Have you ever been in a situation in which you were treated differently because you are a woman–looked down on, unjustly criticized, or demeaned? Maybe you were abandoned, objectified, or just a pawn in someone else’s game.
In an era in which women were considered as low as criminals, on the same level with animals in some cases, Jesus turned social expectations upside down. He didn’t come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it, giving the full understanding–the spirit that was intended–behind the law.
In doing so, Jesus revealed that the heart of God towards women was vastly different from the ideology of the Roman and Jewish culture of His day. One of the best examples of His validation of women can be seen in the account of the woman caught in adultery.
“But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.”John 8:1-6a, NIV 84
First, these leaders were in a battle with Jesus. They weren’t offended with the woman–she didn’t mean that much. In fact, they weren’t offended with the sin either, because adultery requires two people, and the man was nowhere to be found. Their offense was with the One whom all the people had gathered around, thus threatening their power and authority.
Second, they twisted the law in order to trap Jesus. Yes, there were laws that called for death as the punishment. The Old Testament law was given in order to show us the righteous standard of God. The punishment was often severe in order to deter breaking the law. God knows the power of evil to corrupt those around it.
The laws these leaders referenced, however, called for the death of both parties for adultery (Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22). They weren’t interested in justice, only in trapping Jesus. If He had agreed with them, it would have put Him at odds with the Roman government, who forbade the Jews’ carrying out executions. If He had not agreed with them, He would have been going against the Mosaic law.
And third, the religious leaders saw the woman as simply an instrument in their dispute with Jesus. An accusation of this type required eyewitness testimony, so you can imagine her shame. Then they brought her to Jesus when a crowd was gathered, humiliating her even further. They didn’t bring the man out; but, after all, she was just a woman.
Jesus cared little for their confrontation, but He cared much for her. Since Jesus knows everyone’s heart, He had the ability to see her for who she was. And He put a stop to their cruel game.
“But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
‘No one, sir,’ she said.
‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.'”John 8:6b-11
I can’t think of anything more validating than to have God call out your enemies in front of you. Jesus wasn’t going to play their game. His heart was for her. He saw her shame and humiliation, and He knew her sin was no worse than theirs. In a culture that saw her as nothing more than a pawn in their game, He saw her as a valued person in need of mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and restoration.
“Jesus’ words had the effect of shifting the attention from himself and the woman to the accusers. Conscience began to do its work. Their age made them leaders, and their longer experience of sin gave them greater cause for self-accusation. Only two remained–the sinner and the Friend of sinners.”The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, 1090
Jesus didn’t condone her sin. But He didn’t condemn her either. You know what He did? He saw her. He didn’t overlook her or demean her or treat her as a second-class citizen. He saw her as a highly-valued child of God. And that’s what drew her heart to Him in repentance.
Her sin was wrong, but so was their cruelty toward her. Jesus would stand for neither. He sent them away, dropping their stones to the ground. He sent her away, dropping her past behind her.
No matter what we have done, the price for our sin has been satisfied in Jesus. He calls us to follow Him, leaving the past, the shame, and the humiliation behind and walking with Him in the power of His Spirit.
So, if you have ever been mistreated because you are a woman, you can rest in the calm assurance that you are highly valuable to the heart of God–so much so that He sent His only Son to pay the price for your sin. You can trust God to right every wrong, so let go of any offense done to you. You can put your rocks down, too.