Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross.

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 unselfconscious. 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 deed of Jesus that there was anything "funny" about woman's nature.
Dorothy Sayers

Friday, May 13, 2011

“In the beginning…”

He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. John 1:2,3

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. Colossians 1:16

Religious leaders of every stripe—usually men, have through the ages made pronouncements about women—usually negative, but none ever spoke with the authority of Jesus. As creator of “all things” and entities, Jesus’ words and pattern of life profoundly weight the scales; he, above all, knows how women are made—and his intent for them.

Since Jesus was sent to us from heaven by his Father (John 3:16) and did only what his father told him to do and say, so in Jesus, we also know Father’s ideas about women. To be thorough—The Holy Spirit (also known as “the Spirit of Jesus” Acts 16:7; Philippians 1:19) was sent by Jesus and does what Jesus says to do—so we also know in Jesus, how the Holy Spirit regards women. Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the three-in-one are demonstrated in the life of Jesus, fully God and perfect man—our example.

Jesus never rebuked a woman harshly. Martha will undoubtedly spring to mind at this point (Luke 10:38-41) but Jesus simply exhorted her to not worry so much and (in effect) to learn to sit at his feet like her sister Mary. Apparently Martha heeded, since she later very clearly testified, “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”(John 11:27)

Jesus continually broke cultural norms regarding women, teaching Mary of Bethany as a rabbinical student, speaking to a strange woman at the well in Samaria (notice that his disciples wondered why he was talking with a woman but not a Samaritan, though Samaritans were off-limits John 4:27). He taught and healed women and girls the same as he did men and boys. Not once did he make disparaging remarks about women or even groups of women.

Jesus defended women against put downs from men such as when the woman anointed him. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.” (Mark 14:6) After his resurrection, He first appeared to women (Matthew 28:8-10) sending them as the first human proclaimers of the Good News that he was(is!) alive!* When Jesus referred to his disciples, he often meant not just “the Twelve” but also the women who followed him. (Matthew 12:48-50)

Rather than putting women down as the Jewish leaders were in the habit of doing,** Jesus pointed to women as favorable examples. (Matthew 15:21-28) He admired and rewarded the “great faith” of the Canaanite woman who asked for deliverance for her daughter. Jesus made an extra effort, “calling his disciples to him”, to teach them by the example of the widow who gave her “mite” as an offering. (Mark 12:41-43) Jesus peopled his parables with women as well as men but unlike the men, the women were always shown in a positive light.

I’ve not found a single time*** in the gospels where Jesus limited women or put them down. Instead, he restored the dignity he created them in, in the beginning.

*It’s been said that the only reason Jesus appeared to the women first was that they were there at the tomb doing “women’s work”. Well, if putting spices on a body to preserve them was women’s work, then Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were doing “women’s work” the day they bought spices and wrapped Jesus' body and laid it in the tomb! (John 19:38-40)

** “Jewish men of Paul’s day were warned not to sit among women because ‘evil comes from them like a moth emerging from clothes’. Lorry Lutz,Women as Risk Takers for God,30

*** I’ve read a number of books about women's roles written by traditionalists and have rarely found any mention of how Jesus related to women, other than reference to Jesus’ appointing of twelve male disciples, drawing the conclusion that all church leadership should be male only. First of all the Twelve were set apart from all the other disciples, female or male and if they are to be our only example then the vast majority of churches are out of compliance unless unless their leadership is all Jewish, they’re all circumcised, several are professional fishermen, they’re all uneducated, one is a cheater, another has repeatedly denied the Lord, and another is a betrayer and thief and let’s not forget the two hot-headed-me-firster “Sons of Thunder”. We don’t know why Jesus chose men for The Twelve (he chose “the Three” out of those, leaving the other nine behind on several occasions) the Bible doesn’t say, but he was likely drawing a comparison to the twelve tribes of Israel rather than a male/female dichotomy. (Paul’s teachings are used as the standard for women’s roles in these books though Paul has sadly been so misrepresented that he wouldn’t even recognize himself!)

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