She felt the cold air rush in on her face and graze her naked skin. She looked at her partner next to her in the bed, wicked smile starting across his lips. “You’re going to get it now, whore,” he whispered. She stared into his dark eyes, looking for a sign of humanity, a sign of life. She only saw blackness, and demons.
She had given him everything he asked, and she hadn’t even demanded a very high price. She hated the rough treatment, the constant pain in her body and mind. She felt all their glances on the street. They all knew that she was a dirty woman.
Her parents had sold her into prostitution when she was only ten years old. The midwives gave her the herbs and the treatments. All in secret. She cried with each miscarriage, each life cut short by cruel circumstance.
But then the miracle happened. The herbs didn’t take and, at age sixteen, she gave birth to her beloved daughter, the light of her life. She hid away her child, protecting her from the judgment of society and the religious leaders.
By day she shared bread and fish with her daughter, and the rare treat of an apple or some grapes. They liked to climb trees and play hide-and-seek in the warm morning sun, when people assumed her husband was busy studying Torah. She lived her own lost childhood with her daughter. A kind man knew their secret and had built them a shelter. She laid her daughter to bed there at night, and breathed a prayer of protection over her. Then she sneaked out to earn their living.
This was the only way she knew to buy a better life for her daughter. Society gave some protection for widows, but she was only a whore with a child, never married, an illegitimate family. She knew that nobody wanted to help, so she had to fight, the only way she knew how. There were plenty of men ready to oblige.
She had continued in this life of hell for twelve years. The child was almost old enough to marry now, and, hopefully she could find a family with a son who would understand. She only had to turn a few more tricks, keep up the secret a little longer.
She knew she shouldn’t have trusted him when she saw him. He was a religious leader, a young man from the learned class. But he was handsome, and, more importantly, he had money. Lots of money. He asked her to do the deed in the morning. She had thought it unusual in daylight where people could see, but he assured her that his parents would not be home.
The sheets were soft white and the blankets rich purple. She imagined herself a queen dressed all in palace purple as she allowed him to come into her. She closed her eyes and moaned a little to please him while she pictured her daughter, a new happy bride in a happy house, sunshine filling the windows and a flourishing olive grove growing in the field. The dream of abundance swallowed up her pain.
But the icy fingers of the wind ripped her dream into shreds. The older man stood in the door, his religious robes dark against the morning sun. She tucked her head and shivered underneath the sheets. She did not cry; she had lost all of her tears when her parents abandoned her. She only thought of her daughter.
The young religious leader rose from the bed and calmly put on his clothes. “You can take her now. Do with her as you please. We’ll take care of these two trouble-makers today.”
The older religious leader came to the bed and grabbed her from the sheets. He threw her on the floor and threw her clothes on top of her. “Get dressed,” he sneered. “You know what we are going to do to you.”
The two men dragged her out of the house and down the street. They brought her to the Temple. She saw a young man teaching in the center. She had seen him somewhere before. There was a crowd whispering and talking around him. She marveled as she saw him answer a young man’s question and touch his hand. What kind of religious leader was this?
The men whisked her through the crowd and threw her at the teacher’s feet. The crowd fell silent. “We found this woman in the middle of adultery!” they proclaimed triumphantly. “Moses said in the Law to stone these kind of women. What do you say?”
The woman stared into the man’s face. He had kind eyes, a compassion she had never seen from any man. He whispered into her ear, “Don’t be afraid, I know what they’ve done to you.” He looked at the men who had dragged her in, and she saw his eyes turn to thunder.
“Well, what do you say, Yeshua?” The young religious leader sneered the name and tapped his foot impatiently. He bent down and picked up a stone from the ground. “We don’t have all day.”
The woman whispered “Are you Yeshua? The great healer?” She had heard all the stories. Hope filled her heart.
Yeshua bent down and wrote her name on the ground. He wrote the name of her daughter.
He stood up and proclaimed, “He who is without sin, throw the first stone.” The young religious leader grimaced and tightened his grip on the stone.
Yeshua bent down and wrote another name. The older man touched the young religious leader’s hand. “Let it go,” he whispered. Yeshua continued to write, name after name, sin after sin, of all of the religious leaders.
The young man and the old man turned and walked away, followed by all of the religious leaders and most of the crowd. The woman kept staring into Yeshua’s face. A dove made a mournful coo in the still morning air. What was happening?
Yeshua straightened up and looked around. “Are you the only one left? No one condemns you?”
“No, Master,” she whispered.
“Then neither do I. I know you were forced into what they call sin, but you are free from the bondage today. I have arranged for one of my disciples to care for you and your daughter. The Father loves you and has chosen you for this moment. You will be honored in heaven for your bravery.”
The woman knelt at the feet of the Master and cried.