She had been behaving strangely over the previous few weeks. Avoiding my gaze, being secretive. She had to go out suddenly a a few times after I came back from work leaving me with the children. It was just out of character.
Then one day there was the bag of money I found on the table. I asked her about it, where it had come from. She whisked it away making non committal comments and telling me to mind my own business.
We had been married for just over 3 years. Her family and mine had been friends for years. She was a good match but there was more than an arrangement. We had grown up in the same village. I had seen her blossom into womanhood and I had fallen for her. Those eyes… I love her still… But I had in recent weeks begun to wonder if there was someone else. And there was… But I hadn’t expected it to be him!
I came back home early last Thursday to find her gone. Sarah was looking after the kids. 'Where was she?, I demanded! Sarah looked sheepish and guilty but said nothing more. She just looked at the floor. I had to find her. I stormed out of the door and into the street looking left and then right and that’s when I noticed the commotion. People running toward the Temple. Something was going on. Perhaps she was there. I ran.
When I got into the court, I could hear the bray of the crowd above the calling of the money changers and animal sellers. In fact some of them had left their booths to see what was going on.
I edged into the back of the crowd, and that’s when I saw him, Yeshua Ben Joseph, some use his Greek name - Jesus. You know, that carpenter from Nazareth that so many people seem to be making a fuss about, using the M word and all that.
He was sat on the ground about to teach. But there was more here. On the edge of the crowd I caught sight of her just out of the corner of my eye. Anna! My heart was win my mouth, She looked edgy and nervous, ready to bolt like a frightened dog. That’s when I noticed him. He held her wrist and was whispering in her ear as he pushed her through the crowd. The anger rose in me like molten lava. What was he doing with my wife?
Others were with him… Pharisees… ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ The crowd were stunned into silence. Everyone looked at Jesus. Anna how could you!?! I felt hot tears of grief and shame on my cheeks.
The crowd began to murmur, waiting for Jesus to reply. And they waited. And they waited. And they waited. And then Jesus did something odd. It looked like he was writing on the ground. I couldn’t quite see but it looked like references in the Torah... Now the crowd are silent again. All eyes on the Scribes and Pharisees. They are the ones murmuring to each other now! I get it - this is a set up! The only affair that Anna has been having are with these teachers of the law as they seek to conspire against Jesus!
Again the Pharisees question Jesus. 'Well what have you to say?', they ask insistently. Jesus makes no reply. 'Rabbi, if you are a teacher of the things of God, then tell us!' Silence.
Then one of the Pharisees picks up a large stone. And one of the Scribes does the same. Others in the crowd follow suit. No! Surely not here. And for a reasons that I cannot explain I too reach down and pick up a stone too. It’s weight feels satisfying in my hand. It’s roughness, it’s roundedness. It’s like it was made for me to hold. And into it I pour my anger at this outrage, the shame that will fall on Anna and me now. I pour into that stone my own failings as a husband, as a father, as a friend. It’s roughness reminding me of where I rub up against people the wrong way and irritate and frustrate them. Im aware that this stone doesn’t originate here but it has travelled time and distance to be here. This stone is me - the imperfect, broken, displaced me. I draw breath suddenly and people swivel their heads to look in my direction.
Then Jesus looks up, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ I can’t throw my own failings, weaknesses, frustrations and anger at her. I love her. But how often do I throw that stuff at others? Am I without sin? Are any of us? We all fall short of the standard set in the Law. I lie and cheat to get my own way, to satisfy myself. I’m selfish and self centred. I pursue what I want, over an above Anna’s needs sometimes. I too am an adulterer. All of us are.
Jesus went over with his finger the things he’s written on the ground. I looked at my stone. I looked into my stoney heart and then looked up. And the crowd has peeled away. Later I’d take and throw that stone off the city wall as far as I could into the wilderness. I don’t like that version of me very much. Fortunately, despite my brokenness, I realised that day, perhaps more than ever that God loves me.
Jesus straightened up and spoke to Anna, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, sir.’ And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.’
She had a second chance. We all do. Go your way and sin no more…