Women and Jesus

There are many feminists who reject everything about Christianity. They cite that it is patriarchic and oppressive to women.  They point out that the Christian church has minimized the voices and experiences of women, most notably by not allowing women to be pastors or leaders until very recently (if at all).  I agree with these assessments.  But I also think it is important to read what Jesus said about women and see how he interacted with them.  The Church would do well to follow Jesus’ example.   

Note: the Gospel verses are from the Condensed Gospel, copyright 2015 by Betsy Nelson. They are a rendering of the Gospels as one book, in order, with no repetition. Each line in boldface is the title of one unique story.

The angel Gabriel predicts Jesus’ birth 

Six months after John was conceived, God sent the angel Gabriel to a village in Galilee called Nazareth to visit a woman named Mary.  She was engaged to Joseph, a descendant of King David.

The angel said “Rejoice! The Lord is with you! You are blessed and favored among women!”

Mary was perplexed by his words and wondered what he meant by this greeting. The angel continued, saying “Have no fear Mary, for God has chosen you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and called the Son of God, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor King David. He will reign over the house of Israel forever and his kingdom will have no end!”

Mary asked the angel, “How is this possible since I have never been with a man?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be overshadowed by the power of the Most High. Therefore this child will be completely holy and God will be his father. Consider this – your relative Elizabeth who was barren and elderly has conceived and is six months pregnant. Nothing is impossible with God!”

“I am a servant of the Lord,” said Mary. “May everything happen to me that you have said.” Then the angel left.

LK 1:26-38

Jesus and the Samaritan woman

Jesus left Judea and returned to Galilee when he learned that the Pharisees heard he was baptizing and making more disciples than John. Jesus himself did not baptize, only his disciples did. On his way he traveled to a town in Samaria called Sychar, which is near the piece of land that Jacob had bequeathed to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there and around 6 in the evening Jesus sat down near it because he was exhausted from his journey. A Samaritan woman came near to draw water from the well. Jesus asked her to give him a drink. His disciples had traveled ahead into town to buy food.

She replied “Why are you, a Jew, asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” Jews normally did not associate with Samaritans.

Jesus answered, “If you understood the gift of God, and who is asking you for a drink, you would be asking him, and he would give you living water.”

“Sir,” she said, “the well is deep and you don’t even have a bucket with you. How and where are you going to get this ‘living water’? You aren’t more powerful than Jacob, our father, are you? He is the one who gave us this well.  He, his sons, and their livestock all drank from it.”

Jesus said “Anyone who drinks this water will become thirsty again. But anyone who drinks the water I offer will never ever become thirsty again! In fact, the water I offer will become like a spring of water, flowing from within that person for eternal life.”

“Sir,” she said, “let me have some of this water so I won’t get thirsty and have to come all this way to draw water here again.”

“Go get your husband and come back here,” he told her.

“I am unmarried,” she replied.

“You are correct in saying ‘I am unmarried,’ because you’ve been divorced five times and the man you are with now is not your husband. You have spoken the truth,” Jesus countered.

“Sir, it is obvious to me that you are a prophet,” the woman replied.  “The Samaritans worshipped here on this mountain in years past, yet you Jews believe that Jerusalem is where people should worship.”

Jesus said “Believe me; the time is coming when you won’t need to worship the Father here or in Jerusalem.  You Samaritans worship what you don’t know, while we Jews know what we worship, because salvation comes into the world through us.  However, it is now the time when true worshippers will worship God in spirit and truth.  God wants this kind of worship from us.  Since God is spirit, God should be worshipped in spirit and truth.”

The Samaritan woman said “I know that the time is coming when the Messiah will arrive” (the One who is called Christ). “He will explain everything to us when he comes.”

“I am the One who is speaking to you.” Jesus told her.

His disciples arrived at this point and they were surprised he was talking with a woman.  But none of them asked him what he wanted or why he was talking to her.

Then the Samaritan woman got up, left her water jar there, and went back to town.  She told the men “Come with me and see a man who told me everything I’ve ever done! Is it possible this is the Messiah?” They left the town and went straight to where Jesus was.

Meanwhile, the disciples kept urging him to eat something.  But he said “I have food that you are unaware of.”  The disciples began to wonder among themselves, saying “Could someone else have brought him something?”

Jesus told them “My food is to do God’s will and to finish God’s work. Isn’t it common to say ‘There are four more months before the time for the harvest’? Listen clearly – raise your eyes and look at the fields – they are ripe for the harvest! Right now the reaper is being paid and gathering the harvest for eternal life, so those who sow and those who reap can celebrate together.  Here the saying is true – ‘One sows the seed and another reaps the harvest.’ I have sent you to harvest what you didn’t work for.  Others have worked and you have benefitted from their work.”

