Posts Tagged ‘oppression’

“And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.” (Luke 8:1-3)

Of all of the women in the New Testament, I most identify with Mary Magdalene, the woman who was about to be stoned for committing adultery.  Most of you already know the story of how Jesus rebuked a group of men with stones in their hands and said that whoever was without sin should cast the first one, and they all walked away.

Jesus was not only defending the woman, but acknowledging that a woman cannot commit adultery by herself.  “Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.” After everyone had left, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”[1]

After saving her, one might have expected Him to say, “Now go and get married and be a dutiful wife from now on.”  But He released her in that moment, and she henceforth became a witness and a disciple in her own right.

After this, the Pharisees came arguing with Christ that He did not have authority to do the things He was doing.  He answered them saying, “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.”[2]  He said that He had the authority to judge, but chose not to exercise it.  If Jesus did not hasten to condemn, then why must Christians be so judgmental?

He told the religious leaders “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.  If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed…”[3]

After she was liberated by Christ, Mary traveled everywhere that Jesus went and offered financial support for His ministry.  She was a very important figure who witnessed His earthly ministry, crucifixion, and burial.  She was the first person to see the resurrected Christ.

Consider the story of the woman at the well.  She was a Samaritan, and Jesus was a Jew, and by law they were not supposed to interact at all.  But Christ chose to interact with her when He humbly asked her for a drink of water.  At one point Jesus asked her to call for her husband.  She said, “I have no husband” and He replied “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”[4]

Again, if one of the religious leaders had been there, he would have ordered her to get married or fulfill her expected role in society.  But Christ did not do this, and she also became a disciple.  She could not wait to tell everyone she knew that she had met the Messiah.  “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’”[5]

Mary the sister of Lazarus was another great woman of God, who loved to listen to Jesus teach.  When Martha tried to get Jesus to make Mary work with her in the kitchen instead of spending time with Him, He rebuked Martha saying “Mary has chosen the better part, and that will not be taken from her.”  He clearly allowed Mary to fulfill her own heart’s desires, and this Mary also became a powerful disciple.

On one occasion, at a feast in the home of a wealthy man named Simon, Mary came in and washed Jesus feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, and poured expensive perfume on his feet.  The men in the room were appalled and made mockery of her, and whispered among themselves that Christ did not know what kind of woman she was.  He knew their thoughts and harshly rebuked them.  He said that the woman would always be remembered for this act of affection that she bestowed on Him, and told Simon that he could learn a lot from her behavior about how to treat the Lord. Christ had a pattern of showing love and dignity to women, and He could not endure to see them mistreated by anyone.

In the eighth chapter of Luke, Joanna and Susanna are mentioned as women who take care of Christ’s needs “out of their substance.” A friend of mine and I had once discussed the fact that Christ had no house, chariot, money, job, or any comforts that most people enjoy, and we had wondered how His clothes were cleaned and things such as that.  Then we found our answer in this passage with the women who cared for Jesus.

Imagine the bravery of Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, to be helping Jesus after the male babies had been slaughtered and John the Baptist had been beheaded by this same king!  In many ways, she showed more courage than the twelve disciples did. But she considered it a privilege and a joy to take care of the Lord.  Women were always coming forward to take care of things that the men were unwilling to attend to.

When the rich young ruler came and tried to argue with Christ about the law, I don’t read that he offered to contribute money to help with the ministries of Jesus and the disciples.  There are other men who said that they wanted to follow Christ, but after He told them that He was homeless, they lost interest in following Him.

But the women were always there.

After Christ was crucified, the scriptures say that the women were still lingering around the tomb weeping for Jesus when the men had given up and were complaining that Christ had not saved them from the Romans. In John 20 and 21, the disciples didn’t even recognize Christ after He appeared to them several times, and they all went out fishing.

In the early church after the resurrection of Christ, women continued to play an important role in furthering the gospel.  The apostle Paul mentions Priscilla and Aquila in his epistles, and scholars say that he mentions Priscilla first because she was recognized as being more gifted in the ministry than her husband.  Lydia the purveyor of purple cloth helped support the work of the apostles, and Dorcas was so important in one community that Paul raised her from the dead.

Kathleen Norris writes in her book The Cloister Walks that theologians have never forgiven Christ for coming through the body of a woman.  She states in her chapter about virgin martyrs that the men could not bear to kill holy women without raping them first, because they thought of them only as devices for the pleasure of men.

Today we still see this attitude within the context of Christianity, that a married woman is expected first to serve her husband and then God.  Women are considered second-rate citizen in the Kingdom of God by many denominations, and leaders take scriptures out of context to support this errant view.  As a result, women in some churches are not permitted to speak or to lead, because it is believed that their only suitable roles are child care and baking cookies.

This subject was addressed in an article entitled “The Head of the Epistles,” which appeared in Christianity Today in 1981. The writers explain that the “head” was a metaphor for the enabler of the body, not the ruler:

Paul’s word order also shows he was not thinking of chain of command: Christ, head of man; man, head of woman; God, head of Christ.  Those who make it a chain of command must rearrange Paul’s words.  In fact, Paul seems to go out of his way to show that he was not imputing authority to males when he said, “For as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.  And all things are from God. (1 Cor 11:12)

     …As Christ is the enabler (the one who brings to completion) of the church, so the husband is to enable (bring to completion) all that his wife is meant to be.  The husband is to nourish and cherish his wife as he does his own body, even as Christ nourishes and cherishes the church. (vs.29)

It is very clear to me from reading scripture and particularly the “Parable of the Talents” that we are expected to use all of our gifts to promote the Kingdom agenda. No one should be hindered in doing their best work for Christ.

OLIVE TWIST ©2012


 http://www.godswordtowomen.org/head.htm

The Head of the Epistles was written by Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen, professors at Bethel Theological Seminary in St. Paul, MN.  It originally appeared as an article in Christianity Today, Feb. 20, 1981.

Scripture Passages:

[1] John 8:10-11, ESV

[2] John 8:15, ESV

[3] John 8:32-36, ESV

[4] John 4:17-18, NKJV

[5] John 4:39

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: