I struggled to free myself of the tight grip on both my arms, pulling me through Jerusalem’s narrow streets. My thoughts whirled wildly, trying to make sense of what had just happened. One moment I had been warm and safe in Eli’s arms, and the next I was being dragged from the bed by men with leering eyes. I turned to look for Eli; surely he would come to my rescue? But there was no sight of him; all I saw were the disdainful glances of people pressing forward to catch a look at me. And I heard a single word rippling through the crowd: adulteress.

We were nearing the temple when it suddenly dawned on me. Hadn’t Aunt Rahel told me how she had once watched men hurling stones onto the battered body of a young unmarried woman found with her lover? With frightening clarity I now understood that this was to be my end too, and my legs buckled as a strange, animal-like keening rose up inside me.

A blow stung my face and a voice hissed for me to shut up and stand upright, but although my crying stilled, I had no strength left to stand. Still they dragged me on, stopping only once they were inside the temple courtyard, where strong arms pulled me to my feet.

“Rabbi,” one of the men holding me said. “This woman was caught in the very act of adultery.”

“Yes, Rabbi. The law of Moses says to stone her,” another one said. “What do you say?”

I stole a look at the young Rabbi standing in the middle of a group of people and thought this is the man who will sentence me to death today. For the briefest of moments our eyes met, before he looked away.

It was pin-drop quiet as everyone waited for the Rabbi to pass judgement. But he said nothing. Instead, he stooped down and drew something in the dust with his finger. I couldn’t be sure, but it looked like a cross.

“Well Rabbi?” An impatient voice asked. “What is your answer?”

Finally, he rose and looked at me. His eyes held none of the contempt I had seen in every other face today, and for a moment my heart swelled with hope.

“All right. Stone her.” His words drove the breath from my body so that I could not even utter a single plea. “But let those who have never sinned throw the first stone.” And he again hunched over his dust drawing.

I am unsure how long I stood there—head bowed down—waiting for my death to come. I was not even aware of the arms dropping their hold on me or the men slipping silently away. Knowing that my life would end shortly, I was thinking only of all the choices that had brought me to this place—the selfish, pleasure-seeking, God-defying choices—and wishing that I could have had just one last chance to change it all.

“Where are your accusers?” The Rabbi’s soft voice broke through my thoughts. “Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

I looked around, surprised to see that every one of the men was gone.

“No, Lord.”

He was looking at me sorrowfully, almost as if he could see the twisted paths that had brought me here and—ashamed—I dropped my gaze.

“Neither do I accuse you. Go, and sin no more.” He smiled as I looked up, and in that moment I knew that he had just given me what I yearned for most—a second chance.

The story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery is found in John 8

If you enjoyed reading this step-into-the-bible devotional, you might also enjoy reading Small Things in Big Hands


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