“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him” (John 8:7-9 ESV).
There has been a lot of discussion about what Jesus actually wrote in the dirt. The general consensus seems to be that He likely wrote out sins that had been committed by those who brought the woman before Jesus. It really doesn’t matter what Jesus wrote; He could have invented the emoji! The men walked away because of Jesus’ statement,”Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
I used to think that the older ones in this story walked away first because they had been around longer and had committed more sins, as if Jesus was just writing random sins hoping one will hit home. But I have come to believe differently now that I’m older. Looking back I can see that I was arrogant, ignorant, and judgmental. I cloaked all of this behind spiritual bravado. I weighed my sins against those of others, things I’d dealt with that they had yet to acknowledge, and saw the scales tip strongly toward their side. I wouldn’t have said that I was better than anyone else, but I’m certain that I thought it more than a time or two.
I believe that, despite their bluster, the older men had come to recognize their own sinfulness in ways that only years can reveal. The younger men are best described in this passage: “…they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (Romans 10:2-3 ESV emphasis mine). Zeal is a good thing when accompanied by knowledge, but a dangerous thing when it is not.
The older I get, the more fully I understand the depths of His grace toward me. The years teach me humility. But whether we are young or old, we can still learn from each other and those who have gone before us. A younger me might have brought the woman to Jesus as these men did, but I’d like to believe that now I would seek to restore rather than expose, heal rather than harm, love rather than judge.
Where do you find yourself in this story?