Have you ever wondered how Jesus perceived and treated women during His time on Earth? In a society where women were often marginalized and viewed through the lens of patriarchal norms, Jesus’ approach was markedly different. Keep reading to explore the revolutionary way in which Jesus acknowledged the dignity and personhood of women, setting a precedent that challenges us to reevaluate our own attitudes today.
A Revolutionary Perspective
During a time when women were marginalized and limited by societal norms and double standards, Jesus’ approach was revolutionary. He saw women not as lesser beings but as individuals of worth, affirming their dignity and personhood.
One striking example of this is found in John 4:1-42 with the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. During this time, cultural norms dictated that Jews did not associate with Samaritans, let alone a woman. Yet, Jesus not only spoke to her but engaged in theological discussions, acknowledging her capacity for deep understanding. He saw past her societal labels–a woman, a Samaritan, and someone with multiple marriages–and recognized her inherent worth.
Another example is Mary Magdalene, who is often perceived as a repentant prostitute in popular culture. The Bible, however, paints a different picture. Mary Magdalene was a devoted follower of Jesus, present at His crucifixion when most of His disciples had fled. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, entrusting her with the message of His resurrection to the other disciples (John 20:1-18). This act defied societal norms, as women’s testimonies were not considered reliable during that time. Jesus, however, saw Mary’s faithfulness and entrusted her with this crucial message, affirming her personhood and dignity.
These examples are just two that illustrate Jesus’ radical departure from the societal norms of His time. This approach was not only revolutionary but continues to be a powerful message for gender equality today.
“Do You See This Woman?”
Another example of how Jesus perceived and treated all women in the fullness of their dignity and personhood comes from a significant event in the Bible found in Luke 7:36-50.
In this passage, one of the Pharisees invites Jesus to his home for a meal. While they are at the table, a woman enters the house uninvited. “Such an entrance would have created an immediate stir: it was highly inappropriate, to say the least, for a woman who was a known ‘sinner’ to come into the house of a respected Pharisee” (Jesus and Women, p. 70).
Overcome by emotion, the woman stands by Jesus at his feet, weeping. Her tears fall on his feet, and she wipes them away with her hair. Then, she kisses Jesus’ feet and anoints them with perfume from her jar. “Meanwhile, the Pharisee is dismayed to see that Jesus allows himself to be touched by a sinful woman” (Jesus and Women, p. 70)
While the Pharisee’s attitude toward the woman who is a “sinner” is legally correct, Jesus tells him a parable of two people who owed money to a certain moneylender–one owed five hundred denarii and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave both debts. Jesus then asks the Pharisee which of them will love the moneylender more. The Pharisee replies that he supposes it would be the one who had the larger debt forgiven.
“Before teasing out the full implications of the contrast he has made between the two debtors, Jesus forces [the Pharisee] to take notice of the weeping woman by asking: ‘Do you see this woman?’ (Luke 7:44). To the Pharisee she is something to be ignored, something less than human” (Jesus and Women, p. 70).
Jesus then points out the ways in which the woman has shown him hospitality and love–she wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair, kissed his feet, and anointed them with perfume. In contrast, the Pharisee offered no water for his feet, no kiss of greeting, and no oil for his head.
“For the dinner guests the woman’s courage and tenderness are irrelevant, negated by her shameful occupation. However, Jesus sees her in her totality as a person” (Jesus and Women, p. 74). This story exemplifies Jesus’ transformative perception of women. He saw beyond her status as a “sinner” and a woman, instead recognizing her repentance and faith. This is a powerful testament to Jesus’ recognition of the full personhood of women, regardless of their societal standing.
A Call to See Women as Jesus Did
Throughout His ministry on Earth, Jesus never patronized or dismissed women. Instead, he acknowledged their full personhood and valued their contributions. The recognition of the inherent value and dignity of all women, regardless of their societal status, is a strong theme in Jesus’ teachings and actions. It’s a theme crucially important in today’s world, where women still face inequality and marginalization, especially in the church.
By understanding this, we can challenge the societal norms that continue to limit women and work toward a world where every woman is recognized for her full personhood, even in the church, just as Jesus did. If this topic is of interest to you, I recommend reading my book, Jesus and Women, in which I discuss the full implication of Jesus’ treatment of women and what it means for the restoration of harmony between the sexes. Purchase your copy today!