What Did Jesus Think About Women? Did Jesus Treat Women as Second Class Citizens? Or Did Jesus Break with the Norm of those Days?
What Does the Bible Say about Jesus and Women?
If you look at the Bible, it provides some thought provoking evidence that Jesus really broke with tradition concerning the role of women. It also shows that the Bible, and early Christianity, elevated the role of women from what it was in early Judaism. Women followed Jesus as He traveled around the countryside, and through cities, preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God. Jesus ministered directly to women, taught them as disciples, and valued them just as much as He valued male followers.
Jesus Treats Women as Valued Persons in the Kingdom
Jesus and the Woman at the Well
John’s gospel Chapter 4 records the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman at the well.
John 4: 6 “Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.” 7 “A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.”
Jesus in this situation broke with a number of established social barriers
- He spoke with a woman, which was not acceptable for a man to do so in public
- In addition, Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman – and with such people, the Jews in those days had nothing to do with this group of people (they were considered half-breeds by the Jews)
- Finally, He discusses theology with such a woman, which was simply not done in those days
The woman recognizes this fact, and asks Jesus why He is asking for water from a Samaritan woman. Jesus then proceeds to discuss theology with her, telling her that “If you knew he gift of God and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink’, you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
Jesus and the woman continue their exchange, and she begins to perceive that “He is a prophet”. She then alludes to her expectation that the “Messiah will come”, and Jesus said to her: “I who speak to you am He.”
Jesus treated the woman not as an object of distain, or as something less than a man, but as a person. He not only asked her for a drink, but He offered an eternal drink of “living water”. He then shared with Her the fact that He indeed was the promised Messiah.
What happens next is astounding – this woman who was evangelized by Jesus becomes one of the first evangelists! The woman leaves the well and returns to her city, evangelizing the men of the town:
John 4:28 “The woman then left her waterspot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, 29 “Come, see a Man who told me all things that ever I did. Could this be the Christ.” 39 “and many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.”
Jesus Accepted Women as Disciples
Jesus Contrasts the Women Martha and Mary
In Luke’s gospel, 10:38-42, we have a scene where Jesus is visiting the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus in Bethany. Martha is busy in the kitchen, cooking away (as was expected of a woman); however, Mary is depicted at the feet of Jesus, listening to and enveloped in His teaching:
“And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus feet and heard His word.”
Martha, taking note of the situation, complains “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”
Photo: Painting by Johannes Vermeer
Martha was exercising the traditional women’s role, while Mary was breaking with tradition – as was Jesus. Rabbi’s in those days did not teach women in the Torah. In his answer to Martha, Jesus sets a new direction – he lets Martha know that women will not be confined to the kitchen in the Kingdom. Women, like men, will take part in learning about the things of the Lord:
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled aout many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Jesus is referring to the “bread of life” – His words, which Mary if eagerly consuming. Mary had chosen “the good part”, going beyond physical sustenance. for as Jesus had said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but by very word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
Women and Jesus “on the Road Again”
Whereas the tradition of the times placed women at a lower social strata then men, and male Jewish leaders had no women disciples, Jesus elevated the role of women in His ministry. He clearly had women followers as well as men as part of His entourage:
Luke 8:1-3 clearly that states that as we as “the twelve”, there were a group of women followers who were traveling with Jesus and the other Apostles:
1: “Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him,
2: and certain women who has been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses – Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons,
3: and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Suzanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.
Jesus Tailored Some Parables Specifically to Women
As everyone knows, Jesus taught largely in parallels. But what you may not realize is that he used illustrations that spoke not only to men, but also largely to women.
For example, when illustrating the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus used two parables that would speak specifically to women:
These parables follow the Parable of the Lost Sheep and the Parable of the Mustard Seed respectively, and share the same messages as their more male-oriented counterparts.
Jesus and Women – Last, and First
Women were Last with Him at the Cross
Luke 23:49 records “But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed His from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”
Women Were the First at the Tomb
During the times of Jesus, women were not allowed to testify. Only men’s testimony was valid in court. Yet the Bible records that women – NOT men – were the first to visit the tomb, and to see the risen Lord Jesus.
Luke 24: 1-2: “Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.
2: But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.”
