“Wake up, friends. My Father has work for Me to do.”
With a yawn and a stretch, Rock pushed himself up from the ground where he and the others had been sleeping in the Gethsemane garden. He gave rough shakes to John and Andrew, who were snoring beside him. “Hey!” he called loudly to the others. “Get up! The Teacher wants to go.”
“But it’s still dark!” John complained.
“It’ll be light soon,” Jesus answered with a chuckle. “It’s almost time for the morning sacrifice.”
As John’s foggy mind cleared, he realized the implications of what his Master had said. “Are we not going back to Galilee, now that the feast is over?”
The rest of the disciples stopped to hear the answer to John’s question.
“Not yet,” the Lord answered. “There is more work to do here in Jerusalem.”
“But, Master,” Rock pleaded, “the longer You stay here, the more dangerous it will get. All the religious leaders need is time to get their plans started back up, and they will try to kill you!”
The vigorous nods from the others showed their eager agreement with Rock’s words.
“My dear friends,” Jesus returned with a calming smile, “don’t you realize that the safest place you can be is doing the will of the Father? Besides, My time has not yet come.” Still smiling, Jesus began hurriedly walking out of the garden and down the hill toward Jerusalem.
The eastern sky glowed red as the Teacher and His followers joined the many others who had arrived to pray in the temple as the morning sacrifice was offered. A lot of the crowd who had come to Jerusalem for the feast were preparing to leave for their homes, but quite a number chose to stay a few more days to enjoy the temple and the activities associated with it. Many of that group remained in the hope of experiencing more of the words and the miracles of Jesus. After the prayers for the burnt offering were finished, the people saw the Teacher from Nazareth leave the altar court and enter Solomon’s Porch. As one they hurried to follow.
Finding his usual spot on the steps near the center of the large portico, Jesus sat and taught those who quickly gathered around Him. Jesus told them about the holiness of God and the vileness of breaking God’s commands. “The Laws of God are not about rule keeping,” Jesus said, “but about teaching you what the Father is like.” Once again He urged His listeners to humble themselves before the Father in Heaven and turn from their sinfulness. He told them that it was not God’s will that any of them perish but that they should all repent. There were more stories about the goodness of God. He said that God was like a father who had two sons, one obedient but stubborn and hard hearted, and the other wild and rebellious. When Jesus finished, everyone was amazed at how the father was able to express his deep, compassionate love for both of them. Not a few in the crowd searched their own hearts to determine which of the sons that they were like.
Shortly after Jesus began speaking, Rock noticed a group of Pharisees standing in the back of the crowd watching. After several minutes of listening, they quickly left, but that only made Rock more nervous.
Everything went smoothly until the middle of the afternoon. The angry yelling of men and a woman’s cries of anguish interrupted the Teacher’s lesson. A group of passionate scribes and Pharisees shoved their way through the crowd until they stood before Jesus. A sobbing woman wearing only a blanket was shoved roughly at the feet of the Teacher.
Jesus quickly stepped down and stood in front of the woman and the men. The look on the Teacher’s face was enough to discourage anyone from abusing the woman any further.
“TEACHER,” one of the Pharisees said loudly enough for all in the crowd to hear, “THIS WOMAN HAS BEEN CAUGHT IN ADULTERY—IN THE VERY ACT! NOW, IN THE LAW OF MOSES WE ARE COMMANDED TO STONE SUCH WOMEN. WHAT DO YOU SAY?”
“Why is he yelling so loudly?” John whispered to Judas, who was beside him.
“Look up there,” Judas answered and pointed to the north wall of the temple. As John observed, he saw a number of Roman soldiers leaning over the top of the wall and listening carefully to all that was happening below. Years ago the Romans had built the Fortress Antonia against the north wall of the temple and made it tall enough that they could easily keep a watchful eye on all that happened there. Even as he gazed at the soldiers above them, John saw a centurion join the soldiers.
“Who cares if the Romans are watching?” John asked.
“Maybe your Galilean brain can’t recognize it,” Judas teased, “but this is a trap.”
“Yes,” Judas answered. “The scribes and Pharisees are trying to force the Teacher to either break the Law of Moses by not condemning the woman, or break the Roman law by calling for her death.”
“Oh, yeah,” John returned as he finally understood. “I forgot. Only the Romans can order someone’s execution. We need to warn the Master!”
“Calm down, young one. I’m sure Jesus saw through their plot before we did.”
“But He’s not answering them,” John shot back. “It’s like He’s not even paying attention to them! He’s stooped down and is drawing or writing something on the ground. What’s he doing that for?”
“How should I know?” Judas snapped. “Keep quiet and watch!”
“WELL, WHAT’S IT GOING TO BE, TEACHER?” the Pharisee called loudly. “WE’RE ALL WAITING FOR YOUR ANSWER! IS SHE TO BE STONED, OR ARE YOU GOING TO BREAK THE LAW OF MOSES?” More of the gang of angry religious leaders shouted at Jesus to make His choice.
Finally the Lord straightened up. He looked first at the terrified woman on the ground and then into the eyes of the angry mob. “Whichever one of you who has no sin in his life can be the first to throw a stone at her.” After speaking, Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground again.
Until now all eyes had been on Jesus, but after hearing the Lord’s words, the religious leaders suddenly felt that every eye in the large crowd was staring at them. Whatever disdain the crowd may have felt against the adulterous woman had now been transferred to them, and the pressure was more than they were prepared to face. The older and wiser among them were the quickest to feel the accusations of the Teacher’s words and were the first to turn and leave. A brief moment later even the younger hot-heads realized that they had lost the battle and followed their elders.
After they were gone, Jesus stood back up and looked at the woman still cowering on the floor. “Where are your accusers?” the Teacher asked. “Is there no one here to condemn you?”
“No, sir,” she replied softly, pulling the blanket more tightly around her.
Reaching down, Jesus extended His hand and helped her to her feet. “Then I’m not going to condemn you either. You may go, but from now on give up your life of sin.”
She humbly nodded her understanding and, for the briefest of moments, looked into the eyes of the One who saved her. Later she had difficulty describing what she had seen in those eyes—compassion, tenderness, and something else—perhaps a deep concern. Could she dare call it love for her? Maybe, but regardless, she was touched by it. Whatever this Teacher was calling people to, she wanted it.
By Alan W. Harris
Inspired by (John 8: 1-11)