Did Jesus respect women? Did he love them, or merely tolerate them? Did he strive to “put them in their proper place” and treat them as the majority of society did during his day? You may be surprised to know that not only was he revolutionary in his treatment of women, but he commissioned women to do some of his most important mission work. Let’s take a look at three different women he encountered, how each one responded to Jesus’ calling, and how each meeting is relevant to our response to Jesus’ calling of us today.
Before we look at the three meetings he had with these women, let’s consider how Jesus differs in his treatment of women compared to some of the other world religions and religious leaders. The man, Gautama, known as Buddha, deserted his wife and child to discover the road to enlightenment, and he constantly shunned women afterwards. Under pressure, he finally allowed women to be included in his religious groups, but only with many restrictions. Confucius had little to say about women except to lay down rules governing their duty to father, husband, and eldest son. He valued women only in regards to her relationship to a man. In Hinduism to be born a woman is regarded as clear evidence of some failure in the previous “life”. Since they believe in reincarnation, such a birth as a woman is considered only a slight step above being born an insect or non-sacred animal on the ladder of reincarnation.
In stark contrast to this sort of view of women, is how Jesus treated women as shown in the New Testament. But before I tell you some of the wonderful examples that show Jesus’ unique treatment of women, let me tell you what real life was like in Jesus’ day, concerning society’s treatment of women. The oral law of Jesus’ day condemned any man who would teach women. Due to woman’s lack of intellectual ability, she was also barred from the role of being a witness in court. A thanksgiving prayer in Jesus’ day said “Praise be to God that he has not created me a gentile; praised be God that created me not a woman; praised be God that he has not created me an ignorant man.” The rabbi regarded it beneath his dignity to speak to a woman in public. In general, women were kept for childbearing and rearing and were always under the strict control of a man. But Jesus, as you will see, “violated” many of these social taboos by not only teaching women and speaking to them in public, but by actually allowing women to be witnesses of his ministry and the very reason he came to earth; his resurrection!
The Bible never shows Jesus treating women in these ways that were “normal” to the world. Instead, he treated women with respect, never with a negative attitude, and only with love. He knew that women were capable of understanding who he was (the Messiah), and because of that, he directed them to tell the world who he was. Once you get a woman’s attention and she believes what she has heard to be true, in general she is compelled to tell the next person she sees, and the next, and so on and so forth. It seems that God put a special “need to tell it” gene in women, and Jesus used this tendency to spread the good news about His purpose for being on earth!
The first woman Jesus encounters as told in the Gospel of John, is the Samaritan woman more commonly known as the “woman at the well”. Perhaps we don’t always consider the fact that just the very act of Jesus speaking not only to a Samaritan (with whom Jews were not supposed to mingle), but to a woman (with whom Rabbis were not supposed to speak to in public) was an extremely unusual and “against the grain” thing to do for his day. Yet it was to this woman that Jesus gave the great revelation, "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:24 NASB) Then when He revealed that He indeed was the Christ, she immediately believed Him and ran to tell others in her village. As a result of her witnessing, in spite of society’s negation of a woman’s testimony, “many of the Samaritans believed in Him” (John 4:39a). So we can see the pattern that Jesus has set even for us today as women. We are to first of all listen to Jesus, then believe in Him as the Christ, and finally go out into our own “village” and give witness to this fact so that others might also believe in Him and worship God in spirit and truth.
The next great encounter Jesus had with a woman in the Gospel of John was with Martha in chapter eleven. In verses 21 through 27, Jesus speaks with Martha concerning who He is (“the resurrection and the life”) and what this means to the world (“he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die”). Then Jesus directly asks Martha, “Do you believe this?" She immediately, without hesitation or further questioning, confesses, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world." We see Jesus once again, in a society that placed little value on the word of a woman, specifically choose a woman to confess her faith concerning His identity and purpose. Society said that women were not to be taught by men, but Jesus chose women to teach about Himself, and to commission to go out into the world as reliable and faithful witnesses to the Gospel. This pattern continues for us today in that we are to hear who Jesus is and believe and confess (witness) that He is the Christ, the Son of God, who has the power to rule over death, and to believe that Jesus can save us and that we will have eternal life.
The final and probably most significant encounter Jesus has with a woman in the Gospel of John comes from chapter twenty with the ultimate revelation of His identity being shown first to a woman, Mary Magdalene, who is then commanded (commissioned) by Jesus Himself to tell the others about His resurrection. So, there we have it......the most important event in history, in Jesus’ ministry, and the very reason we BELIEVE in Jesus, .....the RESURRECTION........and God chooses a woman as the first witness! Praise the Lord! The fact that the message of the resurrection was first given to women is one of the strongest proofs for the truth of the resurrection accounts. If the Bible had been falsely written by men, they would never have included the witness of women in a society which rejected them as legal witnesses.
Once again, how does this all relate to us as women today? Here are some of the truths I see:
• Jesus loves women and trusts us enough to spread the good news about him and his resurrection!
• Jesus treates women with respect and never sees us as unworthy of his love and salvation.
• Jesus knows that if we believe in him and accept him as our savior, that we will want to share this news with others, who will also believe.
• Jesus has given us more power than anyone else could ever give us, which is to receive and share the news that He alone is our Savior and Lord.
I pray that you can hear these things and feel privileged as a Christian woman to know how Jesus has entrusted you with His Word, His identity, and His very reason for coming to earth. Take it to heart and be trustworthy of His commission for your life by believing in Him, confessing the truth about His identity, and sharing with others in your own “village” so that they too can know Him as well.
What a well written packed with truth article Deanne! You know Christ, the only PERFECT man was BORN of GOD and WOMAN. Also the Scriptures tell us that in Christ Jesus, that there is neither male nor female, we all become ONE in Him.(Gal.3:28) Blessings, Sharon