In biblical times women were treated unfairly and were considered second class. But this was not how God intended women to be treated. This was how man CHOSE to treat women (there is a big difference). Instead of looking too deeply into how men treated women...we need to instead focus on how Jesus did. Then we can truly realize how God sees women. One story that especially captures my attention was John 8: 1-12 where a woman was to be stoned for committing adultery.
I envision the story looking something like this: (my interpretation)
Jesus appears in the temple courts to do a teaching. I envision everyone who comes to listen filing in like you would for a movie...quickly...quietly... the atmosphere is welcoming...there is an eagerness to get started and hear the message of the day. Moments later the sound of shuffling feet and loud voices disrupts the stillness of the moment. A group of Pharisees bring forward a woman who they claim has been caught committing adultery. The men grab the woman and bully her out in front of the gathered crowd. She cowers in shame and guilt. Her eyes are cast downward as she hunches over ...awaiting her punishment...one that could very well end her life. Through the mob Jesus steps forth...the crowd starts to quiet... “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law of Moses commanded to stone such women. Now what do you say?” The crowd continues to shout out to Him, challenging His next move. Some in the crowd start to pick up stones, clenching them in their fists angrily, ready to hurl them at the frightened woman. Without hesitation Jesus crouches next to her and begins writing something in the dirt. I envision Him stooping down next to where she is hunched over...He positions Himself as if to shield her with His own body. He does not stand above her and look down at her...instead He does something no King or man for that matter, would dare do during this time...He crouches down and kneels in the dirt... next to her, next to a woman, and one who is being accused of adultery. I envision every pair of eyes in the crowd intently watching his every move. Then Jesus stands and with an assertive but calming voice, He says, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.”.... he called out and challenged the men standing around him...he challenged the authority of the Pharisees...in defense of a woman! Again, Jesus crouches down alongside the woman...the men standing a few feet away lower their rock to their sides, some drop them to the ground. The crowd starts to dissipate and soon Jesus is left alone with the her. She looks up at Him with a tear and dust streaked face. He helps her rise to her feet and standing before him, eye to eye, Jesus says, “go now and sin no more.” I envision Jesus looking the woman square in the eyes with tender love and sincerity. His voice is kind and soft; He may even have reached up and wiped away some tears or tucked her fallen hair behind her ears.
In this specific story we see Jesus setting an example for men. We see Him take the sin of a woman and put it on equal playing field with man. In this specific scenario gender means little, neither male or female, man or woman is higher than the other in His eyes. Jesus also shows us that despite our brokenness we have the ability to receive forgiveness and move on to be better than we were before. No matter where we have come from, what we have done, or what we hope to be…we can rest in his forgiveness and mercy. Most of all we see God’s love for women expressed through the heart of Jesus.
In the book God and Boobs by Angie Shuller Wyatt explains a little bit about why the son of God was a male, why the Messiah had to be a male:
When we understand Jesus’ agenda for women, then one thing becomes really clear. Jesus had to be a man. Culturally, only a man could tell a woman to step up to the plate. A woman’s voice would have been squashed before she started. She probably would have been stoned to death at the first hint of protest. My theology professor at Southern Methodist University, Dr. Joe Stabile, referred to Jesus, the man, as 'one of the first feminists in history.' He said, 'Jesus did for women what Abraham Lincoln did for slavery. A person of the stronger majority creates change for the weaker-minority.' Jesus demonstrates a compassionate masculinity. He doesn’t prove His masculinity by exerting power over women, asking us to take a back seat or hide our feminine nature. Jesus honors, respects and loves us.”