Jesus’ Attitude Towards Women
By CCD contributor: Li Daonan, March 20, 2018 09:03 AM
In the patriarchal Jewish society men have the most power. This is why it was so rare when Matthew included four women in the genealogy of Jesus. There wasn't any precedent and women had no social status in the Jewish society. However, when we read the gospels, we can see that Jesus was very understanding and compassionate towards women. He was also strongly against patriarchy and protected weak women. In the meantime, both female and male disciples understood and trusted Jesus more. They were braver and more tenacious than other men.
"If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the Lord. Do not bring sin upon the land of the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance." (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)
This law was still all about patriarchy that divorce is a decision made just by men. Women didn't even stand a chance to argue. However, this law ran throughout Jewish history.
In Matthew 19:1-12, some Pharisees tested Jesus on marriage because they knew Jesus' attitude towards women.
At that time, when a woman was divorced and left her husband's house, it meant she lost her support since there was no occupation to guarantee women could survive independently with dignity. That's why Jesus strongly rebuked the Pharisees, as well as men's privilege to divorce their wives in Jewish society. Jesus was against divorcing wives life that, not divorce itself. He didn't prohibit women's right in marriage.
At the Mount of Olives, the teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery and said to Jesus that the Law of Moses commanded stoning such a woman. These privileged men brought a woman who was already sentenced in front of Jesus. They did it not to judge her nor ask Jesus' opinion, but using her as a tool to test Jesus. Therefore, they didn't allow the woman to defend herself. Instead, they sentenced her to death according to Moses' law.
Jesus condemned this patriarchy and he said the classic words: "if any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
What Jesus meant was that these men are no better than the woman. They also sinned against the law.
I believe that Jesus must've understood the woman's difficulties. Jesus went beyond the law and considered the people controlled by it. Jesus indeed saved her from the patriarchal system that could've taken her life.
There was a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, probably caused by massive hemorrhages in giving birth, and suffered a great deal under many doctors. Bleeding women were considered unclean in the eyes of the Jews and they were not allowed in the sanctuary. It meant that these women were cast outside of Jewish mainstream society.
According to Leviticus 12:1-5, 15:19-20, and 15:25-27, period and childbirth are both unclean and people who gave birth to a daughter took longer to purify themselves.
So from the sick woman's perspective, when she heard Jesus say her faith had saved her, we can only imagine her excitement. What's more, hearing Jesus, who was followed by many men, talking to her nicely made her feel warm.
While Jesus was dining in the home of Simon, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfume, which she poured over Him from head to toe. The perfume was worth more than a year's wages, so the disciples condemned her, saying that it could have been sold to help the poor.
In the views of male disciples, this sacred job should be done by men instead of such a woman. We could seemingly feel their scorn toward women. However, Jesus once again surprised them; He spoke highly of the woman, even higher than the male disciples.
"I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." (Mark 14:9)
In reality, many churches today seem to deliberately neglect this sentence.
When Jesus took the invitation to dine at Martha's, Martha was distracted while her sister sat at Jesus' feet listening to what he said. Martha then complained to Jesus that Mary should help her with the work. Yet Jesus disagreed and rebuked her.
In the eyes of Martha, maybe women were supposed to do housework and take care of men. The way Jesus saw it was different: women could drop their work like men and listen to the preaching.
When a Canaanite woman came crying out to Jesus to heal her daughter who suffered terribly from demon-possession. His disciples urged Jesus to send the woman away for she kept crying after them and Canaanite women had a bad reputation. Only Jesus didn't discriminate women from men, nor did He care where she was from, He simply called her a lost sheep. Everyone was the same in Jesus' eyes.
When Jesus was arrested and brought before Caiaphas, His male disciples who used to despise women all scattered.
"Then all the disciples deserted him and fled." (Matthew 26:56)
On the contrary, it was the women who were condemned and looked down upon by men that followed Jesus until He was nailed to the cross. They showed more courage and strength which was the greatest irony for men.
"Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs." (Matthew 27:55)
After Jesus was buried, it was also women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who visited His tomb and discovered Jesus' resurrection and spread the news. They should be among the first people that went to see Jesus after the burial since they were not allowed to do anything on the Sabbath, especially visiting the tomb.
During all the important moments of Jesus' life, his female disciples were there with him.
It was a woman who anointed him before He died; his female disciples were there when He was crucified; the women were the first seeing His tomb, and they spread His resurrection. Yet, we didn't see any male disciples here.
We see the tension and dislocation between Jesus and His male disciples. From these men's view, Jesus was a revolutionary who would rise to power, and they could take a share. Nevertheless, no such tension existed between Jesus and the women. They understood Jesus more and showed more courage and persistence. We can feel Jesus' respect, care, and compassion for women from the Gospels.
- Translated by Grace Hubl
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