A beautiful young woman walked the cobblestone street which traversed a steep incline through stately homes within view of both Herrod’s palace and the Temple. Beside her strode a stately Roman Centurion, both young and handsome, with a commanding saunter which showed confidence derived from youth and station. As the couple approached a narrow alleyway, she quickly surveyed the surrounding area, grabbed the man’s hand, and they furtively slid from direct view from anyone travelling the wider avenue. Moving quickly, the two approached a gate and stepped through. Closing the gate behind them rapidly, they emerged into a lush courtyard. Stepping underneath a vine-covered archway to conceal their actions from the view of wealthy gossips, the woman turned quickly to face the Roman and gave a deep, guttural laugh. The soldier looked down and flashed a slow smile, grabbing the woman around the waist. The woman slid her hand down to his leg and began searching for an entrance to his thigh through the armor covering his tunic.
Laughing, the soldier teased, “That armor is meant to ward off a warrior’s blade. Your nails will never find their mark.”
“Then I suppose we will have to remove it…” the woman taunted.
Raising her face towards his helmeted head, she brushed her lips slightly against his and then broke away from his embrace, running towards the back entrance of the palatial home.
“She is certainly brazen,” thought the soldier, “especially for a married woman.” Feeling just a bit leery, he asked, “Aren’t you afraid the servants will see us? I’m sure your husband would treat a slave kindly who protected him from a whoring wife.”
Stopping at the door she answered, “They are afraid. They know Romans know how to protect their conquests. Besides, my husband is probably right now in the arms of two women in Caesar’s household. It would certainly take two women to get their arms around him. They can have the spatter of his sweat and the flap of his belly as he pounds away on them. I would rather know the firmness of Caesar’s warrior… Come to me, Corin.”
Corin hesitated again for just a moment. Getting caught in an affair with this woman could destroy his bright career. Yosef, this woman’s husband, was a rich Jewish merchant who was the primary outfitter for the Roman legions occupying Palestine. Yosef even had ties to Egyptian traders, which allowed him to manage all supplies coming into the southeastern Mediterranean coast. By so doing, Rome could be spared using sailors and troops from the inane process of hauling their own bread. The Legions could be used for more strategic action both local and empire-wide. Using a local merchant also poured Roman gold into the local economy, helping to pacify leading citizens who might otherwise be intent on revolution and nobody made any money during revolution. So Caesar protected Yosef’s interests and kept a close tie with him, bringing him to Rome frequently and making any business trips he might need to make as comfortable and secure as possible. If Caesar found out that one of his officers disrupted the happy home of his prized merchant, that officer would become a eunuch carrying the armor of the most forward unit commander in the Legion. While Corin wasn’t afraid of battle, he was a veteran of many, he wouldn’t survive the humiliation. So if he deemed this woman worth the risk….
Ah, but that was part of the attraction. That adrenaline rush a man got when everything was on the line.
For her part, Shayna, Yosef’s wife, knew she wanted this man. She knew what she wanted was wrong. The Pharisees taught that she could be stoned for just this type of relationship. Her father would probably be the first to pick up a stone if she were caught. He had been the one to get her into this marriage anyway. Well…. Her father had accepted Yosef’s generous bridal offer. Yosef noticed her at the market while she ran errands for her mother and determined the beautiful girl would be his. Shayna’s father believed accepting the offer made sense for both Shayna and the rest of his family. Shayna would be taken care of in the house of such a wealthy man and his other children would have other options because of Yosef’s generosity. The fact that Yosef was 30 years older than Shayna didn’t matter. In fact, it was very common.
However, to Shayna, her marriage and life had no meaning. She felt nothing but contempt for her husband and her life was a bore. She was angry, and hated it that she was really nothing more than her body. In her culture, women were only useful for their bodies: working in the home, bearing the children, meeting the sexual desires of the husbands… So when Shayna saw this strong, tall Roman standing at her doorway as Yosef’s dinner guest one night, she decided she wanted him. Without knowing it, she was expressing her anger for the lack of choices allowed her, by choosing an action that symbolically spat in the face of Yosef, her father, the Pharisees… even God! How could God care and allow her to be treated like a cow, or donkey, or dove… sold from one owner to another. She wasn’t a slave, and she was going to enjoy her body by giving it to someone of her choice. It was most certainly an act of angry rebellion.
As Corin stood motionless beneath the heavy stone archway, Shayna slid the covering off her head and slowly removed her tunica until her body could be seen through the thin garment underneath. Slowly, Corin walked towards the doorway, removed his helmet with one hand and slid his other around her waist, lowering his mouth to her upraised lips and kissed her deeply. Things progressed quickly now. Shayna led Corin towards her bedroom all the while helping him shrug out of his armor, scattering the pieces in a line from the back door to the bedroom.