Many people from the Samaritan town believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony when she said “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” Because of this, they asked him to stay with them when they came out to see him at the well.  Jesus stayed there for two days.  Many more people came to believe because of his word.  Then they told the woman “We don’t believe just because of your testimony. We have heard him for ourselves and we know that he truly is the Savior of the world.”

JN 4:1-42

Much forgiveness, much love  

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to dine with him at his home. He accepted the invitation, and as he was reclining at the dinner table, a woman from that town who was known as a sinner entered the home, carrying an alabaster flask filled with expensive perfume.  Weeping, she knelt behind him at his feet with her tears falling upon them. She wiped her tears from his feet with her hair and then began to kiss his feet and anoint them with the perfume.

When the Pharisee noticed what was happening, he thought to himself “If this man really were a prophet he would know that the woman who is touching him is a sinner!”

Jesus, knowing his host’s thoughts, said “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

Jesus then told him a parable. “Say there is a man who loaned money to two people. To one he loaned $5000 and to the other he loaned $500. Neither one was able to pay him back, so he graciously canceled both their debts. Which one do you think loved him more?”

“I suppose the one who had the bigger debt,” Simon answered.

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus said. Then he gestured towards the woman and said to Simon “Do you notice this woman here? When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me any water to wash the dust off my feet as most people do, but she has washed them with her tears and dried them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss as most people do, but she has not quit kissing my feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint my head with olive oil as most people do, but she has anointed my feet with expensive perfume. Therefore, her many sins are forgiven because she loves me greatly, but the one who has a smaller debt of sin to forgive shows a small amount of love.”

Then, looking at the woman, he said “Your sins are forgiven.”

Those who were at the table with him said amongst themselves, “Who does he think he is, forgiving sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. You may go in peace.”

LK 7:36-50

Many women support Jesus’ work

Jesus was traveling all over the region, preaching and sharing the good news of the kingdom of God. His twelve disciples were with him, along with women he had healed. They included Mary Magdalene, (who had been freed from seven demons), Joanna the wife of Chuza (who was King Herod’s steward), Susanna, and many others who were supporting them and their ministry from their own personal resources.

LK 8:1-3

True blessedness 

While he was talking, a woman in the crowd spoke up and said “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and blessed is the one who nursed you!”

Jesus replied “Those who hear and keep the word of God are even more blessed!”

LK 11:27-28

The parable of the yeast

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman mixed into 50 pounds of flour until the yeast spread through all of it, making it all leavened.”

MT 13:33, LK 13:20-21

A girl raised from the dead and a woman healed from bleeding 

A synagogue leader named Jairus fell down on his knees at Jesus’ feet, begging him to heal his child.  His only child, a 12 year old daughter, was near death.  He pleaded with Jesus to come to his house and lay his hands on her so she would live.  Immediately Jesus and his disciples followed him to his home.

While they were on their way, a crowd of people surrounded Jesus, almost crushing him.  In the crowd was a woman who had suffered from menstrual bleeding for 12 years.  She had given all of her money to doctors for a cure, and not only had they not healed her, she had gotten worse.  Approaching Jesus from behind, she touched the corner of his robe where his tzitzit were attached, thinking just doing that would be enough to heal her.  As soon as she touched his robe she could tell that she was completely healed.

Immediately Jesus felt power leave him, and he began to look around him, asking “Who touched me?” His disciples looked at him in amazement.  They wondered how they could possibly know who it was, as the crowd was very large and dense.  Since her plan to do this secretly was foiled, the woman threw herself at Jesus’ feet and confessed that she was the one who had touched him, and why.  He looked at her and said “Daughter, your faith has healed you.  Go in peace.”

Just then, a messenger from Jairus’ house came to say to him “Don’t bother the Teacher anymore – your daughter is dead.” When Jesus heard this he said “Don’t be afraid – just believe, and she will be healed.”

When Jesus got to the house, he saw a crowd of mourners had already arrived, making a lot of noise with their wails of grief.  He said “Why are you going on like this? She isn’t dead.  She’s just sleeping.” The crowd began to laugh at him.

Jesus got the crowd to leave the house. Going inside with just Peter, James, John, and the girl’s parents, he went up to the girl, and taking her by the hand, he said “Talitha koum!” (Which means, “Little girl, get up!”) Immediately her soul returned to her and she began to walk.  Jesus told them to get her something to eat, and strongly told those present to not tell anyone about this.

