A nameless woman from centuries ago was caught in the act of adultery and dragged before a charismatic and controversial man named as teacher, rabbi, prophet, son of God or son of the devil by those of his day.
Jesus never denied that the adultery had occurred as he gazed on this devastated woman, likely stripped to the waste to heighten her shame. He gave no direct response to the pharisaical assertion that the Mosaic Law required the woman to be stoned for her offense. And he ignored the obvious: Adultery takes two. Where was the man?
What He did was stoop down, write on the ground, straighten up and then stoop to write again.
Some have conjectured that the words on the ground were other sins commonly committed, but scripture doesn't tell us. What we know is the question that pierced the middle of the writing as it pierced hearts: "If any one of you is without sin, throw the first stone."
The stones stayed put. Everyone left.
Everyone, that is, except Jesus and the ruined woman before him.
"Did no one condemn you?"
"No one, sir."
"Then neither do I condemn you."
The only one without sin, the only one with the right to hurl stones, was the one refusing to condemn. Images such as these make me crazy for the Gospel of Christ.
But forgiveness comes at a price, as C.S. Lewis artfully illustrated in his classic children's book, "The Chronicles Narnia:"
"We have a traitor here Aslan," said the witch.
Of course, everyone there knew that she was talking about Edmund ... "That human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property... (Aslan) knows the deep magic ... He knows that unless I have blood as the law says, all of Narnia will perish in fire and water."
"Oh Aslan!" whispered Susan in the Lion's ear, "Can't we do something about the Deep Magic? Is there something you can work against it?"
"Work against the Emperor's magic?" asked Aslan, turning to her with something like a frown on his face. And nobody ever made that suggestion again.
The next time you consider the cost of forgiving, consider the cost of your forgiveness. Jesus' words to the woman were not mere words. The words would soon be etched in His own blood.
Does the necessity of blood in the story put you off? Does the severe necessity of sacrifice in response to our sin give you pause? Then consider your own sense of anger when you read about or experience senseless acts of cruelty. Consider the national outrage regarding convicted acts of sexual molestation of the part of a former assistant coach at a university near us. Consider the genocidal depravity of Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Josef Stalin and many others we don't know about. We demand justice for these things. We may even want blood.
And consider blood. It carries life to our cells as it cleanses toxins from our systems. Yes, it cleanses and supplies. Blood is life. Without it, we die.
Our issue is not with justice. Our issue is with God's justice. Our issue is not with sacrifice. Our issue is with the severity of the sacrifice. We are selective in the sins we feel God should address, and shallow in our in our understanding of what needs to be done. God sees all of it, knowing the price.
"Fall back, all of you," said Aslan, "and I will talk to the witch alone."
They all obeyed. It was a terrible time - this waiting and wondering while the lion and the witch talked earnestly together in low voices. At last they heard Aslan's voice.
"You can all come back. I have settled the matter. She has renounced the claim on your brother's blood."
Later that evening, Edmund's sisters, Susan and Lucy, would witness the horror of Aslan - the noble lion - shaved, bound and beaten by the white witch and all her minions. They could only do so because he was letting them. Finally the witch brandished her knife as Susan and Lucy turned away from the killing. Maybe you have read Narnia many times or never at all, but I wager that many will identify with the weight of spirit illustrated as Susan and Lucy shivered in the dead of that murderous night.
Sometimes we feel the weight of death in this world with piercing clarity. Sometimes we do not. Nevertheless, it is there. The human mortality rate of 100 percent confirms nothing else. We can't save us from that.
Praise God there is more.
Master becomes servant, judge becomes savior, suffering becomes glory, night becomes day, death becomes life.
"Was it a morning like this?" asks the song, "when my Lord looked down on Jerusalem."
Sure it was. It was every morning in this world. Living, dying, despair, joy, frustration, labor and rest went on then as now. But there was and is something different. God's life had come to our world, walked our roads, eaten our food, felt our scorn, tasted our death. And now, "Behold, He is alive forevermore!"
If you want me to offer historical and biblical proofs for the resurrection, then ask, and I will write another article. But not today. Jesus died, He was buried, He was raised and He was seen. I believe it. My heart's longing for just such a God is greater than any proof.
"Aren't you dead then, dear Aslan?" asked Lucy.
"Not now," said Aslan.
Likely you have felt the weight of the world and certainly you will. But you haven't experienced the reality of the resurrection suffusing into spiritual joints and marrow, the tingling in dead spiritual places, beginning to live again and the breezy rush of God's beauty, curling and rippling as His spirit embraces your own.
If you are tired of working against this world's death with what little life remains in you, then all I can say is look up and around to something deeper and more wonderful. Try it. Believe it. Believe Him. He is risen.
Andy Meiser is the pastor of the Eshcol Brethren in Christ Church in Ickesburg.