Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Writing (01/11/07)
- TITLE: Indictment in the Dust
By Donna Powers
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The Law is clear: if a woman commits adultery she is to be stoned. That’s what my men and I set out to do today.
We brought the adulteress into the temple square, just as it is written in the Law. As a Pharisee, I’ve based my whole life on the Law and on enforcing its tenets. We chose the temple square because so many people would gather as witnesses. We wanted everyone to see as we meted out her punishment. We also chose the temple because we had heard that the heretic called Jesus was there. There was talk that he had been preaching against the Law. He had attracted quite a following. I decided that this woman’s execution would be the perfect opportunity to show him for the blasphemer that he is.
I had no hesitation; I picked up a stone and directed my men to do the same. I didn’t look at the woman. I didn’t care how she felt; the writings of the Law were clear on her fate. I spoke loudly, and addressed Jesus: “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law says we must stone her. What do you say?” I had my stone raised and ready, because I was sure that nothing he said could prevent justice from being done.
He didn’t answer right away. Instead, Jesus looked right into my eyes and looked around at the rest of the men. I have never seen eyes like his. He seemed to see inside my soul; it was as if he knew every part of my heart and soul and had summed up my essence with his glance. He stooped and began to write with his finger, on the ground. I didn’t really pay it much mind at first, until he spoke: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And then he bent again and continued his writing.
I couldn’t help it. I looked at the words that he had written in the earth. He had taken his finger and formed words in the dust. I first read the words “false witness” and thought immediately about the time I had told Benjamin that the cows I sold him were healthy, when I knew they were not. My face flamed with embarrassment. I watched again as he continued to write. “Covetousness, “ I read. There was more: “dishonor to father and mother… disregard of the Sabbath…false idols…” I looked around; surely these words weren’t all for me. My men stood stunned and just as embarrassed, and I knew that the condemnation we all felt was very real.
As he continued to write, it was as if the words themselves leapt up from the dust and formed the bars of a prison around my soul. He was only scraping one finger in the dust and yet I knew somehow that the dust itself was yielding as he touched it. With each of the words a new indictment was spoken; each letter made me more and more unsure of my own righteousness. Each stroke of his finger brought me the awareness of the truths he was revealing; truths that seemed as indelibly written on my heart as the Law itself had been. I looked at the cowering woman and knew that her sin was no worse than my own. I put down the rock and turned away.
As I left, with my soul immeasurably burdened by the dust-formed words of accusation, I heard him tenderly speak to her and say “woman, where are your accusers?” I felt stopped and listened as she responded with a voice of wonder: “they’re gone.” And then he told her “I don’t condemn you either. Go and sin no more.” Weeping, she thanked him and left.
He did not leave. He stood waiting. He had seen my hesitation and looked at me again. It was as if his words to her were also a new message that he’d written for me. As clearly as I’d seen his written words before, I could clearly see the promise of a very different message. I knew that if I would also “go and sin no more”, that I, too, could have a new life. I knew that if I were to follow him I could have his message of grace permanently written in my heart.
Based on John 8: 1-11 NIV
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