I’ve heard women say they cannot get behind Christianity because it is a religion that does not celebrate women. Nothing hits me like a dagger straight to the heart more than hearing this, because this means these women have not encountered men who are living as examples of Jesus Christ, nor have they been introduced to the bondage-breaking, public rebel Jesus who celebrated women everywhere. Some of the people most freed, most loved, and most protected by Jesus are the bold, brave, risk-taking women he came across.
The Biblical view of women is one of respect, value, and invitation. When we read the Bible without the proper contextual understanding, we take something beautiful that God was doing and we pervert it into an oppressive tool for the evil to give a misrepresentation of God’s creation.
Let me explain.
At the time the Bible was written, the world was a male-dominant society where women had no rights. A woman’s responsibilities were to produce sons and manage the home. Our husbands were given credit for our work, our daughters were seen as trade value to gain wealth for the family by arranging a marriage to a man of noble stature, and if we couldn’t produce a son (an heir to the family inheritance because daughters were not considered for inheritance), we basically failed in our “job”. Culturally, men held all power and women were not even worth having their presence accounted for (ie John 6, the story of “Feeding the 5,000” is only accounting for the men present and does not count women or children).
This may have been the view of the world, but this was not the view of God. Jesus acknowledged, empowered, and remembered women.
Acknowledged: In Mark 5, beginning in verse 21, Jesus begins traveling to heal the daughter of a synagogue leader named Jairus. On the journey to Jairus’ home, a crowd forms around Jesus. A woman who is known to have suffered from constant bleeding for 12 years exits her exile (a bleeding woman was considered unclean and must remain outcast for the duration of her cycle) to reach out to Jesus. This woman has heard the stories of Jesus and believes so strongly that she thinks if she can only touch him, she will be healed. Upon touching his robe, Jesus feels power leave his body and he searches for her.
“Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.’” Mark 5:33-34, NLT
In a world that outcast her, Jesus turned to find her. In a world that called her unclean, Jesus called her daughter. In a world that said she should touch no one, Jesus accepted her outstretched hand and said that act of faith made her well. In a world that wanted her suffering out of sight, Jesus acknowledged her suffering and ended it.
Empowered: On his return to Galilee, Jesus was prompted by the Spirit and had to pass through Samaria. When his disciples left for food, he was met by a woman at the well during the hottest time of day, signaling she was an outcast of society because people did not frequent the well then. To her surprise, Jesus spoke to her. In doing so, he opened her eyes and heart as he revealed his identity as the Messiah.
“Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, ‘What do you want with her?’ or ‘Why are you talking to her?’ The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, ‘Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?’ So the people came streaming from the village to see him.” John 4: 27-30, NLT
While the disciples saw a woman unworthy of Jesus interaction, Jesus saw a woman worthy of his time. Jesus saw a woman with a repentant heart and he empowered her to take the Gospel to a nation.
Remembered: Just a few days before crucifixion, while in the home of Simon the ex-leper (“ex” because Jesus healed him of leprosy), a woman entered a room of men and worshipped Jesus. She was criticized; criticized for entering, criticized for being wasteful, criticized for not thinking of the poor.
“’Why criticize this woman for doing such a good thing to me? You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me. She has poured this perfume on me to prepare my body for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the Good News is preached throughout the world, this woman’s deed will be remembered and discussed.’” Matthew 26: 10-13, NLT
She never said a word, whether because she wasn’t given the option or from fear that no one would listen. Jesus spoke for her in a place that silenced her voice. Her actions were controversial to everyone but Jesus, and he ensured she was remembered.
Acknowledged. Empowered. Remembered.
Each of these women were seen by God, but to this day remain unnamed because of the blindness of this world. When society couldn’t bother to remember their names, Jesus made them remembered forever. When the world played it safe and accepted the status quo, these women took risks to serve the God who saw them when no one else did. Jesus took these nameless women and he immortalized them.
We may not know their names, but the risks they took forever have a place in history. If that isn’t a celebration of women, I don’t know what is.