Jesus and Women

Ruth Jacob

It is as Jesus of Nazareth that YHWH has definitively made Himself known. As Jesus, (Yeshua, meaning YHWH saves) YHWH has acted decisively to save everyone and everything from the calamity of eternal death. As Jesus, YHWH has given His all to all, not to assimilated all into Himself but to preserve the "I-you" relationship of otherness for all eternity. We know that God is love only because YHWH became Jesus of Nazareth. And we know how God regards women by how Jesus related to women.

Read all the gospel accounts: you will find many accounts of Jesus rebuking and criticizing men, but you will not find even one mention of Him speaking any harsh word to a woman.

Not only was Jesus particularly gentle with women, he treated them as spiritual, social and intellectual equals, something unheard-of in his society.

Jesus encouraged Martha to drop her traditional female role of keeping quiet and serving a man (Himself) in order to do the extremely non-traditional thing that her sister Mary was doing - relaxing with Jesus and talking to Him, a man, about anything and everything. Jesus, YHWH in the flesh, told Martha that what Mary was doing was better.

It was to a woman, not to a man, that Jesus first disclosed that He was the Messiah, and also to this woman alone that He introduced the concept of the living waters that He would cause to flow from anyone who received his life (the water he would give). And this woman became the person through whom the Good News came to an entire city.

Jesus was not disgusted by the way women's bodies work. He, unlike those around him, did not shrink in revulsion when a woman with a 12-year-long "period" touched Him - a woman who according to the Law of Moses was "unclean", whom it was taboo to touch. No, He congratulated her and commended her for her faith. After physical contact with a woman in such a condition, the Law of Moses stated that He should wash himself and his clothes and avoid physical contact for the rest of the day. He didn't. His next act, and we can infer it was a very deliberate one in the context, was to raise to life a dead girl who was just approaching puberty. How much more did He have to do to send the message that women's lives and bodies are acceptable and of value?

When a woman anointed Jesus during a Pharisee's dinner party, the host and other guests "criticized her sharply". Let's examine Jesus's response carefully. First, He didn't let their criticism pass; He protected her, saying, "don't trouble her." But He went a lot further than that. Next, He embarrassed his host by praising the woman's tribute and comparing it favourably with the host's failure to even offer Him, his guest, the minimal greeting and comfort that custom prescribed. He exalted the woman's act to almost prophetic status by saying she had anointed Him in preparation for His death and burial. Finally, if that wasn't enough, He bestowed on this woman a unique honour by saying that wherever the Good News is announced, this loving act of hers will also be told. By saying this, YHWH in the flesh inextricably connects the transmission of the Gospel with the protection, respect and honouring of women. In other words, where this woman's act is not told and honoured, the Good News of Jesus is not being announced.

Finally, it was women, not men, who were the first witnesses to Jesus's resurrection, by far the most important event in the entire universe. They were the ones who actually met the resurrected Jesus in the burial garden; the men had to make do with an empty tomb and the testimony of women - WOMEN!! No one in that society took a woman's testimony seriously. But Jesus expected his male followers to do just that.