Summary: Finding the ability to leave the past behind.

Canceling our Debts

John 8:1-11

In Max Lucado’s book, He Still Moves Stones he writes of this incident we find in John 8:1-11, and he begins with this illustration I’ve used before. But it is so powerful, it is worth using again.

Rebecca Thompson fell twice from Fremont Canyon Bridge. She died both times. The first fall broke her heart; the second broke her neck. She was only eighteen years of age when she and her 11 year old sister were abducted by a pair of hoodlums near a store in Casper, Wyoming. They drove the girls forty miles southwest to the Fremont Canyon Bridge, a one-lane, steel beamed structure rising 112 feet above the North Platte River. The men brutally beat and raped Rebecca. She somehow convinced them not to do the same to her sister Amy. Both were thrown over the bridge into the narrow gorge. Amy died when she landed on a rock near the river but Rebecca slammed into a ledge and was ricocheted into deeper water. With a hip fractured in five places, she struggled to the shore. To protect her body from the cold, she wedged herself between two rocks and waited until the dawn.

But the dawn never came for Rebecca. Oh, the sun came up and she was found. The physicians treated her wounds, and the courts imprisoned her attackers. Life continued, but the dawn never came. So in September 1992, 19 years later, she returned to the bridge. Against her boyfriend’s pleadings, she drove 70 mph to the North Platte River. With her two year old daughter and boyfriend at her side, she sat on the edge of the Fremont Canyon Bridge and wept. Through her tears she retold the story. The boyfriend didn’t want the child to see her mother cry, so he carried the toddler to the car. That’s when he heard the body hit the water.

And that’s when Rebecca Thompson died her second death.

But why…was it fear? She had testified against the men, pointing them out in the courtroom. One of them taunted her by smirking and sliding his finger across his throat. The day she died the two murderers were up for parole.

Was it guilt? Some think so. Despite Rebecca’s attractive smile and appealing personality, friends say that she struggled with the ugly fact that she survived and her little sister had not.

Was it shame? Everyone she knew and thousands she didn’t had heard the humiliating details of her tragedy. She had been raped. She had been violated. She had been shamed.

Canyons of shame run deep. Gorges of never-ending guilt. Walls ribboned with the greens and grays of death. Unending echoes of screams. Put your hands over your ears. Splash water on your face. Stop looking over your shoulder. Try as you might to outrun yesterday’s tragedies-their tentacles are longer than your hope. They draw you back to the bridge of sorrows to be shamed again and again and again.

Sometimes your shame is private. Pushed over the edge by an abusive spouse. Molested by a perverted parent. Seduced by a compromising superior. No one else knows. But you know. And that’s enough.

Sometimes your shame is public. Branded by a divorce you didn’t want. Contaminated by a disease you never expected. Marked by a handicap you didn’t create. And whether it’s in your imagination or in the reality of others you’re marked. Labeled: a divorcee, an invalid, an orphan, an AIDS patient.

Whether private or public, shame is always painful. Unless you get help, the dawn will never come. You’re not surprised when I say there are Rebecca Thompsons in every city and Fremont Brigdes in every town. And there are many Rebecca Thompsons in the Bible. So many in fact, that it almost seems that the pages of Scripture are stitched together with their stories. But there is one woman whose story embodies them all. A story of failure. A story of abuse. A story of shame. A story of grace.

John 8:1-11

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, [2] but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. [3] As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and Pharisees brought a woman they had caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

[4] "Teacher," they said to Jesus, "this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. [5] The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?"

[6] They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. [7] They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, "All right, stone her. But let those who have never sinned throw the first stones!" [8] Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

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William Holt

commented on Nov 2, 2006

Excellent message. i love the max lucado illustration and the conclusion.

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