I begged my father not to do it to me. I was young, considered pretty enough. I could hold out for a husband I really loved. “Please, Father!” But Joachim was a good match – especially the dowry he paid. No amount of pleading would change Father’s mind. I was to be married to a man 20 years older than I was, whom I’d met only once before the wedding.
I tried to be a good wife. I really did. But everything was Duty. No love, not even affection, grew between us. Joachim and I had nothing in common. To him, I was a child to be properly brought up, molded into a wife worthy of his station. To me, he was a stern taskmaster whom I could never really please. I felt more trapped with each passing day.
I met Aaron at the market. I was carrying an awkward stack of bundles. They were slipping out of my arms, about to crash, when he rescued me. He caught the loose packages, helped rearrange them, and said I shouldn’t have to do so much at once. He smiled at me! He noticed and cared about my problem! No one ever had before. He even paid a passing boy to help me get everything home. After that, I saw him several times. He would smile, or wave, or just see me. It felt like I had someone on my side, finally.
Well, our occasional meetings became more frequent. He would speak to me sometimes, and once he shared a loaf of bread as we walked. I began to watch for him, hoping to see him. Then we started meeting on purpose. At first, we just talked. Then we began to…touch. I knew it was wrong, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.
Then, Joachim told me he was going away for a month. Something to do with his business, man stuff, I didn’t need to worry my little head about it. That condescending attitude, blocking me out of his life, was the last straw. I didn’t care any more. I invited Aaron to come to me! And…he accepted my invitation. It was so special, so tender and sweet. Then….
The door burst open, and the room was full of men! Town elders, all of them, and my father and Joachim among them! They dragged me out, thru the streets, with people staring and pointing on every side. They didn’t even give me time to dress properly. I barely got a cloak wrapped around me. They said that the new Rabbi, Jesus, was in town. He’d know what to do with me. After all, they said, he claimed to be so close to God. Of course, he would enforce the Law of Moses – death by stoning for the crime of adultery!
I couldn’t think straight. It was so sudden, so much commotion. But I remember thinking, “Wait! It was just once! Don’t I deserve any happiness at all?” I knew I was guilty, but…. Did I really deserve this? Then another thought: “Where did all these men come from? How did they know? Why is Joachim here?” And another: “Where’s Aaron? Why isn’t he being taken along with me to Rabbi Jesus? The punishment applies to both parties!” Then the worst thought of all: “Could he have betrayed me? No! Why would he do such a thing?”
My captors flung me at Jesus’ feet. I huddled there, trembling, terrified, not daring to look up, as they told him of my sin. I could hear the crowd muttering, jeering…and gathering stones.
Then, Jesus knelt down. He was writing something in the dirt with his finger. He didn’t look at me, nor did I dare to look at him. But I felt a wave of warmth, of calm, of peace, of hope…of love. It flowed from him, as if it were just a part of him and not even directed at me. But I felt it, and it gave me courage.
Then Jesus stood and addressed the crowd. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone!” I cringed and waited for the pain. But…there was nothing. No stones, no more accusations, just silence. Jesus knelt again and wrote some more. Then I heard people moving, feet shuffling. I flinched again, but…. They were leaving. I risked a peek toward the crowd. There was the head of the synagogue…leaving. And my father…leaving. And Joachim…leaving. All the others…leaving. Finally, Aaron! Leaving.
I was left alone with Jesus. I knew he still had the authority to have me killed. And he had the right to! No matter what my excuses, I had sinned before God. I was guilty, and deserved to die. But instead of picking up a stone for himself, he picked me up. He stood me before him and asked, “Does no one condemn you?” I whispered, “No one, Lord”. Then he told me, “Neither do I condemn you.” What? I couldn’t believe my ears! Maybe he didn’t believe the story the men had told him. Maybe he thought I was innocent. I couldn’t let him think that. I opened my mouth to confess, but I heard him continue, “Go and sin no more.” He knew of my sin, and still he chose not to condemn me. He forgave me!
I went home rejoicing. I knew I still had to face them: Joachim, my father, those who knew my shame. But what did that matter? I was forgiven! What I could not do for Duty, I would do for love – love for Rabbi Jesus, love for God. I would give myself to my marriage with my whole heart, and count it joy to live the life that God had given back to me.
I noticed a change, though, in Joachim and in my father as well. They didn’t make my life the misery I had expected. In fact, they seemed as ashamed of their behavior as I was of mine. They had been willing to throw me away, in order to trap Rabbi Jesus. They meant to force him to choose between obeying Moses’ Law and angering his followers. He avoided their trap. Instead, he taught us all the true meaning of God’s grace. I told Father and Joachim that I was sure they were forgiven as I was. They, too, were to “Go, and sin no more!”