Women were the First Ones to Testify About the Risen Lord
If the disciples of Jesus were inventing a religion that would be compatible with accepted practices of the day, they would not record that women were first at the tomb, or that women were the first to bring testimony back to the rest of the followers that the Lord Jesus had risen. Yet the Bible records that it was women (not men) who were first at the tomb, and it was women who brought back the testimony to the other apostles.
Luke 24:9-10 “Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.”
10: “It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.”
Were Women Considered Something Less than Men in the Early Church? Not!
The Bible records that women were very active in the early church. In fact, according to scripture, women held positions as teachers, healers, deacons, and in one case were even referred to as ‘apostles’.
Women Present During Anticipation of the Holy Spirit
Acts records that women were present at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended and filled the believers with the Lord’s presence. It is evident that women were included in the fellowship of the saints from the very beginning of the church:
Acts 1:14 “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.”
A Women Disciple of Jesus by the Name of Tabitha
Acts chapter 9 v 36 records a story of a women disciple named Tabitha. It is note worthy that she is specifically called a “disciple”, and that she was “full of good works and charitable deeds”. She apparently fell sick, died, and was miraculously raised by Peter.
Lydia, a Gentile Merchant, Converted at Philippi
Acts 16:14 records how that Paul and his travelers made their way down to Philippi, and that they specifically stopped by an area where prayer was made, and addressed the women there.
Acts 10:13 “And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down, and spoke to the women there.”
14: “Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from he city of Thyatira, who worshipped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.”
Lydia was apparently an influential seller of “purple”, and the Lord had prepared her heart. She received the words spoke by Paul, became a follower of Jesus, and helped support and establish the church at Philippi.
Philip’s Four Daughters were Prophets in the Church
Also in Acts were are informed that Philip, one of the seven chosen by the Apostles to assist in ministry, had four daughters who were all gifted with prophecy. While the passage in Scripture is brief, Eusebius the church historian noted their fame in Asia as prophets and transmitters of the apostolic tradition.
Acts 21:8-14 “On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of he seven, and stayed with him. Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied.”
Phoebe – a Leading “Helper” in the Early Church
Paul records in Romans 16:1 that “Phoebe our sister” was a key helper of Paul in his ministry:
Romans 16:1 “I commend you to Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.”
Junia, a woman, is “of note among the Apostles”
Paul writes in Romans 16:7 that a woman by the name of Junia holds a special place “among the Apostles: “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”
Priscilla and Acquila – Helpers in Christ Jesus
In Romans 16: 3-4 it is clear that Paul is paying as much esteem to Priscilla as he is to Acquila, when he is reporting how they both have sacrificed in helping to establish the church among the Gentiles: “Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.
Priscilla Explains the Scriptures to Apollos, along with her Husband
In Acts 18:26, Paul recounts how that Aquila and Pricilla heard a new convert by the name of Apollos. The Scripture notes that Pricilla as well as her husband expound on the scriptures to Apollos:
Acts 18:26 “When Acuila and Pricilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
Euodia and Syntyche: Co-workers with Paul
Paul mentions in Phil 4:2-3 that these two women worked with him and other disciples to advance the work of the Jesus and the Gospel:
Acts 4:2-3 “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord, “And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel…”
The Good News: Men and Women – We are all One in Christ!
In Galatians 3:27-28 the Bible makes it clear that we are ALL one in Christ – that Jesus has broken down the walls of separation, so that there is nothing inherently special about being a man, a woman, a slave, or a freeman – we are all equal in the sight of the Lord, all one in Christ Jesus:
Gal 3:27: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” 28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Woman or Man, Jesus Loves You, and Wants You in His Kingdom!
Why not give Him a chance and let Him prove Himself to you! What do you have to lose? Say a simple prayer and sincerely ask Him to come into your life and make you the person you were meant to be. He created you, after all, so why not give Him a chance to give you the best He has to offer? He has a plan for your life, so please – take Him up on it and live!
Here is a link to a web site that can show you how you can pray this prayer and begin a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ who loves you so much…
Steps to Peace with God ==> http://www.billygraham.org/SH_StepsToPeace.asp
Sources for ‘Women and Jesus’ in the Bible
The Bible – NKJV
Video – Dr. Ben Witherington
Video – Dr. N.T. Wright