Her Worst Fear Realized

She wasn’t a respectable woman, but she was needed. It felt good to be needed. The love she desired remained elusive. An encounter with a man’s temporary affection would have to do.

Why did the officials find it necessary to publicly shame her when caught? Her self-condemnation cloaked her day in and day out. No matter how many times she told herself tomorrow would be different, the reality was like washing her clothes only to put them on and find them instantly soiled again. Self-loathing became a constant companion.

To stand publicly before the people of her community and know all eyes were on her as the question of her deserving punishment hung in the air was unfathomable, yet it was happening. Nightmares of such a scene chased her down regularly, the kind where you are indecently exposed before a crowd and there’s no way to cover up or hide. You just stand there mortified. Who wants that nightmare realized?

Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?

The one they addressed was Jesus. He often came to this place and taught. Many listened and followed him. There was no doubt that he would speak of her deserving punishment. She hadn’t yet lifted her eyes to see him now looking at her, but she knew his eyes would be full of hate. She was dirty, filthy and unworthy of mercy. Any moment now the judgment would be spoken and the hands of those who surrounded her would be filled.

She quietly prayed in desperate fear of dying. “God, I know I am a sinful woman. I know I have done evil in your eyes. If there is any way you can forgive me and receive my spirit…”

The teacher spoke and she winced expecting words laced with contempt. Stoning… he said something about stoning. She braced herself, feeling every muscle tighten. Her last remaining heartbeats pulsed so loudly that they filled her hearing. If the people were getting loud with shouts of deserving death, she couldn’t hear them. If rocks were scraping against the ground as they were lifted, the sound escaped her. Her brain felt as though it would explode. The stress was going to kill her before fatal blows did.

Any moment now and the rocks would hit and crushing pain would end her life. She was about to depart this earth in sin. Hopelessness filled her. Grief engulfed her.

She waited.

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She lifted her eyes to look at Jesus and pondered his question, noticing the absence of harshness. His eyes. Something about his eyes spoke volumes. She was not condemned. She was not receiving just punishment. She was in shock, and answered, “No one, sir.”

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

(Scripture reference: John 8:1-11, NIV)

God’s compassion compels us to extend mercy, but the kingdom of the world condemns and publicly humiliates. They made her stand before the group

Something about those seven words hit me deeply. I instantly thought about the nightmare of it all. Real nightmares that haunt us, like the scene of walking naked before people. The exposure is frightening. 

But hear this simple and shocking truth. You and I are totally exposed. Our sin is found out, and there’s no place to hide and no way to cover up. God sees and knows all completely, and he has made a way for us to receive complete and perfect forgiveness. Jesus hung on the cross and was publicly shamed as one cursed of God, yet he was sinless. He went to the cross as an act of obedience to his Father in heaven. He died for the just punishment of our sins. Everyone is deserving of eternal death- separation from God as a result of sin. But all who believe in Jesus’ death and resurrection are forgiven.

I heard something recently that deserves repeating in light of today’s scripture focus. When Jesus hung on the cross before all who were in the vicinity of Jerusalem, he was stripped, beaten and disfigured. There was no dignity in his dying. None. I feel like we each should ask God for a revelation of his Son’s suffering, but I’m not sure we could handle it.

Jesus knows the deep need for having dignity restored. If you have been sexually victimized as he was in dying naked in public, he can and will restore your dignity. If you have been steeped in sexual sin as the woman written about in John’s gospel, he wants to see you set free and confident in a new identity of being forgiven. Jesus restores dignity to the uttermost, and each of us should partner with God to extend his beautiful mercy and value upon each broken soul we encounter.

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