Women - Coming Back to the Original Blueprint - Part 3
Jesus - changing it all!
This article is part 3 in a series. If you haven’t read the other articles you can start with Part 1 here. In this article we’ll look at how Jesus viewed women and the place He gave them in His Kingdom.
God challenges the ruling beliefs
I love how God challenged and overturned the ruling beliefs of the day when Jesus was born. Aristotle was one of the more influential men in ancient society, and his beliefs about the human body would form the basis of medical belief and practice for many centuries. One of his beliefs was that women had no part to play in the reproductive process apart from being an incubator for humans to grow in. He believed that inside man’s brain were perfectly formed miniscule human beings, called homuncules, that were sent down a man’s spine and out through the penis to be implanted into women, where they would then grow to full term. Greek mythology and religious belief also promoted a similar belief, in that they claimed that the goddess Athena was born without the aid of a woman from the brain of Zeus (she grew fully formed in his head) and woman had no part in her birth at all. Because of that and her being the offspring of Zeus, Athena was considered a goddess and worthy of worship. But in Jesus’ conception and birth, God challenged and overturned that in a beautiful way through Mary’s conception and the subsequent birth of Christ, where Christ is conceived and born without the aid of a male in the creation process. So right from the very start of His earthly life we see the Trinity, in Jesus, overturning beliefs about women and their role in life and society.
Subsequently, in Scripture, Jesus is called ‘the son of man’. The word man used here is the word “anthropos” which means “mankind”, not the word for “man” as in the male of the species which is “anar”. So Jesus is called the son of mankind (male and female); and as we’ve seen earlier in this series "mankind" (Adam) was the shared description given to both the original man and woman that God created. Here again, we see that God is setting right society's wrong beliefs about a women's place in the reproductive process.
Jesus’ life and ministry
Throughout His life and ministry Jesus honoured women and gave them equal place to follow Him, learn from Him and be commissioned by Him, giving them assignments of equal weight with men that would further His Kingdom in the earth. Jesus’ permanent entourage included many women who travelled with Him, learned from Him, and also helped support His ministry financially (Luke 8:1-3). Women learnt from Him as disciples – something that had been denied them for centuries. For example, Mary was one such woman who sat at His feet to learn in the culturally recognised mentor, pupil position of learning. She was a formal disciple of Jesus. (Luke 10:38,39)
Jesus honoured women and treated them as equals in all His dealings with them. Luke 13 is a passage that demonstrates that and is a wonderful example of His restoration of women to their rightful place. Here Jesus calls the crippled woman out of the women’s court in the synagogue into the men’s court to heal her. In Moses’ original tabernacle there were just two courts – an inner court, which held the Holy of Holies, and an outer court; that’s all. By Jesus’ time Herod had put in a men’s court , a women’s court, and a gentile’s court. Their synagogues had likewise been divided into a men’s court and a women’s court. These divisions were a man made one, not a God made one!
Jesus called this woman into the place normally reserved for men – physically and spiritually – and there He restored her, healing her. But all those present would have known by what He said that this was about more than just Jesus healing someone. He was making a statement that she had the right to be seen as an equal. He called her “Daughter of Abraham”, a term that put her on an equal place with men. At that time only men could be sons of Abraham and inherit spiritual blessing. Jesus was saying, “There is no exclusion for women; they can inherit the same as men.”
The Rabbis of the time openly taught that men should not discuss things of Scripture with their wives and daughters, and should definitely not teach their daughters. Yet, time and time again Jesus taught women alongside men - in homes, on hillsides, at a well and even, as we see in Luke - in the synagogue. He treated them as equals in every way.
Time and time again throughout His life we see Jesus treat women with kindness and respect – the woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman, the sisters Martha and Mary, the woman who anointed His feet, and many more besides them.
When Lazarus died we see Martha receiving the same revelation as Peter did when she says, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27)
In John 4 Jesus has His longest recorded conversation – with the Samaritan woman. Here He converses with, and teaches, a woman. She receives the revelation of Him as Saviour, and she becomes an evangelist and apostle – one as well known in the early church as Peter, James and John.
Jesus commissioned women
There are no gender limits on a God given destiny, and women were commissioned and sent on assignment by Jesus, as were men.
After His resurrection Jesus’ first commission is to send Mary to tell His disciples and brothers that He had risen (Matt 28). He sent her as His ambassador, and later this woman Mary Magdalene would become known by the early church as the apostle to the apostles. John and Peter had already been to the tomb, but Jesus didn’t choose to reveal Himself to them. He didn’t go, “Gosh, the guys aren’t here, I’ll have to tell a woman.” He chose to send her!
All through Jesus’ life and ministry He deliberately worked at setting right something that had been wrong for centuries as He restored women to their rightful place as equals in every way with man.
Dorothy Sayers said it brilliantly when she said this… “Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man - there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as "The women, God help us!" or "The ladies, God bless them!"; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything "funny" about woman's nature.” - Dorothy L. Sayers, from her book “Are Women Human? - Astute and Witty Essays on the Role of Women in Society”
Jesus reinstated women to their pre-fall status as equals in value, and calling. He levelled the playing field. No one else treated women like He did. In Him there was no double standard.
In the next article we’ll look at Paul and the early church’s view of women. Click here to read Part 4