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The Merciful Nazarene
By Chris Smith
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Rated "G" by the Author.
A fictional retelling of John chapter 8, the story of the woman caught in adultery, from a bystander's point of view.
I bent over to tie the thongs on my sandals while my little boy pulled at my cloak. I turned and lifted his small frame into my arms. He was sucking on a little wooden carving of a legionnaire. I plucked the toy out of his mouth and looked it over. “Where’d you get this, buddy?” I asked him. “You shouldn’t suck on this. You know the Romans will leave a bad taste in your mouth.”
I smiled at my private joke, and he beamed back with all the pleasant radiance a two-year old can muster. “Abba!” he shouted with a grin.
I set him down. “Abba needs to go to work now. I’ll see you later!”
I waved goodbye and he flapped his stubby fingers in childish imitation. “Bye bye,” he said.
“Bye bye!” I turned and pushed open the wooden door of our home, stepping out into the street. Some commotion a little ways down the road caught my attention. I closed the door behind me. Some things are not meant for children’s eyes.
There was a group of men in priestly robes striding boldly down the lane. A few robed figures at the head of the mob were dragging a struggling woman between them. Her hair was askew, her garments torn. She looked as though she had been dragged quite a ways already, and indeed the large crowd following behind them testified to that fact. As they passed my humble home, a crier in front of the procession announced the woman’s sin: she had been caught in the act of adultery.
Strangely enough, these people weren’t headed outside the city, where such women were ordinarily executed. They seemed rather to be making for the Temple. Surely they didn’t intend to spill her blood there? My curiosity was piqued enough that I temporarily forgot about work and fell in step behind these Pharisees.
There must have been some fifty of us laypeople following the priests, all craning our necks to get a closer look. I was rubbing shoulders with a big Ethiopian man, who offered to let me up on his shoulders. I thought the offer was a little strange, and politely declined.
Sure enough, we were headed for the temple. We ascended the steps and passed through the great golden gate. Just inside the gentiles’ court, the procession ground to a halt.
“It’s the teacher from Nazareth,” the Ethiopian fellow muttered.
Jesus of Nazareth, I thought to myself. This should be interesting! The humble rabbi had a running debate with the Pharisees; he thought them hypocrites, and they thought him a presumptuous upstart. The people fanned out into a large circle, with Jesus, the Pharisees, and the woman t its center. Just like school children watching a fight after their classes, I thought. I still couldn’t see very well, but I caught enough glimpses between several broad-shouldered onlookers to have a fairly good idea what was going on.
One of the Pharisees accosted Jesus: “Teacher,” he said with thinly veiled sarcasm, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The Law of Moses says she should be stoned. What do you say?”
The crowd muttered discontentedly. The Nazarene was known for teaching peace and forgiveness, but surely not even he would deny the teaching of Moses on this matter. If he did, the Pharisees would have grounds to kill him for contradicting the Law. And it was well-known that the Pharisees wouldn’t mind having grounds to kill him. Don’t be foolish, Jesus, I silently urged him. Just tell them what they want to hear. Still, if Jesus condemned the woman, then he would lose favor with the people. His message was popular, and some part of me hoped he would not sully his reputation by becoming the sort of hypocrite he accused the Pharisees of being.
The crowd murmured again, and between shifting people I saw Jesus bend down and silently begin writing in the dirt with his finger. “What is he writing?” I asked aloud, but the big Ethiopian man shushed me.
The Pharisees pressed their question. “Well, teacher? Is the one who speaks with such authority now rendered speechless when confronted with the teaching of the Law?”
Jesus stopped and slowly stood up. With a grave expression on his face, he nodded. “Then let the one without sin cast the first stone,” he said. His voice was loud and confident. He betrayed no unsettledness in his demeanor. When no one moved, he bent back down and continued drawing in the dirt.
The Pharisees seemed caught entirely off-guard by this answer. They huddled together and argued in hushed tones. Some of them seemed very angry, as if they wanted to drag Jesus and the woman away and stone them together, but they feared the people. A few were genuinely impressed by the Nazarene’s response. Needless to say, they could give him no answer. Not even the pious Pharisees could claim sinlessness.
People lingered quietly for a few minutes, then began to drift away. Finally even the Pharisees left. I wanted to wander over and see what Jesus was writing, but it didn’t seem appropriate. More than likely he was just doodling anyway. I sat nearby and waited to see what would happen.
When the last of the bystanders had gone, Jesus stood and smoothed the dirt over with his foot. “Where are they?” he said, looking at the woman. “Is there no one left to condemn you?”
The woman sat in the same position she had been since being thrown so shamefully before the crowd, as if transfixed to that place. The tears on her face were dry now, and she wore an expression of utter astonishment at this change of fortune. “No one, Lord,” she said in a quavering voice.
“Neither do I condemn you,” the teacher announced matter-of-factly. “Go, and sin no more.” And with that, he turned and walked toward me with a hint of a smile on his face. He sat beside me, and I could not help but notice the way that this man could combine both gravity and compassion. His eyes sparkled with wisdom untold as he folded his hands and looked at me. “Let me tell you about the kingdom of God,” he began.
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|Reviewed by john salmon
|love it, wonderful story.|
|Reviewed by Patricia Burden-Evans
|Goodness! This was a wonderful write. You did a very good job. This is one of my favorite Biblical teaching in the Bible. It teaches such a profound lesson to everyone. Thanks for reviewing my poem. I look forward to reading all of your work.
|Reviewed by J Strunk
|wow!! very good! I look forward to reading more of your work.|
|Reviewed by Charlie
|Way good writing. Too often Christian writers get sappy, but this was good, believable and inspiring. --Charlie|