Jesus and Women – Introduction

Jesus and Women – Introduction

Jesus and Women – Introduction.

“Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took His twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons, Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager, Susanna, and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and His disciples.” (Luke 8:1-3).

Jesus literally went out His way to break social barriers during His public ministry. He was an equal opportunity healer, preacher, and teacher. He loved every person He met with divine love, male or female, boy or girl. He seemed to relish the idea of underlining the fact that men and women are equal in the eyes of God, and will remain equal in the New Kingdom. Despite the limits put on women, He turned the culture on its head by publically honoring women, by giving them His  undivided attention, by holding up their dignity as a full person made in the image of God. Unlike the rabbinic culture in the 1st Century, He respected their intelligence, whether talking theology with the woman at the well or teaching Torah to Mary of Bethany. He strengthened women’s status in the home by His teaching on adultery, divorce and marriage (Matt. 5 and 19). He encouraged women to be His disciples and follow Him throughout His ministry, and was comfortable having a large group of women support Him wherever He went. He loved teaching Scripture to women, even though women were not allowed to be taught by a rabbi. Jesus remained poised to heal whoever was in need, whether woman or man. He would make up stories and parables with women as the main characters, highlighting their important presence in God’s narrative. His attitude toward women was countercultural at the time, and there was no hesitation on His part to invite women wholeheartedly into His life and ministry.

During that time in Israel, the status of women was a mixed bag. On the one hand, they were able to own their own home, to travel freely, and to manage their own finances. On the other hand, women were not allowed to testify in court and had limited access to the Temple in Jerusalem. They also couldn’t physically touch the Torah and were not to be mentored by a rabbi. There were many social barriers, since women who were menstruating were considered ceremonially unclean and couldn’t be touched. Men were simply not allowed to touch any woman, since that man wouldn’t know if the woman was having her period, and he didn’t want to be made ritually unclean. So men were not allowed to even greet a woman in public, no less touch them. Thus, women were never given an opportunity to talk with a man in public, or be seen in conversation with a man in a public setting. So while women could be independently wealthy, they nonetheless were usually treated as subordinates, unworthy of serious attention, and relatively unimportant.

But Jesus intentionally turned that part of rabbinic law on its head. He touched women, and He let them touch Him. He freely engaged with women in conversation. He welcomed women to be a part of his itinerant following and received their financial support. Jesus didn’t treat women with that customary sense of subordination. He even called a woman a “daughter of Abraham,” implying an equal standing with the “sons of Abraham” (Luke 13). There is no doubt that Jesus elevated women to a place of honor and respect by word and example. It makes sense… Jesus was merely loving and respecting those wonderful creatures that He designed as co-creator.