This is an idea that’s been in my head for quite a while, and I finally got to write it. I know it’s long for a blog post, but I wanted to share it.
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him… – Mark 10:21a
They caught us.
My husband was at their head, and the grief in his eyes – I’ve never felt such shame in my life. Meanwhile, he – I’ll never even think his name again – shoved me into their clutches so he would have a chance to get away with his longer legs and stronger muscles.
“We must stone her,” my husband says, his voice cold, flat.
“Wait!” one of his Pharisee friends calls. “That Jesus fellow is in town. Let’s take her to him, see if we can trip him up.”
My husband hesitates, looking as if he wants to get things over with, but then he shrugs. “Why not?
So they drag me into the temple where Jesus sits teaching, their rough hands bruising my arms. “Teacher!” one calls mockingly as Jesus stands to meet us. “We caught this woman in the act of adultery.” His finger points accusingly at me, and I look at the ground. “We know the Law of Moses says we should stone her; what do you say we should do?”
Silence. The men around me become impatient, shuffle their feet. Why does Jesus not respond? When I finally gather enough courage to glance up, I see that he has bent down and is tracing patterns on the ground.
After another agonizing minute, my companions begin to demand an answer, and eventually Jesus straightens and looks around. “Let the one of you who has never sinned throw the first stone,” he says before crouching and writing again.
This silence is even heavier than the first one. However, it is not long before one of my escort – a respected man with a long white beard – slips away. One by one, the others follow until I alone stand before the man writing on the ground.
He stands again and asks me, not unkindly, “Woman, where are they?”
I cannot respond; my tongue seems immobile. Then he looks at me, and his eyes – oh, they are far too old for a man so young, brimming with knowledge and wisdom. “Has no one condemned you?” he asks.
“No, Lord,” I manage to choke out.
“Neither do I. Go; sin no more.”
I turn and walk away, not feeling the ground under my feet. I am having difficulty believing this, but one thing I know for sure. I will do as he says and sin no more. For oh! the way he looked at me!
When I hear the news that the great teacher Jesus has arrived, I don’t waste a moment. I push my way through the crowd that inevitably surrounds him, run up to him, and fall to my knees, gazing up at him adoringly. “Good Teacher!” I exclaim. “What do I need to do to inherit eternal life?”
He smiles, seeming pleased and amused by my enthusiasm. “Why do you call me good?” he asks. “Only God is good.”
My confusion must show on my face – I have no answer for this – so instead of waiting for a reply, he answers my original question, listing half of the Ten Commandments.
My smile returns. How easy! “I’ve done all that since I was a boy!” I laugh. “Is there anything else?”
He doesn’t reply for a moment, and when I see the look in his eyes, my breath catches in my throat. I’ve never seen such love – not in my mother’s eyes, not in my wife’s, not in anyone’s.
When he finally speaks, his voice is a bit more subdued. “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give to the poor. Then come and follow me.”
I stand slowly, stunned, all my gaiety gone. My thoughts flash to my house, the best in the neighborhood… The beautiful furniture… The trinkets… The comfortable clothes… Surely he cannot mean it!
But his solemn expression tells me he does.
I manage a respectful nod before I turn and depart, my steps dragging, my head drooped. He does not know what he asks of me; he cannot! This is something I could never, never do.
And yet, the way he looked at me…
When they take my Lord away – thanks to Judas, that traitor! – John and I follow them to the high priest’s house. John, who knows the high priest, is let in without a fuss, but he has to persuade the servants to allow me to enter.
There’s a fire burning in the courtyard, and I walk up to it, chilled by the night air and the horrid events. One of the servant girls, getting a good look at me in the light of the fire, I guess, suddenly says, “You were with this Nazarene, weren’t you?”
Just as suddenly, I’m afraid. What will they do with me if they find out that she speaks the truth? “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say harshly and retreat from the fire.
A little while later, she walks by with a friend. She stops and peers at me. “I’m sure you are one of his disciples!” she exclaims. She turns to her friend. “Don’t you think so?”
The friend and the bystanders begin to murmur in agreement. “No, I tell you!” I cry. “I am not!”
They back off, but they don’t look convinced.
A rooster crows, reminding me that my last sleep was snatched on the hard ground in Gethsemane, where I should not have been sleeping anyway. I run my hands across my face and through my hair. This has been the longest night of my life.
An hour passes. They continue to question Jesus, and I continue to watch. Then the bystanders start to question me again. Some of them tell me, “You must have been with him; your accent is obviously Galilean.” Then one of the crowd shouts, “It’s true! I saw you in the garden with him!”
I look at him, and I do vaguely remember seeing him there. Beginning to panic, I start to swear at them, something a follower of Jesus would never do. “You’re all wrong! I am not one of his disciples!”
The rooster crows again. I remember Jesus’ words, telling me I would betray him three times before the rooster crowed twice. I’d viciously denied it, sure I would never do such a thing.
But I had.
My eyes flick up to where Jesus stands, and I see that he has turned to look at me. Our eyes meet. His are full of grief and pain, tinged with compassion. Mine can only contain horror.
And tears. I turn and dash away, through the crowd, out the door, down the street, anywhere, so long as it is away.
Eventually I collapse – I don’t know where – crying harder than I ever have before. What was I thinking?
I know the answer to that, of course. I wasn’t thinking. How many times has Jesus scolded me for my impetuousness? How many times have I promised to be more careful?
How many times have I failed?
And now, when my best friend needs support more than ever, all I’ve done is cause him more pain.
All I can do is beg God for forgiveness. The way he looked at me…
They have my son on a cross. My son. My good, wonderful, perfect son! It’s not right, it’s not fair – and there’s nothing I can do about it.
I can’t take my eyes from his body, the body I once cuddled and kissed, the body they have torn and beaten and abused. And they have done it for no good reason, but just because they can.
He catches sight of me watching. The look on his face, in his eyes – it is just like him. There is pain, yes; how could there not be? But there is mostly sadness and pity and love for those who must watch this.
His gaze slides to my right for a moment, but I do not look away, and then his eyes are back on me.
“Dear woman,” he says, his beloved voice roughened by pain, “behold, your son.”
I cannot find words to reply.
He looks to my right again, and this time I look with him to see one of his disciples, John, standing there. “Behold, your mother,” Jesus says to him.
John nods, understanding, and turns to me. The grief in his face echoes the grief in my heart. “Come,” he says gently. “You need not watch this.”
He takes my arm to lead me away, and I cast one last glance back at my son. But his head is bowed with weariness, and I will never see his face again.
I close my eyes and try to draw comfort from the memory of the last way he looked at me.