THE ALABASTER JAR (2)
A fiction based on Luke 7: 36–50; Mark14: 3-9
I was on the cobbled stone path that led straight onto Simon’s house, heading towards my future but remembering the past. I would never have believed it was possible had I not been there. I recalled the crowds, the riot and the noise of many feet as they rushed towards the synagogue to the chief priest. The angry cruel faces distorted with hatred and vengeance, had a lust to destroy whatever shred of self respect any woman dared have. They were outraged, dragging the offender along towards her impending sentence.
She had to be punished. She had to be punished so that other women would be aware and refrain themselves from such. Fear had gripped my heart that day. I wound my cloak tighter around me. Only my eyes were visible as I watched to see what would happen. No one need know it was me. I was afraid they would seize me as well.
The enraged mob had dragged the woman by her hair, chief of whom had been her husband. They tore her clothes and spat in her face. I wondered at the irony of it. The same people condemning her for sexual sin had absolved the man that had been with her. Where was he? Why was he not as guilty?
Many of the men who came to me had women and children at home that needed them. I wondered if the man who took her by the hair could claim that he had satisfied her in every way. I wondered if he had attended to her needs or cared about her and loved her as he should have. Maybe then she would not have found herself in the arms of another man. Maybe his love would have been enough. I knew that every woman needed to be loved. Despite the fact that I was the other woman, I knew that every wife needed to be loved. My mother had needed to be loved.
“The teacher! Take her to the teacher.”
“This way! This way!”
The rough crowd moved as one changing direction. They rumbled past the porches of Solomon towards the grassy garden area where the date trees lay. They crossed the lawn and hurried towards the dirt ground where two men sat together under a tree talking. I followed some distance away watching the proceedings with veiled interest. My heart went out to the woman. She had been beaten severally and was now being dragged and pushed towards the man they had called the Teacher. Her face was puffy and her clothes dirty and torn. The men with her raved and riled and hurled insults while the teacher stood and listened, head bowed. I remember more their accusing tones than the actual words they spoke as they calmed down enough to state the reason for their appearance. I ducked behind a tree, hidden but close enough to hear what was going on. Several women passing by were also doing the same. There was no woman in the crowd except the one being accused. We were not welcome to such proceedings.
“This woman…..caught…….adultery……………right in the act………her husband…………….what must we do?”
Snatches of conversation that tore my heart and took me back to the fateful night of the stoning. My mother, struggling and fighting against the angry mob of men sent by my father’s other wife. I, weeping behind the bedpost, old enough to understand what was happening yet too young to be left unattended, vulnerable to the whims of cunning men. I never saw my mother again after that night till I was told she had died.
I edged closer in the background, hiding behind trees in order to hear without being seen. The teacher had squatted to the ground and was writing in the dirt. I watched, my heart fluttering within my chest as I realized that I would finally see how my mother had died. It would no longer remain a mystery to me.
“Yes teacher, what must we do?”
“According………law of Moses……….death……stoning.”
The air was rent with cries of ‘Yes! Yes!’ I wondered if he had heard them at all.
When he finally looked up I saw his face for the first time. It was young and bearded. He must have been about my age. This was a thing of surprise to me. I had heard stories about a wise young teacher who went about doing good things and healing all that were sick, but I had not expected him to be this young. His eyes blazed with kindness and a honest intensity that I had not seen in a long time. The warmth that shone through them was amazing. The only time I had ever seen that look was when my father had looked at my mother. It brought a fresh stab of pain to my heart all over again. They were clear honest eyes, the eyes of a man I could trust.
And he was looking at her, the woman condemned to die.
“She is an adulterer. She should die by our laws.”
“A death of stones. What do you think Teacher?”
The teacher seemed unruffled. “Let him who has no sin amongst you, cast the first stone at her!” He said.
The murmurings slowed to a stop and the silence that filled the air was tomblike, broken only by the occasional sniffs of the accused woman.
I frowned, turning the words over in my mind. ‘Him who has no sin’.
Was there such a person? Was there any that had no need of the yearly purge with the blood of a young lamb? Could there ever be such a person?
I looked on wondering what would happen as the teacher quietly resumed his stooped posture. He began to do what I could only imagine was write in the dirt. I angled closer so I could look through the spaces between the men that surrounded the accused woman and the man who with one statement had brought the crowd to a hush.
Angry hands filled with stones and raised in condemnation began to drop, as the men watched the bent head of the young rabbi. I could imagine they were as confused as I was at his words. Did he not care about the law? I wondered which one of them would start the sentencing. All around me people had begun to gather in order to catch a glimpse of what was happening. Many were wondering why the woman was not being stoned.
The men began to leave. One by one, it was amazing.
I wrapped my hands around the trunk of the tree in front of me surprised as they all dropped their stones and left. The older men went first, each probably considering the wisdom of the teacher’s words. Him who had no sin. All left, until the bloodied, bruised woman was standing alone. The teacher looked up just then fixing his gaze on her.
“Where are your accusers?” He asked, his voice quiet but clear. “Has no one condemned you?”
She shook her head. She looked overwhelmed with emotion, grateful, tired, hurt and ashamed. “No one, Lord.” I thought I heard her say.
He shrugged. “Neither do I condemn you.
She nodded unable to speak.
“Go.” He said. “Sin no more.”
I gasped aloud as I watched her mouth her gratitude to him and hobble away. I was riveted to the place where I stood, watching her walk away unharmed and alive. When I turned my eyes back to the rabbi, he had turned and was looking in my direction. He was looking directly at me. I froze, and we stared at one another for the space of the blink of an eye. A small smile appeared around his mouth, and I ducked back behind the tree trembling. When I found the courage to peep, he was walking towards the synagogue.
I knew then that I had to find him. I had to tell him my sin.
To be continued……….