One of the most famous stories in the Gospels is of the day when Jesus rescued a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Those who had arrested her were determined to kill her by stoning. Had they had their way, the woman would have been taken to Jerusalem’s only place of execution, pushed off a high hill and then stoned by those who stood above her. Jesus rescued the woman, challenging her accusers to throw the first stone only if they themselves were without sin. The accusers slipped away, and the woman escaped with her life.
Because of steep valleys, Jerusalem didn’t have an option for an execution hill on its southern or eastern borders. On the northwestern side of the city, however, stone masons had left rocky hills that provided gruesome backdrops for either stoning or crucifixion. One of those places would have become known as the place of execution. No city would cherish more than one such place. This photo – which dates before 1900 – shows what is known as “Gordon’s Calvary.” The resemblance of the rocky cliff to a skull reminded British Major General Charles Gordon of the Bible’s description of “Golgotha,” or “the place of the skull.” The Church of the Holy Sepulcher was built over another skull-shaped hill only a short walk from this location.
Back to the woman Jesus rescued. “Go,” Jesus had told her, “and sin no more.” Only a short time later, Jesus was taken to Jerusalem’s place of the skull and executed. The Bible’s message was simple. He was dying there in the place of all sinners. No one would have appreciated that more than a woman once condemned to die in the same location.