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Redemption Drama

The woman was not a penitent. She was terrified and certain she was going to die a gruesome death. She most likely pleaded for her life and promised not to do “it” again. But repentant? Not hardly.

She is dragged, kicking and fighting and possibly nude, to the feet of the rabbi.

The men are cocky and confident. If they didn’t have to drag a naked, spitting, screaming woman they would be swaggering or doing a George Jefferson-style strut. “This deal is airtight,” they thought. “He’ll trip himself up this time and we’ll have him right where we want him…”

The woman is being dragged to what she knows is a death sentence. Wide-eyed, wild-eyed, stomach-churning fear wraps itself around her like her missing clothes.

The men rush to vindication and victory. Soon this troublemaker will be out of their hair and the status quo will be restored. Glee is the order of the moment.

They are all stopped cold by the Master.

“Rabbi, we caught her red handed… in “the act”, if you know what we mean… Moses said we could stone women like her. What do you say?”

The Master says…nothing. Instead, he stoops down and begins to write in the dirt. We are not told what he writes. There is much speculation – the names and/or sins of the men, the law they were referring to. Whatever he writes, it has no affect on the crowd. They keep asking, “What do you say? C’mon, tell us what you think we should do?”

The Master stands up and brushes the dirt from his hands. “The sinless one among you can throw the first rock.” Not quite what they expected. The mental calculations begin, as the Master stoops again to write in the sand.

“I can’t throw a rock – that guy over there knows that I…”

The rocks are dropped like they’re hot, and one by one, the men suddenly remember urgent tasks, appointments, and important responsibilities that require them to be anywhere but here.

The Master and the woman are alone. She’s not sure what to expect, doesn’t know she’s in the presence of the only man ever qualified to throw a stone at her. But instead of a rock, he throws her a lifeline. “Where are your accusers?” the Master inquires. “They’re gone,” she replies. “I’m not going to punish you,” the Master declares, “Go, and pursue a life free from sin.”

The blunt force grace of the Master’s statement hits me hard. I have lived two roles in this little drama.

I have been brash and self-righteous, confident that God was on my side in the fight and was in fact holding my coat. I have put on stolen judge’s robes, ignoring the ill-fit as I pronounced certain judgment on those who deserved it.

The Master’s words have stung me. “If you’re sinless, go ahead, pass sentence and carry out the punishment.”

I have been naked and terrified, exposed in my rank iniquity for all to see. I have been convinced that this was the last straw, all the Master could stand from me. I have been sure that the stones were about to fly.

The Master’s words have soothed me, saved me. “No condemnation. Go, and don’t sin anymore.”

We need both the words that expose our judgmental folly and the words that heal and forgive. It is the truth of our sordid condition and the liberating reality of our salvation that gives us hope.

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