21 Tamuz, 3760
I'd never been so scared in my entire life. I've had bad days before, but I thought today could very well be my last. Ruben and I were together, as we had often been before, when all of a sudden, a group of men burst into my private quarters and grabbed me. "What do you want?" I screamed. Their voices were angry and I caught the words "adultery" and "stone her". An icy terror gripped my chest, and I barely had time to gather my robes about me before they dragged me into the street.
Ruben had fled at the first sign of trouble. How like him. Our relationship was always on his terms - he chose the times, made the demands, and I fell into line. It didn't matter what I was doing or what my own needs were. And of course the men who had interrupted our latest tryst weren't interested in him. It's always the woman who pays for such transgressions.
I'm not blaming Ruben. I knew what I was doing, and I knew it was wrong. I could rationalize it all I wanted - Ruben's wife didn't understand him, couldn't fulfill his desires, and I could. And because I could, I enjoyed some benefits. He would bring me fresh dates, fine linens, jewellery and little trinkets. Sometimes I worried about what would happen if we were found out, but I guess I figured that if we were careful... Well, you know.
These men were filled with rage. I looked at their faces as they led me down the street and I could see murder in their eyes. I recognized some of them as religious leaders, and this filled me with dread. Several stopped along the way to arm themselves with stones while my heart thudded in my chest and pictures from my life raced through my mind. Where were they taking me? Why didn't they just get it over with? I wondered if there was any chance of escape, but there were too many of them and they pressed around me.
The sun was hot and the air dry. By the time we stopped - in front of the temple, I noticed - I was filthy from the dust and my throat was parched. I didn't dare say anything or ask for a cup of water. I kept my head down as they brought me in front of a huge crowd that had gathered. If all these people were to stone me, I was finished. I thought about my parents and siblings and how they would take the news. I was ashamed of bringing such dishonor to my family and, when I thought about it, to me. I knew that in God's eyes, I deserved to die.
The men spoke to someone. I could only see his feet because I still couldn't bring myself to look up. "Teacher," they said, "this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
I held my breath, certain the rabbi - the Teacher - would agree with the law of Moses. But the man said nothing. I heard a scratching sound, then my accusers clamored for an answer again. I dared to raise my head a little to peek at what was going on. The men who had brought me here were wild with impatience and fury, but the rabbi seemed calm in the center of the storm. He looked at each one of them and his eyes spoke I knew not what, but they shrank from his gaze. Then he spoke one simple sentence: "Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down and wrote in the dust, and I heard the scratchy sound I had heard earlier.
My jaw went slack as I watched each of the men slink away, tossing down their stones as they went. Waves of relief washed over me. Perhaps I would not die today. At last the rabbi - Jesus of Nazareth, I discovered - stood and spoke. He asked me where my accusers had gone, and whether or not any of them had condemned me. Of course I said no.Then I waited for the punishment he would surely mete out in order to fulfill the law. His words astonished me.
“Neither do I," he said. "Go and sin no more.”
Go and sin no more? I shook my head to clear out the cobwebs, and frowned in disbelief.
Jesus smiled. "You are free to go, child," he said.
I looked around at the crowd. I could see that they were as stunned as I was, but some of them were smiling and nodding at me. A few waved me away in a sign of encouragement.
I clapped a hand over my mouth to stifle the joyful laughter that was welling up inside. I ran to Jesus and embraced him quickly before letting go.
"Thank you, Jesus!" I said. "Thank you!"
As I ran back to my home to gather my things and follow him, I knew my old life was past and a new thing beginning. I felt washed clean in the forgiveness he had offered, and I would never be the same again.c. Susan Barclay
For more of my writing, please visit my website at www.susan-barclay.ca