The older ones first

In the story of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus famously said this to the mob of scribes and Pharisees: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7).

He turned the situation around and appealed to their own conscience.

Verse 9 tells us the outcome: “those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first…” It worked. They dropped their stones and went away.

But notice who went away first. It was “the older ones.”

I wonder why that was. Perhaps since they had lived longer, they were quicker to see their own sins. Perhaps they remembered the people they had hurt in the process. Perhaps they wished someone had shown them the same level of grace that Jesus was showing to this woman.

Don Carson says: “Happy the Christian who sees in every sin a monster that could easily snare him eternally, were it not for the grace of God.”* Perhaps that was the realization these zealous stone-throwers came to realize.

Time has a way of making clear what the frenzy of a moment obscures.

Today, people are slow to talk about their own “sin.” It’s a big word. Plus, we’re so addicted to the power of positive thinking that we think it’s a sin to talk about too much about sin.

But there’s another side to that coin. When we acknowledge the power of sin, and when we know its monstrous capacity—even within ourselves—that can make us more humble, understanding and compassionate toward others.

In addition to being born and paying taxes, one of the things we all have in common is our need for grace.

Let’s not just say grace. Let’s show it.


–*D.A. Carson, Basics for Believers: The Core of Christian Faith and Life (BakerBooks: Grand Rapids, 1996), 131.

–Bible quotes are from the NIV.

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