As we celebrate Women’s Month this March, let us ask the question, “How did Jesus treat women?”
The affirmation of women by Jesus was revolutionary given the deeply entrenched patriarchal society of his time. Many women became the followers of Jesus. Some even became her financial supporters like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and many others (Lk. 8:1-3, Mk. 15:41). Looking back on the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke, there were two women who recognized Jesus as Messiah and Lord — Elizabeth (Lk. 1:39-45) and the prophetess, Anna, (Lk. 2:36-38). Even before the disciples preached, Anna already “spoke about the child [Jesus] to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk. 2:38).
Jesus spoke to women in the public which was an unacceptable in the norms of their society. He broke the traditions repeatedly with regards to treating women. Jesus taught the women spiritual truths. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet to learn (Lk. 10:38-42). Jesus also taught her sister, Martha, about the resurrection and eternal life (Jn. 11:24-27). What is more shocking was that Jesus spoke to women who were not Jews. Notably, Jesus talked to Samaritan woman in the well (Jn. 4:4-30, 39-42). Jesus told her that He is the living water. Moreover, Jesus taught her to “worship God in spirit and in truth” – a phrase that we always use in churches during worship services. Consequently, this Samaritan woman became an evangelist and missionary. Because of her personal story about Jesus as the Christ, “many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him” (Jn. 4:39).
What was even more shocking was a rabbi touching a woman with a blood disease. Jesus did this. He healed the woman with a blood disease for twelve years (Matt. 9:20-22). A rabbi was forbidden to speak to a woman, much more, to touch a woman with a blood disease. Jesus also allowed another woman to an expensive perfume to his feet and wiped it with her hair. Just imagine how livid the Pharisees who witnessed it. If you consult a Bible concordance, the name of Mary Magdalene was mentioned 13 times in the Gospels, while Bartholomew and Thaddaeus were only mentioned once. Actually, except Peter, James and John, the name of women followers of Jesus were mentioned more than that of the other disciples.
Jesus also used an illustration that shows that God is not just a father but also a mother. Matt 23:37-38 says “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! You kill the prophets and stone to death those who are sent to you. Many times I wanted to gather your people as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you did not let me.” Jesus re-echoed the words of Isaiah 66:12-13 that illustrates the love and care of God to them, “…Like babies you will be nursed and held in my arms and bounced on my knees. I will comfort you as a mother comforts her child.”
The women that followed Jesus were there during his arrest, trial, and crucifixion (Matt. 26:56), and stayed with Jesus even up to the end (Matt. 27:55, 61). During this time, most of Jesus’ disciples were already hiding. Furthermore, Jesus chose women to be the first to deliver the good news of his resurrection (Lk. 24:9-10; Jn. 20:17-18). This was again revolutionary because the testimony of women during those times carried little weight. Jesus entrusted to women the most important message ever delivered in human history: “Jesus has risen from the dead” (Matt. 28:7).
Let it be that we will treat women as Jesus Christ treated them!
Rev. Francis Neil G. Jalando-on
Office of Communications
Central Philippine University