MT 9:18-26, MK 5:21-43, LK 8:40-56

A Gentile mother’s faith

Jesus traveled to the area of Tyre and Sidon. A woman who wasn’t Jewish approached him and kept crying out to him “Have mercy on me Lord, son of David! My daughter is tormented by an unclean spirit.” Jesus didn’t reply to her, but his disciples approached him and asked him to make her go away because she kept following them and yelling for help.

Jesus said “I am called to help only the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But the woman came and knelt before him, begging him to drive the demon out of her daughter.

He said “Let the children have their fill first, because it isn’t right to take their bread and throw it to the dogs.”

But she replied “Yes, but even the dogs under the table eat the crumbs that fall.”

Jesus answered “Your faith is great, woman. Because of how you answered, you will receive what you have asked for.” Her daughter was free of the demon that very hour.

MT 15:21-28, MK 7:24-30

An adulteress is forgiven

Jesus went to the Temple complex at dawn. A large crowd gathered around him.  He began to teach them after he sat down.

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman into the center of the gathering.  She had been caught committing adultery.

They said “Teacher, this woman was caught committing adultery. The Law of Moses says that we should stone her for this.  What do you say we should do?” They said this because they wanted to corner him into breaking the Law so they would have a crime to charge him with.

Jesus leaned over and began writing in the dirt with his finger.  They kept questioning him, so he stood up and said “Whichever one of you who has led a sinless life should throw the first stone at her.”

He crouched back down and started writing on the ground again.  Having heard this, the scribes and Pharisees started leaving, with the older men leaving first.  Finally, only Jesus and the woman were left, with her standing in the center.

Jesus stood up and said “Woman, where are they? Is no one here to condemn you?”

“There is no one, Lord,” she answered.

“I do not condemn you either,” he said. “Go, and don’t sin again.”

JN 8:2-11

Martha and Mary

While Jesus and his disciples were traveling they arrived at a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening while he taught.

Martha was anxious about everything that she had to do to prepare for these unexpected guests. She said “Lord, do you think that it is fair that my sister has left me to do all the work? Tell her to give me a hand.”

Jesus answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and anxious about many things, but only one thing matters. Mary has made the right choice, and I won’t take it away from her.”

LK 10:38-42

Healing a daughter of Abraham 

Jesus noticed a woman who was disabled by a spirit while he was teaching in the synagogue one Sabbath. She was bent over and could not completely straighten up, and had been this way for eighteen years. Jesus called to her and said “Woman, you are released from your disability!” He laid his hands on her and she was instantly restored to health and began to praise God.

The local synagogue leader was indignant because Jesus had worked on the Sabbath. He said to the crowd “There are six days in which people are allowed to work – therefore come to be healed on one of those days and not on the Sabbath!”

The Lord answered him, saying “Hypocrites! You all work on the Sabbath! Don’t you untie your ox or donkey and lead it to water on the Sabbath? Satan has tied this woman, a daughter of Abraham, for eighteen years. Shouldn’t she too be released on the Sabbath day?”

All of his adversaries were humiliated when he said this, and the whole crowd was rejoicing over all the amazing things he was doing.

LK 13:10-17

The parable of the lost coin

“What woman doesn’t light a lamp and thoroughly search the house from top to bottom if she loses a single silver coin out of the ten she has? She will call together her female friends and neighbors when she finds it, saying ‘Let’s celebrate, because I’ve found my lost coin!’ Truly, the angels before God are just as joyful when one sinner repents.”

LK 15:8-10

The parable of the persistent widow 

One day Jesus told his disciples a parable to teach them that they needed to not get discouraged but to pray constantly instead.

“There once was a judge who didn’t fear anyone – God or man. A widow kept coming to him to obtain justice for herself against her adversary. He put her off for a long time. But after a while, he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear anybody, there is something about the fact that this woman keeps pestering me that gets to me. I will rule in her favor so she doesn’t beat me up with her incessant demands.’

Jesus said “Look! Even this hardhearted judge will give in to someone who constantly asks for relief. Don’t you think that God (who is good) will grant relief to those who respect God if they keep asking? Of course God will, and God will help them quickly. In spite of all this, when the Son of Man comes again how many will be found who have faith and are praying?”

LK 18:1-8

The widow’s gift   

Jesus was sitting across from the tithe box at the Temple. He saw all the people dropping their money into it. The rich were putting in a lot. A poor widow came along and put in just two tiny coins, barely enough to buy a loaf of bread. Jesus called his disciples to notice this and said “Truly, this poor widow has donated far more than anyone else. They had given out of their excess, but she has given out of her lack. She has given everything that she has to live on.”

