There’s a lot of buzz going around from one USA political campaign arguing that the other side is launching a “war on women.”
Whether you agree with this analysis or you feel it’s a case of political hand-waving, the truth is that historically, women have often gotten the short end of the stick.
This was very much the case during the time of Jesus.
Interestingly, Jesus treated women differently than any other Jewish teacher of His day. Women played a prominent role in His ministry.
The following bulleted list unpacks that statement. It will give you a peak into how Christ viewed women during His earthy life, and how He views them today . . . for He is “the same yesterday, today and forever.”
It must first be said that women in Jesus’ day were treated pretty poorly both by the Jewish and Roman world.
They could not receive an education. They had no voice in their marriage, and they were limited to a special court in the Temple that was inferior to that of the men.
A Jewish man was not supposed to talk to a woman in public. If he did, it was considered a shame. Jewish women were to be seen in public as little as possible.
The prevailing view of women in the Jewish mind was that they were regarded as private property.
But Jesus of Nazareth turned all of this on its head.
In the following list, I’m deliberately not giving the Scripture references. The reason is because I want to challenge you to re-read the Gospels, and as you read, ask what role women played in the life and ministry of Jesus.
By doing so, you will see each point below emerge in the narrative.
A Survey of Women in the Gospels
- Elizabeth and Mary (not Zachariah and Joseph) were the first to receive the news of the coming Messiah. They were also the first to prophesy about the Christ child.
- The prophetess Anna helped pave the way for the coming of the Messiah, preparing those who were waiting for His arrival.
- Jesus came into the world through the womb of a woman. For this reason Mary, the mother of Jesus, is among the most beloved, honored, and respected women who ever lived. She shows us just how vital women are to God’s eternal plan.
- It was unheard of for women to be listed in a Jewish genealogy. But the Gospels add women in the genealogy of Jesus.
- Jesus was introduced to Israel by John the Baptist as “the bridegroom.” God, therefore, chose a woman – a bride — to depict that which Jesus came to the earth to die for.
- Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman in public and told her some of the most amazing things about God that He ever shared with anyone. The disciples were shocked that He spoke to her in public. Not just because she was a woman, but because she was a Samaritan. Jews weren’t supposed to speak to Samaritans.
- Jesus often used women in His parables and made them heroes. Think of the widow and her mite, the woman and the lost coin, the persistent widow and the unjust judge, the ten virgins with oil in their lamps, etc.
- Jesus allowed a “sinful woman” (which many believe to have been a prostitute) to kiss His feet. She also unbound her hair which was a scandalous gesture in that day. Yet Jesus allowed her to love Him extravagantly in the house of a Pharisee.
- Jesus allowed an unclean woman to touch Him. As a result, she was healed.
- Jesus became the defense attorney to a woman caught in the act of adultery. As a result, her life was saved.
- Jesus healed the daughter of a persistent Gentile woman and gave her one of the highest compliments He paid anyone. Her faith was peerless in His eyes.
- Jesus is said to have “loved” two women who lived in the little village of Bethany (Mary and Martha) along with their brother Lazarus. Mary and Martha were among Jesus’ closest disciples and were probably the most prominent women in His life, next to His mother.
- Jesus entered into a woman’s home (Martha) and taught another woman (Mary) specifically, along with His other disciples. For a Jewish teacher to come into a woman’s house to teach was unheard of.
- Jesus allowed a woman (Mary of Bethany) to sit at His feet and learn from Him. To sit at a person’s feet was to take the posture of a disciple. So Jesus allowed Mary to learn from Him the same way that He allowed His male disciples to learn from Him. Jesus allowed Mary to take up the space that was only designated for men (this is why Martha objected so strongly).
- Jesus said that Mary of Bethany would be mentioned and remembered wherever the gospel would be preached. An amazing honor. This was after Mary anointed His body for burial with a rare and expensive perfume.
- Jesus defended a woman on two occasions when her act of love and devotion were ridiculed and rebuked. Mary of Bethany was rebuked by her sister Martha and later by Judas and the other disciples. In both cases, Jesus rose to Mary’s defense.
- A group of women followed Jesus along with the Twelve. They also took care of His needs out of their substance. This group of female disciples are called “the women” by Luke in the Gospels and in Acts. Jesus was the first Jewish teacher to have women disciples. And for a Jewish woman to leave her home and travel with a Jewish teacher was not only exotically rare, but it was considered scandalous.
- Jesus spent His last week on earth (before His resurrection) in the home of a woman. He stayed with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Martha’s home in Bethany.
- Jesus’ female disciples stayed with Jesus during His death, proving themselves to be more faithful than most of His male disciples. With the exception of John, Jesus’ male disciples deserted Him during His darkest hour.
- Jesus’ female disciples were the first to show up at His tomb to care for His body.
- The first eyes that witnessed the resurrected Christ were the eyes of a woman (Mary Magdalene). Ironically, during the first century, a woman’s testimony was of no use in a court of law. Yet God in His wisdom allowed a woman to be the first witness to the greatest miracle ever accomplished.
- In the whole of Jesus’ public ministry there was nothing in His words or deeds that indicated any concern to restrict the spiritual service of women.
Jesus came into a world where the cards were stacked against women. The ways in which He engaged, conversed, healed, and recognized them in His teachings were radical for His culture, but they were second nature to Jesus.
The Son of God was keenly aware that the image of God was both male and female (hearkening back to Genesis 1), and His life and ministry reflected that awareness.
Remember, Jesus is the human face of God. So His opinion of women reflects God’s opinion of them.
Consequently, anytime women are oppressed or suppressed on the planet, the Lord would seek to the liberate them.
Jesus is the greatest liberator in the universe. And freeing women to their God-given callings is one of the things He does best.
Among other things, this would include the following:
- In the spirit of Mary Magdalene — the first woman to set eyes on the resurrected Christ – women are free to testify to the good news of Jesus and His resurrection.
- In the spirit of Mary – the mother of Jesus – women are free to fulfill God’s will and calling, saying “be it unto me according to your Word.”
- In the spirit of Mary of Bethany, women are free to worship Jesus Christ extravagantly. And they are free to sit at His feet as disciples, along with His male followers.
- In the spirit of Anna, women are free to prophesy by the Holy Spirit. In this way, women are called to serve as spiritual priests along with men because they are part of the priesthood of all believers and they too possess the Spirit.
- In the spirit of the Canaanite woman who persisted in her request for Jesus to heal her daughter, women are free to press into the Kingdom of God and wrestle with God until they receive His blessing.
- In the spirit of the women who traveled with Jesus – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and others – women are free to follow the Lord wherever He goes and serve Him out of their substance.
- In the spirit of the Samaritan woman whom Jesus met at Jacob’s well, women are free to pioneer evangelism and church planting initiatives.
The call to follow Jesus as a full-fledged disciple and the call to serve God goes out to all women just as it does to all men.