I recently embarked upon a study regarding the relationships that Jesus had with women. I found some very interesting facts regarding the customs of the times and some insight that I felt would make an interesting subject for this article.
I hope that you will walk away with some very valuable information that you can pass along. Let me first begin by giving a little background of the time period and the view of women in society that was recorded in the first two centuries after Christ. Read on and listen to a few quotes from the Rabbinic writings at the time on this subject.
The dictum of Yose b. Yohanan of Jerusalem, "Talk not much with womankind" (M Abot 1.5) The Mishna (IV, 493) notes "They said this of a man's own wife; how much more of his fellow's wife," while the Talmud says, "It is taught: Do not speak excessively with a woman lest this ultimately lead you to adultery" (bNed.201). Rabbi Eliezer B. R. Shimeon, "We have not found that the Almighty spoke to a woman except Sarah," (ySot.7.1,21b). Technically, men were primary and women were secondary. (Every Woman in the Bible by Sue and Larry Richards, ISBN-078521441-0)
Further research indicates that one of the primary reasons for this attitude was because the ignorance of men concerning the menstrual cycle of women. Under the law, there was a danger of contamination due to the flow of blood. During this period women were ritually unclean and a husband could not have sex with his wife. Any menstrual bloodstains on objects women came in contact with were held to have been polluted, so Jewish women had to be especially careful in the kitchen and around the house. The rabbis went beyond the Old Testament teaching on menstrual uncleanness as they urged that a man separate from his wife several days before and after her period to avoid contamination. They even believed that if they had contact with their wife it would cause death! The gospel writers viewed women in a different light. If we were to study this subject in it's entirety, we would learn that Jesus often violated the rules that were laid down by the "church." Let's look at how Jesus handled a few of his relationships with women.
The Woman With the "Issue of Blood"
(Matt. 9: 20, Mark 5:25-34, Luke 8:41-49) You can imagine what the crowd was thinking as the woman pressed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus garment. I wonder how many people she touched as she made her way determined to reach out to Him. They probably went home thinking that at any moment they were going die. The scripture records that for twelve years she had been afflicted with this problem. I'm sure people from surrounding towns knew it, as well. There she was, trembling and in fear that she had violated the law. Does this not paint a picture that Christ is concerned with the very special needs of a woman?
Mary and Martha
During the time of this encounter, it was unheard of for a woman to have property and not be married. Yet these women lived in their own home with their brother and were not married. One sister was concerned with her womanly responsibilities, a woman's place is in the kitchen thinking, and the other sister was sitting as a disciple at the Teacher's feet. It is important to remember that women were not allowed to study the Torah. Deu. 11: 19 says, "And you shall teach them to your sons, your sons and not your daughters." Yet, there she sat learning from the Teacher of all teachers. After Martha had voiced her opinion of the choice her sister Mary had made, Jesus told her she had made the right choice. Jesus desires for us to learn from Him and to remain in His presence.
The Samaritan Woman
The Samaritan woman was shocked that a rabbi would speak to her - (she knew the program, she grew up with the racial slurs), not only were they not allowed to speak to a woman, they were not allowed to look at them. To make matters worse, she was considered to be a pagan of the worst kind. She was biracial because she was Assyrian and Jewish, and definitely frowned upon. I guess this story speaks to us in more ways than one. Not only was Jesus color blind (hello), He was a rabbi that looked and spoke to women. He broke through the racial lines on this one, folks! Perhaps this was the genesis of multicultural and multiethnic churches -Hmmm!
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna
These women were the first to testify of His resurrection and they were present when He was hung on the cross. The scripture recounts that Jesus had cast out demons from these women. They became His disciples, took care of him, and supported His ministry with their own money. Many still considered Him to be a "rabbi" and the fact that he had female friends went against all the mores of the time.
The Woman Bent Double
This woman was in the "church" and had lived with this infirmity for 18 years. No one in the church would lay hands on her to be healed. Jesus was not afraid of her, and He healed her even though He was criticized for healing on the Sabbath. This shows a compassionate man that again was concerned about the affairs of women. This awesome God wants us to be free from bondage.
The Woman Caught in Adultery
Can you imagine the nerve of some people that would allow them to walk into one's house and pull them from the bed right in the middle of an adulterous act? Yes, she was in the wrong, but He did not hold her sins against her. According to the Torah, the act of adultery was punishable by stoning to death. Her life was spared and her sin was forgiven because of the true redeemer - Jesus Christ.
As these scenarios teach so aptly, Jesus cares for you and me. He went out of his way to prove that there is no male/female difference in our relationship when we are in Him. After doing this overview, I have seen my Jesus in a new light. I know that He is our Healer, Teacher, Peacemaker, Father, Friend and Redeemer, our wonderful Counselor and Mighty God. AMEN!
If you are looking for a great book for your library regarding women, I would highly recommend, Every Woman in the Bible by Sue and Larry Richards (ISBN-078521441-0)