I recently attended the funeral of a pastor’s wife. She died at age 89. When I was a teenager she had a big influence on me. She lived a godly life alongside her husband. She was always supportive of him in his church ministry. She was content with her role as homemaker, wife and mother. Their four children were raised as Christians. I was and still am one of their friends. This lady taught Christianity mostly by her example, with few words, and she left a lasting impression on many. Sad to say, in many homes and communities today women still receive a very bad deal. Even some Christian men treat their wives – and other women in their circle of contacts – in ways that clearly dishonor our Creator God. I know of a Sudanese tribe where any man can have any woman at any time! If children arrive, they are brought up by the tribe, rather than by a specific dad or mum. Come to think of it, this is not too dissimilar from a big housing project near where I live today. We just rely on a government welfare program for bringing up the kids! Whatever today’s culture may be doing that is passed off as family life, we Christians are to follow the example of Jesus, who gave us some clear guidelines. Though He was never married, the way He treated women is very instructive. Mary, Jesus’ Mother Mary, a virgin, took a huge step of faith when she gave birth to Jesus, following a miraculous conception – being “overshadowed” by the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:35,38). When Jesus was 12 years old He gently chided His mother when she couldn’t find Him, and told her that His heavenly Father’s business was His first priority (Lk. 2:48-50). All three synoptic gospels record another statement of this priority (Lk. 8:19-21; Mt. 5:15-16; Mk. 4:21-23). How tough that must have been on His mother! Notice though, that none of the accounts says that Jesus did not talk with her at this time. I know it is dangerous to argue from Scripture’s silence, but I cannot imagine that He did not explain to His parents what He had been doing on the days they thought He was lost. Later in life Jesus quoted the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and mother” (Lk. 18:20). He never tells us to do what He did not do Himself.
At the end of John’s gospel, when Jesus was on the cross, He made certain that His mother was provided for in her later years. “Dear woman here is your son,” Jesus said, nodding towards John. And to John He confirmed, “Here is your mother” (Jn. 19:26-27). Jesus provided care for Mary after He died because He loved and honored her.
Women As Early Disciples
We know that a group of women were among the early disciples of Jesus and they helped to provide for Him from their own possessions (Lk. 8:1-3). One mark of discipleship is a wise use of everything we have in the Lord’s service. Jesus humbly received these acts of worship, even though He knew these women would suffer false accusations in their male dominated society. Interestingly, some of the women mentioned in Luke 8 were probably also those mentioned by Luke as witnessing Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection (Lk. 23:49; 24:10,22-24).
A few years later, in the early Church, women not only used their homes for Christian gatherings for prayer and teaching (Acts 12:12; 18:26), but were also involved in the early Church (Acts 1:14; 8:12; 16:13-15; 17:4,12; 18:24-26). Then as now, Jesus will use any Christian woman who follows Him.
Mary Magdalene’s Example
It is written by Luke that Mary Magdalene had “seven demons come out” from her (Lk. 8:2). The other gospels build a picture of her as a forgiven, committed, long-term disciple (Mt. 27:55-56,61; 28:1; Mk. 15:40,47; 16:1; Lk. 24:10; Jn. 19:25; 20:1,11-18). What a transformation Jesus worked in her life! Along with others, she lovingly watched Jesus’ burial and planned to embalm His body. When she finally grasped that Jesus had risen from the dead, her enthusiasm to share this realization with the apostles met with disbelief. She did what Jesus had told her to do and yet she was ridiculed by her long-time male friends (Jn. 20:17; Lk. 24:11). Her persuasive persistence paid off and two of the disciples ran to discover that Mary was neither mad nor deluded. She was among the first to know beyond any doubt that Jesus was alive. What a blessing Jesus entrusted to her for her faithfulness!
Jesus Ministered To Women
The gospels give us many examples of times when Jesus ministered to the needs of women. Let’s look at some of them:
- A woman who secretly touched Jesus’ cloak in a crowd was immediately cleansed and relieved. He encouraged her to give her testimony before others in a very public place (Lk. 8:43-48).
- Jesus invited Jairus’ wife to quietly witness the raising of her daughter back to life, away from the wailing mourners (Mk. 5:39-43).
- Jesus appreciated the deep faith of the mixed-race Syrophoenician woman and He cured her daughter at a distance, creating a rejoicing heart within her (Mk. 7:24-30).
- Jesus cured Peter’s mother-in-law from a high fever, enabling her to serve in her respected role once again (Lk. 4:38-39).
- A widow had her dead son, a probable bread-winner, given back to her from death. Jesus provided for her in her deep need (Lk. 7:11-15).
- A crippled woman, bent over for eighteen years, was set free from her infirmity to straighten up and praise God (Lk. 13:10-13).
- At the request of His mother, Jesus helped a household of parents and newlyweds when their supply of wine was humiliatingly exhausted at their wedding (Jn. 2:1-11).
- At a well in Samaria, Jesus gave living water to a spiritually thirsty woman from a different ethnic group. He also entrusted her with the Good News that He was the Messiah, which she shared with many others in her town (Jn. 4:7-42).
- When a woman was trapped in adultery and deserved stoning under the Law, Jesus used her as an example, forgave her, freed her and lovingly warned her not to return to her sin (Jn. 8:3-11).
- Jesus ministered a number of times to Martha and Mary (Lk. 10:38-42; Jn. 11:1-44; 12:1-8). They learned how to handle the tension between them, how to bear and benefit from grief, and how blessed it could be to anoint Jesus, even when others misunderstood.
Each one of us should pause and consider if our treatment of women in daily life reflects the attitude of Jesus towards them.
Women As Examples Of Faith
Men and women heard Jesus praise these women as examples of faith:
- The five wise virgins (Mt. 25:1-13)
- The widow of Zarephath (Lk. 4:24-26)
- The Queen of Sheba (Lk. 11:31)
- The persistent widow (Lk. 18:1-8)
- The widow who gave generously (Lk. 21:1-4)
Are we praising our wives? Are we regularly encouraging women who live godly and faithful lives in our congregations? Our Lord Jesus never hurt or insulted any woman. He knew well that men and women were created in equality of value but with distinctly different, complementary roles (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:20-25).
Men, when we die wouldn’t we like to be remembered as someone who tried to treat all God’s people as equal? May it be said that we encouraged women as well as men to follow God’s will, because it is only then that Christians become all that they are designed to be. Let’s help “all our women” as Jesus did.
By Colin Salter
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org