Jesus, feminist?

Written by : Steph Payne

When you think of feminist icons, Jesus might not be the first person to spring to mind. But there are plenty of occasions where He shows that women are of equal value to men. So, in the spirit of feminism, we look at three moments where Jesus showed his outlook was ahead of His time. To get the bigger picture, check out the full chapters in the Bible …

Luke 10:40-42 - At the home of Martha and Mary
But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.
She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”’

The context
In this society, a woman’s place would have been to serve the men in the house, rather than to sit alongside them as equals. Martha serves her guests and does not allow herself to stray beyond what is expected of her in their culture. But Mary chooses to come and listen to Jesus.

When Martha gets angry about Mary’s decision to leave the chores, Jesus acknowledges Martha’s feelings. However, he reminds her that Mary has chosen the ‘better’ option by sitting and listening to Him.In allowing Mary and Martha to participate in this teaching, Jesus shows that He values both men and women. Both are permitted to sit at his feet and be taught by Him.

While of us might see this as a place to exert our emotional intelligence, Jesus takes this opportunity to remind Martha that while serving others is important, taking time out to listen to Him is even more important. He wants to share that time with her directly, rather than hear his teaching second-hand.

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John 8:9-11 - Jesus defends the adulterous woman
At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The context
Being caught in adultery was a dangerous thing in Jesus’ time. It’s now hard to imagine that a secret affair would have been aired in front of the whole temple. The idea that you would have died publicly as a result of the stoning is crazy to us!

However, only the woman has been brought forward for punishment, despite the Old Testament law stating both the man and the woman are to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). This suggests that the scribes and Pharisees are cherry-picking which of God’s commands to follow.

Jesus acknowledges her sin as equal to the transgressions of any man who is about to stone her and states that unless anyone else present is completely without sin, she shouldn’t be stoned. The men who are present realise they are no less sinful than the accused woman, and slink away.

As the sole human to walk the earth without sin, Jesus is the only man in a position to condemn her but He chose to release the woman from her punishment and instruct her to “leave her life of sin”.This powerful episode of public forgiveness echoes the events at the end of Jesus’ life; His sacrifice and friendshipallows us to be forgiven of our rebellion against God. It empowers us to live a life of freedom, leaving sin behind.

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John 4:15-26 - Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman
Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.”

He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.”

“I have no husband,” she replied.

Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

The context
During Jesus’ time on earth, the Jewish people viewed Samaritans as their enemies, as shown at the start of this passage. Jesus asking her for a drink would have been seen as unthinkable. The woman even queries it herself! However, later on in this passage, we find that many Samaritans initially came to believe in Jesus because of this woman’s experience. Jesus knew that her testimony would have power, and once the Samaritans had heard her words, they asked him to stay with them, which He did.

These passages show how God has a plan and purpose for all women – in our serving, in our mistakes and in our everyday life. John 4 especially shows how the power of a single woman’s testimony can change a whole community, even in a time where men were the main influencers in society. Jesus’ actions challenged the norms of His time with modern thinking.

These and other examples in the Bible show us that women are just as loved and respected by God as men, and that women’s rights and Christianity should go hand in hand. How much more can our testimonies have an impact today, in a culture where women are able to lead and speak more and more?