“Why are all the stories about men?”
The question came from a ten-year-old girl. I often have the opportunity to go into schools and teach children the story of the Bible as part of the religious education curriculum here in Scotland. For many, this is their first opportunity to explore the Bible.
So far, we had only covered the book of Genesis, and I could see her point. Of course we’d talked about Eve, but her part in the story wasn’t exactly heroic. Much of the narrative had seen men take the leading roles, such as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
I assured the girl that as we continued journeying through the Bible there would be plenty of stories about women, but I think her perception is one many share. It’s the idea that men are the focus of the Bible while women’s roles are less significant.
It was certainly the prevailing view in culture at the time when Jesus lived on earth. Men were called to work, to lead, and to influence, whereas women’s primary role was in the home, bearing and raising children.
In his article, “Jesus and the Role of Women”, William Varner outlines some of the social norms at the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Another excellent resource on correctly understanding women’s importance from Jesus’ perspective, is “Women Through The Eyes of Jesus” by Rebecca McLaughlin. It’s important to note that many cultural norms were based on rabbinical writings such as the Mishna and the Talmud rather than Scripture itself. For example, women were not publicly taught the Torah in Jesus’ day, despite the fact that in the Torah itself, Moses deliberately gathered all the people, including women and children, as he renewed the Israelites’ covenant with God on entry to the Promised Land. (Deuteronomy 29:10-13)
In first century Jewish culture, many women were illiterate, were not allowed to testify in court, and were only permitted to enter the Temple as far as the women’s court. Their power was limited, their access to education was minimal, and even their ability to draw close to God was restricted. For the most part, women didn’t have a voice.
Yet, Jesus chose to enter this culture, to challenge it and turn it on its head.
There are many examples of Jesus honouring women, valuing them, giving them a voice, and using them to play a significant part in spreading the Gospel.
In a culture where women were uneducated, Jesus allowed Mary to sit at His feet and to listen to His teaching, a privilege which, at that time, was normally only granted to the men. And He praised her for making “the right choice” insisting it would “not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42) He also engaged in deep theological conversation with a Samaritan woman He met by a well, much to the surprise of His disciples. (John 4:1-30)
In a culture where women were not valued, Jesus consistently treated them with respect and honour. He allowed a woman, considered unclean through years of bleeding, to touch him. He healed her, and He honoured her for her faith, identifying her as “Daughter.” (Mark 5:25-34)
When a woman anointed Him with perfume, He defended her against her critics. He praised her for her act of love and assured her that her deed would not be forgotten, “Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9)
In a culture where women were not normally allowed to testify and their words were discounted, the testimony of the Samaritan woman by the well led many others to follow Jesus. (John 4:39-42)
He even selected a woman to be the first witness of one of the most momentous events in history, His resurrection. Mary Magdalene had the amazing privilege of being the first to meet the risen Jesus and the first to share the incredible truth of His resurrection with others. (John 20:11-18)
I could go on and on with this list, but I think I’ve made the point. Jesus consistently elevated women and gave them significance.
In this Journey Theme we will be studying the songs of four women whose identity and purpose were grounded in worship, and who used their voices to point ahead to the coming of Jesus and what He would accomplish.
As we study the songs of Miriam, Anna, Elizabeth, and Mary, may it encourage each of us to consider how God wants to use us. Each of us is also valued by God and has a significant part to play.
How can we use our voices to point to the Christ who was born in a manger, who is born today in each of us who trust and follow Him, and who will one day come again as the conquering King?
Prayer is central to our ministry as believers in Jesus as we carry eachother’s burdens and intercede for one another. Our team is honored to share the work of praying alongside you!
Authentically living out a life of worship to the God who rescued us from darkness requires accountability and intentionality. Join a GT POD and take the next step in your faith journey!