While deeply engrossed in their passion, neither Shayna nor Corin heard the scraping of boots against the rock wall just outside the window of the bedroom. Nor did they see the eyes peering through watching their writhing bodies. Dropping to the ground, the man turned to a large group of religious leaders, “They are in the act. Let’s go.”
A group of about 20 men strode resolutely to the stately front door of the home, lifted a wooden battering ram and smashed the door open. Dropping the ram just inside the door, the men ran towards the bedroom, scrambled through the cloth covering the entrance and were just in time to see Corin sprint to his dagger lying across the room. Shayna reached for a covering although there were none on the bed or in plain view.
The eldest man of the 20, and the one obviously in charge, shouted, “There’s no need for violence, Centurion. We aren’t here for you…” To another of his group, the eldest commanded, “Stay here with him and explain to him our offer, Joshua…”
Shayna rushed towards a corner of the room hoping to roll her body into it so as not to reveal her intimacies to the mob, but before she could reach it, four rough hands grabbed her. Lifting her up slightly off the floor, they half-carried, half-dragged her across the stone floor of the bedroom. Shayna screamed and tried to look towards Corin, pleading for help, but he was in an intense conversation with another leader of the mob. Continuing to rush out of the house, the group stopped outside the smashed front door of the house for a moment. The two men holding a naked Shayna thrust her onto the ground in the middle of the mob. She was surrounded by a sea of angry, leering faces staring down at her and obviously enjoying her naked terror. Their leader reached into a pile of rocks next to a piece of the splintered door and picked up a stone about the size of Shayna’s head.
“We are taking you to the carpenter, adulteress. We will kill three birds with many stones… We are going to expose the Nazarene’s lies once and for all, give you what your adultery deserves, and take from that traitor, Yosef, his prized possession. Let’s go. The carpenter is in the Temple courtyard spreading his insanity.”
The rough hands once again snatched Shayna from the ground and shoved her ahead of the mob with such force that she fell at the bottom of the steps headed up towards the Temple mount. The group moved quickly, usually carrying Shayna with hands pinching and prodding her as she struggled to protect herself. As they progressed up the hill, their number grew as people followed to watch the hideous show.
Shayna could hardly think while the mob pressed forward. She was in shock. All she could really make out were the stones in the hands of her captives.
She had always loved stones as a child…
Stones flying from the sling of David and crashing into the giant.
Stones taken from the dry river bed and then piled on the shore of the promised land after Jehovah had made the way for Joshua and Israel’s children after 40 years wandering in the desert.
Stones stained with blood from a ram found in a thicket after Jehovah stayed the hand of Abraham from taking the life of his son, Isaac.
she had always liked stones….
The noise and edge of the mob reached the Temple courtyard before Shayna did. The carpenter was seated among a crowd of people teaching them about “His Father.” Hearing the commotion, The Teacher slowly stood and watched the faces of the mob as they approached. Once the leaders of the mob stepped into the courtyard, they held Shayna by the arms and shoved her along in front of them, causing her to skin her feet and trip and fall, scraping the side of her leg and elbow upon which she landed. Grabbing her hair with one hand and the scraped elbow with the other, the leader stood her up and forced her to stand fully erect with her hands to her sides within a few yards of the Teacher.
“Teacher,” the leader loudly addressed the crowd, more so than the 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?”
As the leader spoke, the Teacher looked into the faces of the mob, but never looked at Shayna as she stood with tears streaming down her face, chin quivering, and eyes staring straight ahead. Finally, the Teacher knelt down and began to write in the sand. The act drew the attention directly to the Teacher. People began to press in, stones in hand, trying to see what was being written in the sand. With each separate drawing, a set of eyes would widen in surprise, as if a deep personal secret were being revealed. The eyes would then begin to glaze over, as if once again trying to hide from the truth of their own actions. All-the-while, holding stubbornly to the stones at their sides.
The leader finally broke the trance the mob seemed to be in and began to fire religious questions at the Teacher. Finally, the Teacher slowly rose and once again looked into the eyes of each member of the mob, and said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again, he stooped down and continued to write in the dust.
The crowd quieted…
One by one, stones began to fall…
Feet scuffed through the dust as people left…
Stones on the ground…
The Teacher reaches out and takes up a stone…
Looks at the stone and stands…
Then looks straight into Shayna’s eyes…
“Woman, where are they?” He smiles with his eyes… “Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” Shayna softly says.
The Teacher reaches out one hand, takes Shayna’s hand, places the stone into her palm, and closes her fingers around it with his other hand.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” he slightly smiles and then says, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Shayna turns and his hands drop her hand as she begins to walk away. Feeling the weight in her hand, she raises it to view the stone, her stone. And she remembers,
“I always liked stones…”
(An expanded version of John 8:1-11)