JESUS AND WOMEN
These are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, August 16, 2020.
INTRODUCTION: WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?
This is our last teaching in our Human series. We've been exploring what it means to be a person made in God's image. Today's focus is on Jesus and Women.
Do you remember those WWJD bracelets people used to wear - what would Jesus do? That's our approach to today's study. How did Jesus treat the women in his life? That should be our guide.
In the first century Jewish world, customs and traditions handed down from generation to generation tended to put women down. Men had the upper hand. Jesus did not follow those traditions because they were unbiblical. He replaced unbiblical customs with kingdom values.
As followers of Jesus, we should do the same. We should ask, what would Jesus do? Fortunately, we know what Jesus would do because the Gospels tell us what Jesus taught and what Jesus did.
Based on Jesus' teaching and example, we should:
ACCEPT WOMEN AS EQUAL TO MEN IN WORTH AND DIGNITY.
When Jesus treated women as equal to men, it undermined the basic ideas of the first century Jewish culture.
In Jesus' day, women were treated as inferior to men in most ways. Girls were not schooled and they received only minimal Bible education. They were excluded from participation in synagogue worship and could not enter the inner courts of the Temple. These were customs and traditions, not based on biblical teaching.
These customs make Jesus' encounter with a woman on a journey north from Jerusalem to Galilee shocking. In the Gospel of John, chapter three, Jesus had a theological conversation with the Jewish rabbi, Nicodemus. Now in chapter four, he has a theological discussion with a Samaritan woman. John and Jesus were making a point.
(John 4:7-9) When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” 8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)
Jesus went on to have a long conversation with her about spiritual life. He treats her no differently than he treated Nicodemus. He obviously saw her as worthy of his time, intelligent, and capable of learning theology. One scholar commented:
(Nicodemus) was a learned, powerful, respected, orthodox, theologically trained; she was unschooled, without influence, despised, capable only of folk-religion. He was a man, a Jew, a ruler; she was a woman, a Samaritan, a moral outcast. And both needed Jesus (Don Carson, Commentary on John).
The Jews considered Samaritan women to be perpetually defiled and, therefore, separated from the covenant community and from God. Jesus didn't care. He broke the social and religious taboos that treated women as unfit and inferior. The incarnate God treated her with respect and discussed eternal life with her.
Jesus replaced custom with kingdom and showed that all women are equal to men in worth and dignity.
Let me say something to the women listening to me: You are not inferior in any way to anyone. According to Genesis 1-2, God made you in his image and likeness. He appointed you to rule the earth and subdue it. He gave you worth and dignity, so you deserve to be loved and respected by everyone.
Men, we may have some repenting and adjusting to do in this area. Let the Holy Spirit show you any way you might be treating women with less respect than Jesus did.
Based on Jesus' teaching and example, we should also:
ACCEPT WOMEN AS EQUALLY CALLED AND CAPABLE.
Jesus developed three teams of people that he called, taught, and sent out on kingdom ministry.
The core team was Peter, John, and James. They had some unique experiences: they saw Jesus transfigured and they were with Jesus as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The inner circle was the Twelve. Jesus called them to follow him and to learn to fish for people. He taught them about the kingdom of God and sent them out to proclaim its presence and power - Matthew 10.
The Seventy-Two also followed Jesus and were also taught and sent out by him to proclaim the kingdom's presence and power - Luke 10:1-11, 17.
(Luke 10:1,9) After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’
The Seventy-Two included women. Luke names three of them them in chapter 8:
(Luke 8:1-3) After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
Jesus believed that women were as equally called and capable as men. He included "many" (verse 3) women as integral members of his kingdom ministry team.
One of the most frustrating experiences of my life was knowing I had a calling to preaching ministry and not knowing where or when the Lord would release me into it. I suspect that is where many women find themselves today. Don't give up. Step up and step out in your calling.
Men, don't get in their way. Be encouraging and supportive.
One highlight of my typical week is our staff meeting. I'm so proud of all our staff members. I get excited when I think about God's calling on Alex, Shawn, and Tami. They are such capable and gifted kingdom ministers. And I want to do all I can to open doors of opportunity for them to fully express what God has put in them.
Based on Jesus' teaching and example, we should also:
ACCEPT WOMEN AS EQUALLY ANOINTED WITNESSES.
There are several crucial events in Jesus' life and ministry, but the top three have to be the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the Pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Women were front and center in all three events as first-hand witnesses. They were the last disciples at the cross and the first at the resurrection.
That may not sound like a big deal, but remember the cultural context: In the first century, women were considered unreliable witnesses and their testimony was not accepted. The ancient historian Josephus referenced Jewish law when he wrote, "Let no evidence be accepted" from women because of their" levity and temerity."
Jesus broke through the cultural barriers when he appointed Mary Magdalene to be the first eye-witness of his resurrection:
(John 20:14-17) At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father (in other words, he was going to be around for a while longer, so she didn't need to worry about him dying or disappearing). Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
Later, Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the anointing that would empower their witness to the world (Acts 1:8). Women were in the group of 120 disciples who gathered to wait and pray for ten days:
(Acts 1:14) They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
They were there when the Spirit fell on the whole group:
(Acts 2:1-4) When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.
Verse 3 confirms that the Holy Spirit filled each one of them. Verse 4 makes it doubly clear: all of them were filled. The Spirit was poured out by Jesus on men and women. men and women are equally anointed to be his witnesses to the world. But, just in case we miss the point, the apostle Peter makes it clear in his Pentecost preaching. He quotes from the prophet Joel:
(Acts 2:16-18) No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: 17 “‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
CONCLUSION: MEN AND WOMEN TOGETHER FOR JESUS
Every person who claims to follow Jesus should follow Jesus in every thing: his teachings, his actions, his example. In light of all we've learned in the last ten weeks about what it means to be a human being, it is really important that we follow Jesus in his treatment of people. We should do it even if it means breaking traditions, taboos, customs, and prejudices. Jesus replaced the customs of his day with kingdom values and we should do the same.
Today, we've seen very clearly from the Bible itself that Jesus treated women as intrinsically valuable; he respected them as intelligent and capable, and as disciples and co-workers along with men.
Perhaps the most important example of how Jesus thought about women is found in Luke 10, the story of the sisters, Mary and Martha. The lived in Bethany near Jerusalem and Jesus, who was a family friend, came to visit. Martha complained that she was stuck doing all the house work while Mary was spending time with Jesus. The response of Jesus tells us a lot about his view of women and the call to discipleship. Let's read the whole passage to get the context:
(Luke 10:38-42) As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.
Mary "sat at the Lord's' feet." That is an expression for discipleship; for example, it’s what the man from Gadara did after Jesus drove the demons out of him (Acts 8:35).She sat at his feet while he taught the Word of God. In the first century this was almost unheard of. No rabbi called women into discipleship.
But Jesus encouraged it. In fact, he patiently explained to Martha that housework is important, but not THE most important calling. There is "one" thing that is most important of all and that is learning from Jesus and following him.
No one should take that away from anyone.
Sisters in the Lord, Jesus has called and anointed you to serve his kingdom cause. Don't let anyone stop you from stepping into all God has for you. Be bold and brave and don't hold back.
Brothers in the Lord, Jesus has called and anointed his female disciples to be our sisters in the Lord and to serve his kingdom mission alongside of us as equal partners. Don't let anything you say or do get in their way. Join with Jesus in supporting and encouraging everyone as they step into their callings in life.