Jesus the First Feminist
I often hear a lot of Christian critics bashing the entire church because of the lack of equality for women in the faith. This shows the ignorance of those who assume that they know anything about Jesus. Jesus is the quintessential example of how we are to treat women in the Church. The critics look at the people and blame the God. Frankly, that’s sick and twisted. Jesus was the first feminist.
In Chapter 8 of the book of John we see Jesus had compassion on women more than anyone in his time. He knew that they were used as cattle, baby factories, and slaves. Even back then, Jesus was aware of the rhetoric the Women’s Movement would use to eventually raise awareness for women as well. He is omniscient and eternal. Nothing gets by Him. He was also aware that these Pharisees were out to test Him and He knew this particular incidence was one of those tests. Poor Pharisees really didn’t have a chance. They refused to see who and what they were up against. Stupidity, ignorance and arrogance reigned supreme just like today. So let’s see how the amazing Jesus handles their big test.
The scene is the temple near the Mount of Olives. Jesus was teaching the people who came to listen to Him. All of a sudden, some Scribes and Pharisees came along with a woman. They shoved her into the middle of the crowd and challenged Jesus, as if to say, “OK smarty pants, what are you going to do with this!” They expected Jesus to be nonplussed. They were smug and self-assured that they had Him on this one. They assumed that Jesus’ mindset about women was the same as theirs. Here is this nonperson, who was caught doing something that God forbids with someone else. Since she is a woman, she is the prime motivation and cause for this sin. She is the guilty party and should die.
However, what they didn’t count on was that Jesus is who He says He is. He is Holy God. Newsflash! God wrote the Scriptures, so He knows them by heart. The Pharisees deconstructed the meaning of scripture through a male domination bias and only see scripture from their point of view.
God, in the person of Jesus, is not nonplussed. He was aware that their interpretation is spun to their own advantage. Well, He was teaching, so He turned to his tardy students who are badgering Him with this.
He said one thing to them. “Let him who is without sin among you, be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus is so cool! He cut right to the heart of the matter. He knew that scripture says that this woman could not have sinned alone, and in fact, each one of these self righteous men were guilty of something. But here they were, bringing this poor woman to Jesus expecting Him to blame her for the entire situation. Chauvinism, which is biased devotion to any group attitude or cause, is wrong. It doesn’t matter, whether it is male, female, minority, majority or what. Chauvinism will not be tolerated in Jesus’ world; however, He knows that everyone is guilty of it to some degree or another. In this case, it was the Pharisees.
As an excursus here, I want to say that chauvinism on the part of one group does not justify the chauvinism on the part of another group. Jesus, while He did come to the defense of women, would not do so if the women were just as chauvinist as the men. In my country, as a woman who grew up with the Women’s and Minorities Rights Movements of the 60s, I have seen a reverse chauvinism developed that is just as heinous and ugly as the male and majority chauvinism that was highlighted at that time. The end does not always justify the means. There are people who perceive bias that are not being biased against, but feel justified in harming the “other” or the perceived evil majority. Perception is not always reality, and people should apply the rule of law and conduct to themselves first.
This is what Jesus is doing here. He sees that the woman may have done something wrong, however, there are two, not just one, guilty parties. The people who are claiming the authority of scripture have not read the documents, much like the Christian critics above. The documents, as testified by the Author, Jesus, show that both parties are to be stoned. Well, where’s the other guilty party? The men, overlooking their own guilt, only chose the party that did not reflect their own behavior. They demonized the other person! To do so allows them to feel self-righteous and powerful. However, Jesus opens this right up, revealing their dirty hearts. Perhaps that is what He was writing on the ground, or maybe He was writing the scripture that they were using to condemn the woman. We don’t know. We only know that as He wrote, the accusers disappeared. When He looked up, He saw only the woman.
Jesus’ question to the woman is priceless. “Woman (when used this word was a sign of respect in those days), where are they? Has no one condemned you?” The woman, equally respectful of Jesus says, ” No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go and from now on, sin no more.”
Jesus knew equality and practiced it. He didn’t go on a diatribe about how unfair things were to one party or another. He just treated people the way they were to be treated. He set the example for all the people who feel oppressed. He is the great equalizer. He is the creator of all. He was the first feminist.
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Rev Dr. Cheryl A Durham, Biblical Counselor, Discipleship Coach, Above and Beyond Discipleship Ministries, provides services for individuals and groups online and via teleconference. www.abovenbeyonddiscipleship.com