The world Jesus entered largely discriminated against women. He rejected the false criteria upon which the double standard was built. He measured men and women by the same standards, the inner qualities of character and not by such accidents of birth as ethnic or sexual differences. He affirmed women by His manner, example, and teaching.

The Manner of Jesus

Jesus included women where Jewish piety largely excluded them. Women were excluded from participation in synagogue worship, restricted to a spectator role, and forbidden to enter the Temple beyond the Court of the Women. A woman was not to touch the Scriptures, lest she defile them. A man was not to talk much with a woman, even his wife. Talk with a woman in public was yet more restrictive.

Jesus brushed aside all such discrimination. He astonished His disciples by talking openly with “a woman” at Jacob’s well (John 4:27). His dearest friends included Mary, Martha and Mary Magdalene. There were many women who ministered to (or with) Him, following Him from Galilee to Golgotha (Mark 15:41).

Having already affirmed Martha by accepting her invitation to dinner, He affirmed Mary’s choice of sitting at His feet to hear Him teach (Luke 10:39). He did not question her right or competence to hear His word, He commended her for choosing “the good part,” declaring that “it will not be taken away from her” (v. 42). Many have sought to take from women like Mary precisely what Jesus affirmed as rightfully theirs.

The story of the anointing of Jesus by “a sinful woman” is amazing (Luke 7:36–50). She showered her love and gratitude upon Jesus, and He affirmed her and her act. Without a hint of impropriety, Jesus let this woman thus touch Him and express her feelings toward Him. The pious ...

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