Heart pounding hard and fast while being carried away like a criminal in shackles. I'm in deep contemplation of what this whole matter is about, yet only to draw a blank with each thought. What could I have possibly done to bring on such treatment? What have I been accused of and who are my accusers? These and other questions permeate my thinking. Anxiety and fear are now overwhelming my senses, not knowing whether to fight or simply cry; all the while gripped by the overpowering sense of the unknown.
Reflection begins to identify possible scenarios, providing light to the unfortunate circumstance in which I am currently found. An incident begins to replay itself over and again in my mind. So many questions begin to dominate my every thought, did I, could I have, what if or maybe follows each subsequent memory. They seem so sure that I am guilty. Their eyes flash anger and contempt, while they speak to one another in hush tones. I'm forcibly pushed about with no clear direction as to where I'm being taken.
Will I finally be judged or has judgment already been passed? What punishment will be meted out if I am in fact found guilty? But wait, what is my crime, who have I injured, what hurt have I caused? Is not one assumed innocent until proven guilty? Is this not a democratic society in which we live? Where is the jury of my peers who have evaluated the evidence against me and found me liable? This must be a dream from which I am unable to awake and yet it is so real, too real!
As the situation continues to escalate I am reminded of a story in scripture. Though our situations may differ in that the woman caught in adultery was actually guilty of her crime. I can't however seem to escape the semblance that we share, the fear, the confusion, the shear horror of what is to come. My mind began to think on the fact that the religious leaders of that time sought to entrap Jesus by bringing this half naked woman to him. They dragged her from the very bed in which she had slept. Giving her no opportunity to wash her face or even comb her hair. It didn't matter to them that she was unable to wrap her body completely with the bedding that she grabbed while being torn away from its comfort.
I guess the one thing that made all of the difference in her story is that they took her to Jesus, the righteous son of Almighty God. The one who knows the hearts and minds of each one of us so intrinsically. He knows our beginning from our end and everything in between and is able to judge our motives even before our sin. In my mind's eye I can see the angry mob waiting eagerly to exact punishment on this scourge to their society. Stones in hand, each one displaying a smug sense of self-righteousness and personal innocence.
In an unexpected turn of events, Jesus while writing in the sand looked intently on each of her accusers. "Whichever of you who is without sin throw the first stone." I can see the stone-faced angry crowd suddenly drawn to deep introspection; stones began to drop to the ground like raindrops. The once large and angry crowd now dissipated leaving Jesus and the women there alone. I can feel the passion in his voice when he asks "women, where are your accusers?" She lifts her head in amazement to find that they had all gone. Tears now streaming down her bruised face, she responds there are none. Jesus with the deepest passion known to the human heart replies "neither do I accuse you, go in peace." One can only imagine what it was like in that moment, knowing the reality of her guilt and being washed over by undeserved forgiveness.
The reality of the moment again came rushing in, I now wonder was this a rush to judgment or am I in fact guilty of crimes to innumerable to express? I am now hearing a cry from the deepest place in my soul exclaiming Guilty as Charged! My head now bowed, tears streaming from my eyes and my body trembling uncontrollably. I've come to myself and realize that no punishment allotted by men could ever satisfy the sin debt that I owe. With my eyes closed and my heart broken with immense shame, I once again hear the words of Jesus, only this time as though spoken within my very own heart. Your debt is paid in full, you are forgiven.
Just as the words settled in my heart, another voice broke the silence sir we've made a terrible mistake. We apologize for this rush to judgment and any inconvenience that this may have caused. You are free to go. My hands now free as my chains fall to the ground in front of me and my heart is also less burdened as I pull myself together to make my exit. I now know forgiveness more completely and appreciate the fullness of the gift.
Pastor Curtis Johnson, Jr. is the founder and Senior Pastor of Living Word Christian Center in Reisterstown, MD. He serves with wife and co-pastor Sylvia. He is also Lead Apostle and director of Pastoral Associates Ministerial Alliance, a Covenant fellowship of Christian Ministers and Ministries.