

One thought on “Adulteress: Justice and Mercy

  1. Wow, I absolutely love this. I just discovered your blog today and have been thoroughly enjoying your posts. When you wrote that only the woman saw what Jesus wrote in the dirt, I got chills. Excellent writing and beautiful take on such an important story about who Jesus is!


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