25th November marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Started by activists at the inaugural Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991, it calls for the prevention and elimination of violence against women and girls. And just as it works to give women a voice, this is a good time to remember that is exactly what Jesus did as part of his ministry.
In stark contrast to the prevailing culture of the time, Jesus upheld women’s rights.
Women’s rights simply wasn’t even an idea back then. Women were regarded, quite simply, as second class citizens. Jewish rabbis would begin every temple meeting with the words, “Blessed art thou, O Lord, for thou has not made me a woman.“
Husbands could divorce their wives for any reason simply by writing a note. No reason required. No obligation to provide financial support. A wife, on the other hand, could never divorce her husband. In fact, women were held in such low esteem that they could not even provide testimony in court.
Jesus defied—and redefined—the cultural norms toward women.
At a time when women were viewed as inferior to men and excluded from public religious life, Jesus taught, healed and performed miracles as readily for women as he did for men –whatever their religious credentials, social standing, or lifestyle.
“Jesus violated the mores of his time in every single encounter with women recorded in the four Gospels.“ – Walter Wink, Biblical scholar.
We see this in his love for Mary Magdalene, a prostitute. Or his conversation with the Samaritan woman by the well. A lone man could never sit down to talk with a lone woman. Never mind the fact her ethnic background was considered inferior by the Jews, and she had been married and divorced five times, and she was now living with a sixth man. Yet despite all this Jesus sat and talked to her. He changed her life of shame into joy. And he used her to bring his message to her village.
The religious leaders became increasingly annoyed by Jesus’ popularity – and so they devised a plan to trick him.
Remember the story of the woman caught in adultery? Those leaders instigated a mob ready to stone her to death and then dragged her before Jesus. This put him in a no-win situation: offer mercy and he becomes an enemy of the law; condemn her and he nullifies his teachings about mercy and forgiveness.
Jesus bends down, starts to write on the ground with his finger, then straightens up and declares: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one they walked away until only Jesus and the woman remain.
“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Neither do I condemn you, ” Jesus declared. “Go and sin no more.”
In every encounter with women, Jesus changed their lives. The most amazing display of Jesus honouring women happened after he rose from the dead. All four gospels record that the first people Jesus talked to after his resurrection were women.
This is remarkable because women had such little standing in that culture. They had no religious or legal authority as spokespersons. This event, on the other hand, validated everything that Jesus claimed. It forms the very cornerstone of Christianity. Yet it was to women that Jesus gave the role of telling the apostles about His resurrection.
This article is based on a blog you can find at everystudent.com.