The ministry of Jesus challenged the accepted social norm of the way women were treated. Instead of shunning them publicly, Jesus reached out to women with compassion and respect which brought anger and ridicule from the religious elite.
My new blog explains the cultural status of women and how Jesus pulled them up out of the gutters of discrimination. The following article is an excerpt from my new book, "Broken yet beautiful: Rising up from their ashes." You can purchase my book in both kindle and paperback on Amazon.com
There is a wonderful promise tucked into the collection of Hebrew poetry, also known as the Psalms, that is for the oppressed. It is a special promise of deliverance for the hurting and the scarred, that have suffered under the yoke of bondage for centuries without any relief.
“He will rescue the poor when they cry to Him:
He will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them
He feels pity for the weak and needy, and he will rescue them.
He will redeem them from oppression and violence,
For their lives are precious to him.
God understands the pain and sufferings of humanity, because he left his royal throne in heaven and clothed himself in human flesh. He became one of us and suffered immensely in body, soul, and spirit on a wooden cross for our salvation. He is not a distant far away deity, but a personal, loving, compassionate God who promises one day in eternity to “wipe all tears from our eyes,” and abolish all pain, suffering and death forever… (Rev. 21:4)
At the perfect time, God stepped out of eternity and became a human being in Jesus Christ. The great event of the incarnation was God entering into humanity for the purpose of delivering us from the pain and guilt of sin and restoring us from our brokenness to beauty once again. For centuries, women had suffered under the yoke of oppression and discrimination and now God himself was going to come into humanity and rescue them from the slime and filth of gender abuse. Jesus was a man of great humility and compassion and as the “God of justice” he confronted the evils of discrimination and racism that had enslaved women for far too long. Jesus came to announce the arrival of the kingdom of God and in this kingdom, there would be no oppression, discrimination, or racism permitted, but instead there would be compassion, equality, and genuine kindness, that once had filled the paradise of Eden. Jesus had come to liberate women from the chains of gender abuse and restore them once again to their dignity and worth as image bearers of God.
The view of women in the culture of Jesus’s day was both sad and deplorable. Women were treated as second-class citizens by the religious establishment:
“The oral law of Jesus’s day,” “Let the words of the law be burned rather than committed to women!” “The woman,” says the Law, is in all things inferior to man. Let her accordingly be submissive.”
“Praised be to God that he has not created me a gentile: Praised be to God that he created me not a woman.” (The thanksgiving prayer of a Jew)
A Rabbi considered it beneath his dignity to speak in public to a woman.
This was the mood of the Jewish religious culture and it was very hostile to the average woman. It was into this culture that Jesus came to restore the value, dignity and worth of a woman.
In the Gospel of John, Chapter 8, verses 3-11, the Bible unveils a heated scenario between the Pharisees and scribes concerning a woman caught in the act of adultery. They immediately bring the woman to Jesus with motive of testing him. To the religious leaders the woman was merely property owned by her husband and her vile act had brought disgrace upon him. However, it is interesting and perhaps deliberate that the man caught in the offense was conveniently missing. Why hadn’t he been brought to be stoned along with the woman? It is also worth pointing out that the religious leaders were really not interested in upholding God’s moral law, they were instead intent on exposing Jesus as a false prophet and discrediting him. The adulterous woman had become their perfect propaganda tool to confront and discredit the Son of God. Filled with passionate rage they looked Jesus in the eyes and asked the question:
“Will you have her stoned as the law required?
The religious leaders were referencing Deuteronomy chapter 22 and verses 23-30.
The religious leaders had devised an elaborate scheme to expose Jesus as a false prophet. If he agreed with the law in favor of the woman being stoned, then they would point out that he was betraying his reputation among the crowds as being a compassionate rabbi. If, however he spared the woman’s life, they would cry out that he was disobeying the law of Moses and was therefore a false prophet. The religious leaders were convinced they had cornered Jesus into an impossible trap to escape from.
Jesus knowing the intent of their deceitful hearts, bent down and began writing with his finger in the sand. While theologians have debated for centuries what exactly Jesus was writing, it is possible that he was writing down their individual sins. However, there is a pertinent passage in the Book of Jeremiah that is more likely referring to what Jesus was writing, a passage that speaks of God’s judgment upon a rebellious religious establishment.
“O Lord, the hope of Israel, all that forsake thee shall be ashamed, and they that depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountains of living waters.
The text should literally read, “those who turn aside from my ways, will have their names written in the dust and blotted out.”
In writing in the dust with his finger, Jesus was instead pointing the accusing finger of judgment upon the corrupt religious leaders. Jesus stood up and in a precise and confrontational tone pointed his finger of judgment at them exposing their hypocrisy.
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her!”
With this confronting declaration, Jesus forever silenced the mouths of the religious elite. They were unprepared for this heart-piercing confrontation. Their hypocrisy had been exposed and one by one they let the stones fall from their hands and departed.
In one of the most beautiful scenes in all of the Bible, the adulterous woman was left alone with Jesus. No doubt she was still shaking with fear and anxiety. Yet Jesus shows tenderness, respect and compassion for this woman. He treated her with great value instead of condemning her for her sin. The religious leaders had treated her as damaged goods with malicious contempt, but the Son of God reached out and showed her mercy instead. He showed respect first by acting contrary to the rabbinic code of that day, He spoke to the woman.
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one Lord,” The woman replied.
“Neither do I condemn you, “Jesus reassured her, “Go and from now on sin no more.”
This is a beautiful illustration of the compassion and respect that Jesus demonstrated toward women. He confronted the abusive religious leaders, exposed their hypocritical hearts, and stood in defense of this adulterous woman. Jesus did not deny that she had sinned but instead of condemnation he extended grace and mercy toward her. When I read about the horrific stories on the internet of Muslim crowds stoning women to death in Middle-Eastern countries like Pakistan, engaging in honor killings, I immediately think of this beautiful account in John’s gospel. I can picture Jesus standing in defense of these helpless women and pointing the accusing finger back at them. Jesus is the “God of Justice” a defender of the honor of women. He refused to align himself with the false Rabbinic code of his day and instead lifted women out of the gutters of discrimination, restoring to them their dignity as equal image bearers of God.