MK 12:41-44, LK 21:1-4

The anointing at Bethany  

Jesus was staying in Bethany at the house of Simon, a man who had a serious skin disease. They gave a dinner in honor of him there. Martha was serving, and Lazarus, the one Jesus had raised the dead, was reclining at the table with him. Mary, Martha’s sister, approached Jesus with an alabaster jar filled with a pound of pure and expensive fragrant oil called nard.

She broke the jar open and poured the oil on his head and feet while he was reclining at the table, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the oil’s fragrance.

The disciples were indignant about this. Judas Iscariot, the one who was going to betray him, spoke up to scold Mary, saying “Why wasn’t this expensive perfume sold and the money given to the poor, rather than being wasted like this?”

Jesus said “Why are you bothering her? What she has done for me is very noble. She has saved this oil for the day of my burial, which she has now prepared me for by anointing my body. The poor will always be with you for you to take care of, but I won’t. I assure you, what this woman has done for me will be told in memory of her wherever the Gospel is proclaimed throughout the world.”

MT 26:6-13, MK 14:3-9, JN 12:1-8

On the way to the cross  115

There was a Cyrenian man named Simon who was coming in from the country. He was the father of Rufus and Alexander. He was passing by as the soldiers were taking Jesus to the crucifixion site. They grabbed him and forced him to carry Jesus’ cross by laying it across him.

MT 27:32, MK 15:21, LK 23:26

There were many women wailing with grief in the large crowd that was following Jesus.  He turned to them and said “Don’t weep for me, daughters of Jerusalem. Weep for yourselves and for your children. The days are coming when people will say that those who never bore children are fortunate. They will call out to the mountains, saying ‘Fall on us!’, and begging the hills to bury them. For if they do things like this when the tree is green, what will they do when it is dry?”

LK 23:27-31

Jesus’ provision for his mother

Jesus’ mother, along with Mary Magdalene and his aunt Mary (who was the wife of Clopas), were standing by his cross. When Jesus noticed his mother standing with the disciple he loved, he said “Woman, here is your son.” To the disciple he said, “Here is your mother.” From that point on the disciple made her a part of his family.

JN 19:25-27

Women with him 

Many women were there who had followed and helped Jesus from when he was in Galilee.  They were watching the crucifixion from a distance. They included Mary Magdalene, Mary who was James and Joseph’s mother, Salome, and the mother of James and John (the sons of Zebedee).  Many other women had traveled with him up to Jerusalem.

MT 27:55-56, MK 15:40-41, LK 23:49

Resurrection morning  

Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, Joanna, and Salome went to the tomb while it was still dark on the first day of the week, after the Sabbath had ended. They brought the spices and perfumes they had prepared to anoint the body. They were wondering among themselves how they would roll back the stone that was covering the entrance to the tomb.

An angel of the Lord suddenly descended from heaven, causing the earth to shake. He rolled back the stone door and then sat upon it. He shone with a brilliant light and his robe was snow-white.  The guards were paralyzed with fear when they saw him.  The women bowed down to the ground, amazed and terrified.

The angel said to the women “Do not be afraid!  I know that you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  Why are you looking among the dead for the living? He is not here – he has been resurrected! Remember how he told you when he was in Galilee that the Son of Man would be betrayed into the hands of sinners, be crucified, and will rise on the third day?”  Then they remembered that Jesus had said this.

The angel continued, saying “Come and see where they put him. Go quickly and tell his disciples ‘He has been raised from the dead.  He is going ahead to Galilee – you will see him there, just as he said.’ Make sure you tell them this.”

The women, trembling with amazement and alarm, ran from the tomb to tell the other disciples the news.

MT 28:1-8, MK 16:1-8, LK 24:1-8, JN 20:1

Mary Magdalene and the other women see Jesus 

Mary saw a man in the garden not far from the tomb.  She assumed he was the gardener. He was Jesus, but she did not recognize him. When he said “Mary”, she instantly knew who he was.

“Teacher!” she exclaimed, reaching for him. 

He cautioned her, saying “Don’t hold on to me, because I haven’t yet gone up to my Father.  But go and tell my brothers that I am ascending to our Father – mine and yours. I am leaving for Galilee, have them meet me there.”

The other women saw him as well, and they held his feet and worshipped him.

The women reported to the disciples on all that had happened and relayed the message from the angel and Jesus to travel to Galilee, yet they didn’t believe them.  The disciples thought they were making up the story.

MT 28:9-10, MK 16:9-11, LK 24:9-11, JN 20:14-18