By John Cline
The gospel liberates women. In our culture of ongoing sexual abuse perpetuated by powerful men, we need to ask the question of how should people be treating women. In an article I read recently the Jesus Film Project people put together five ways in which Jesus’ treatment of women stood in stark contrast to how too many women have been treated. They wrote the following:
“Here are five situations where Jesus showed deference and tenderness to women:
1. The wedding at Cana. Jesus and His new disciples were to attend a wedding at Canada. It had to be a pretty humble affair because the bridal party ran out of wine – a faux pas that a wealthier family would never make. Jesus’ mother asks him to step in and save the day. Jesus was around 30 years old at this point. He’s under no social expectation to do what His mother tells him, especially if He’s concerned about how the timing could affect His ministry…Jesus performs His first miracle and saves face for the newly married. His willingness to get involved is more than a son’s concern for his mother. It’s indicative of the compassionate respect Jesus will show women throughout his ministry.
2. The female followers He amasses. In the 21st century, it doesn’t strike as strange to see that Jesus had female followers, but certainly would have seemed strange in Jesus’ day. Women were discouraged from going out in public, and when they did, it had to be with a male escort. Jesus not only undermines this social more by having female followers, but he also allows them to financially support His ministry.
3. The woman subjected to bleeding (Luke 8:43-38). Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the story about a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years. Not only did she suffer physically with this condition, but she would have also been ostracized as unclean. She would have literally been untouchable for 12 years – if she had been married, even her husband would have been forbidden to touch her. She was also forbidden to touch anyone else…she abandons socially-appropriate behavior and touches the edge of Jesus’ cloak – and instantly she’s healed. Jesus looks around for who touched Him, and she comes and throws herself at His feet. She tells Him what she’s done. Does He get frustrated at her for potentially making Him unclean? Of course not. With extreme tenderness, He says to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
4. The woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Some teachers of the law and Pharisees drag a woman who’s been caught in adultery before Jesus. They ask Him what should be done with the woman, and their intention is to trap Him. If He encourages them to let her go, He’s breaking the Law – but if He calls for her to be stoned, it nullifies everything He’s said about mercy and kindness. Obviously, this woman was being used as a prop. Her life didn’t matter as much as the opportunity to entrap Jesus…(John 8:1-11 then explains how He shames her accusers into leaving her alone and sets her free)…Can you possibly imagine how that compassion must have felt after all of that shame and embarrassment? Not only was she forgiven, she was free to go. Jesus humanized her and treated her with worth and value.
5. The women He appeared to at the resurrection (Matthew 28). The first people Jesus appears to after the resurrection were women. Think about that. This is the single most significant moment in the history of humankind, and God chooses to reveal it to women. It anything drives home the importance of women in God’s economy, it’s this moment. To add an exclamation point to this truth, He instructs the women to tell His disciples that He is, indeed, alive. In the first century, a woman’s testimony was absolutely worthless. Jesus makes these women witnesses to history’s most important event.
These are only a few of the stories that express the care that Jesus had for women. The truth is that Jesus challenged social conventions in nearly every single interaction He had with women. He truly challenged the status quo. Jesus came to set us all free – women and men alike…(we need to) help bring the story of Jesus to women!