The respected and renown Bible commentator J.B. Lightfoot said that Jesus’ attitude toward women must have appeared to have been a social revolution. What prompted this assessment? I think Thomas Alworthy summed it up when he wrote that Jesus “had a sincere belief in the intellectual and spiritual possibilities of women.”
Unlike most people living in His era Jesus appreciated the spiritual capabilities of women. In Mt 12:50 (it is in Mark 3:35 and Luke 8:21 too) Jesus said “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” As far as welcoming people into intimate fellowship sex was no barrier. Jesus also said that His claims about Himself would cause division within the home. He said, “They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Lk 12:53) In other words, unlike His contemporaries, Jesus was supporting the idea that women might adopt beliefs far different from their husbands.
Jesus also set Himself apart from His generation by appreciating the intellectual capabilities of women. Take for example a pair of parables in Luke 15. In the first parable, a man rejoices at finding a lost sheep. In the second, a woman rejoices at finding a lost coin. The point Jesus was making in both parables was that sinners are so important to God that His followers should work extraordinarily hard to recover them. So, the presence of both a man and women in these parables shows that when it comes to reaching the lost, women have as big a role to play as men. Jesus also taught women one on one. Consider the women at the well in John 4:1-42. Rabbinic dictum stated that a man should not even greet his own wife in a public place. But Jesus broke with this tradition to speak with and even teach the Samaritan women. We also find Jesus at the home of Mary and Martha where we find “Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” (Lk 10:39) She was doing the better thing: learning from Jesus.
Jesus also appreciated woman’s ability to serve. In Mark 12:41-44 Jesus used the example of a poor widow to teach the disciples that the value of giving is not in the quantity given but in the quality. The Lord, in other words, used the example of this woman, to show the men how they were to live. One time Jesus healed a woman in a synagogue on a Sabbath. In response, she glorified God (Luke 13:13), but the male ruler of the synagogue was indignant (v. 14). Another time a woman was healed by merely touching the hem of Jesus robe. Jesus, knowing what had happened, sought her out. She, in response, “came trembling and fell down before Him, and declared in the presence of all the people the reason why she had touched Him, and how she had been immediately healed.” (Lk 8:47) In both of these instances the important point to note is that it was a woman who was glorifying Jesus and providing public testimony about Him.
Charles Ryrie has noted that “Jesus Christ opened the privileges of religious faith equally to men and to women. He gave His message publically and privately to women as well as to men. The frequent and prominent mention of women in the gospels is in itself noteworthy by contrast with their status in Judaism.”
In light of the example of the Lord every Christian, and Christian men in particular, should be appalled and grieved at a culture that reduces women to mere objects of sexual pleasure. We can also be careful to keep this kind of cultural behavior from seeping from the culture and into the church. In light of the reduction of women to sexual playthings prevalent in our culture let’s be doubly sure to heed the warnings of 1 Thessalonians 4:3 which says: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Th 4:3), and Ephesians 5:3 “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.” (Eph 5:3, ESV).