In a certain country, where certain crimes such as adultery were punishable by death, woman who had been caught in the act was brought before the people to be executed by stoning.
She knelt there, her heart pounding, her throat dry, not only from the fear of the pain she would experience as each rock struck her, but also from the shame, the public humiliation, and the scorn of those who accused her.
Through the jeers, the taunting, she could barely hear herself whisper a prayer, asking for mercy from God, if there even was one. But mercy was not even remotely near the minds of those ready to put her to death.
Then, from the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of a young man. He was a handsome and muscular man–probably someone who worked construction with his hands. He could certainly inflict a lethal blow. But from the way the stone-wielding religious leaders and law makers regarded him, he must also be a man of considerable intelligence.
One of men from the gallery of accusers handed him a rock, as though giving him the honor of initiating the execution, though the honor seemed a bit insincere. It was as though they were waiting to see what he would do. The young man took the stone and turned to face the woman.
Trying to hold herself steady, despite the trembling, she decided to face her death with whatever last shred of dignity she still had.
And then something happened that caused her and everyone present to gasp in wonder.
The young man, still holding the rock, knelt down and with his finger began to write in the sand. His brow furrowed in concentration as wisps of dust floated into the heat of the sun-scorched afternoon. One by one, the law makers and religious leaders stepped over to see what it was he was writing.
To he woman’s astonishment, each of them either scowled, turned pale as salt, or gasped, dropped their stones, and trudged away. One by one. The crowd looking on also came by to read the writing and reacted either by sighing in amazement, laughing, or huffing indignantly.
At that, the strong young man straightened up, turned to the crowd now generally vacated of religious leaders and law makers.
“He that is without sin among you,” he said, glancing down at the pile of rocks discarded by the religious leaders and scanning the remnant of the people still present to witness the execution, “let him cast the first stone.”
Only a short time had passed when everyone had dropped their stones in the pile at the young man’s feet and left. Now, only he and the woman remained. He stepped over to her.
“Where are you accusers?” he said, his eyes intense, looking so deeply into her heart, she feared him more than anyone who had been in the crowd. “Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”
She realized now that this was a man of authority, far more than his youthful appearance betrayed. Whoever he was, he had the strength to turn those as powerful as the religious leaders, law-makers, and even a blood-thirsty mob, simply by writing in the dust and making one simple statement. And now, indeed, didn’t any of them condemn her? “No, my Lord.”
The rock fell from his open palm. His countenance shone like the morning star and love filled his eyes. He stretched out his hand in a gesture of blessing.
“Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”
Tears pooled in her eyes as he quietly walked away. She had expected today to be the last day of her life, ending in shame and disgrace. But now, it was as though she was about to embark on an entirely new one.
She rose to her feet to follow after this amazing man who must be some kind of revolutionary that would shake the religious landscape to its very foundations. But then something caught her eye and stopped her.
On the ground were the words the young revolutionary had scratched into the sand.
She stopped breathing for a moment and read them. Now she understood why each of the religious leaders and law-makers had all but fled when he had written them down. It was a list. Their list:
Lied to his wife
Stole produce from the market
Coveted his neighbor’s wife
Murdered a man sixty years ago
Pretending to believe
For the rest of her days, she devoted herself to following the young revolutionary who spoke against religious hypocrisy and taught about true religion not only with his words, his great deeds, but with his very life.
His name was, and is Jesus.
(A retelling of the Gospel of John, Chapter 8 vv. 1-11)
Joshua Graham is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, winner of the International Book Award and Forward National Literature Award. His thrillers include DARKROOM, LATENT IMAGE and BEYOND JUSTICE, and TERMINUS. Graham's works have been characterized as thought-provoking page-turners.
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