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Jesus was born to a poor Jewish girl who could have been stoned and executed simply for becoming pregnant outside of wedlock. It should be no surprise to learn that the cultural attitudes toward women in Jesus’ day were disgraceful and inexcusable. There was no such thing as “equal rights.” Women were treated as second class citizens and this was not even a thing to be questioned. The “Imago Dei” which God had given to Eve in Genesis 2 in the Garden of Eden had been robbed by the curse of sin set into motion in the following chapter. With His entrance into humanity through the poor Jewish girl, Jesus came to reconcile humanity to God through His sacrificial death on the cross and victory over the curse through His resurrection from the grave. He came to establish a new Kingdom, a heavenly Kingdom where the dignity, value and equality of women would be renewed and restored as a natural outworking of the
Kingdom’s values. In His ushering in of the new Kingdom, he demonstrated this value of women in the way that He treated them with honor and respect. Consider these 7 ways that Jesus restored dignity, value and equality to women.
1. Jesus obeyed His Mother.
Jesus, the preeminent King of Kings and Lord of Lords obeyed His earthly Mother. Consider these startling words from Luke 2:51 after Jesus had been separated from His family and found in the Temple, it says he returned to Nazareth with them and “was submissive to them.” Jesus
submitted to the leadership of His Mother.
2. Jesus treated His Mother with respect.
When asked by His Mother at the Wedding of Cana to do something about the problem of the wine that had run out, Jesus responded, “my dear woman…” (John 2:4). Although it appears that Jesus was not entirely ready to begin his public ministry and perform a miracle, out of respect for his Mother, he turned the water into wine.
3. Jesus spoke graciously with a Woman of Ill-Repute.
After beginning his public ministry, Jesus found himself in the land of Samaria, a place despised and looked down upon by the religious elite. At the watering well, Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman of ill-repute (John 4:1-42). Culturally speaking, she had three strikes against
her- Ethnicity, gender and a sinful reputation. Jesus, however, approached her with grace and made her an invitation that left her startled- He offered her eternal life by trusting in Him. She received His offer and became Jesus’ ambassador for her entire city.
4. Jesus called out a religious system that condemned women but dismissed men for the same sin.
In John 8, a sinful woman was “caught in the act of adultery.” Drug into the center of town and placed before Jesus, this woman was nothing more than a pawn in a plot to trap Jesus. One person, however, is noticeably absent from this impromptu trial… the man caught in adultery! A real-life prequel to the historical fiction, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, this woman was being condemned while her male counterpart was nowhere to be found. Jesus, knowing the depravity in the hearts of her accusers was far worse than the sin she committed,
wisely instructed that the one without sin should cast the first stone. One by one, each man dropped his stone and walked away. Left alone with the broken and contrite woman, Jesus lovingly lifted her up from the dirt with a gracious word to “go and sin no more” (John 8:11)
5. Jesus held up women as an example to men in how to worship Him.
Two of the greatest examples of Biblical worship are women who were praised by Jesus. The first is described in an encounter between Jesus and Lazarus’ two sisters, Mary and Martha, in Luke 10. Mary, sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to His every word is commended by Jesus. In addressing Martha’s complaints, Jesus said, “Martha, Martha… you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42). What may be most astonishing about this interchange is that Martha was the one who was most in line with the
cultural expectations of that time; women were expected to clean, serve the food and attend to the preparations, yet it was Mary who was demonstrating what Jesus valued most. Consider also, the story of Mary Magdalene, who anointed Jesus’ feet before His death with the expensive perfume and her grateful tears. Again, the men of that time were disgusted, both by the cultural taboo of a woman of her reputation touching the feet of a Rabbi as well as what they considered to be a wasteful mismanagement of resources. Again, Jesus corrects these
prejudices and celebrates Mary as an example to all- “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you,
wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” Mark 14:6-9
6. Jesus taught His disciples how to instruct husbands in their treatment of women.
Peter and the other disciples spent three years with Jesus, watching how their master walked and learning the teachings of the new Kingdom. As the leader of the early church, Peter clearly taught men how Jesus expected them to treat their wives with value, honor and respect.
“Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7 In this statement, Peter said something earth-shaking to the culture of that day- Women were equal heirs to the inheritance of eternal life made available
through the grace of God. In that culture, a woman generally did not receive any inheritance from her father. Now, any woman who receives the Gospel is a co-heir, alongside of her husband, with Christ.
7. Jesus set the standard for how every husband should practice sacrificial love.
“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church, and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). How much did Jesus value women? He laid down his life for them, because He considered them worth dying for. As Paul describes in Ephesians 5:25-27, Jesus died so that He might present every woman (and man) to Himself as sanctified, cleansed, spotless and blameless in beautiful splendor. Even further, Paul says that this is exactly the same attitude that husbands should have toward their wives. According to Paul, every husband should love their wives more than themselves, willingly sacrificing one’s own preferences and desires in order to serve her like Christ served the Church. Jesus’ new Kingdom ethic towards women has literally transformed the way that women are
treated around the world. While the effects of the curse still persist, the promise of the Kingdom is still evident. If we seek to know how women deserve to be treated with dignity, value and equality, we need look no further than Jesus of Nazareth.