The constant appearances of women in the ministry of our Lord Christ as well as his routine interaction with them should not be missed.
Woman born with the blood issue (Luke 8)
Woman at the Well (John 4)
Woman Wipes Jesus feet with hair (Luke 7)
Widow of Nain’s Son (Luke 7)
Interactions w/ Mary & Martha (Luke 10)
Healing of little girl thought to be dead (Mark 5)
In all these instances and others we see the esteem and respect of our Lord Christ for women in a culture that otherwise could treat them very poorly.
Women in the First Century A.D.
In the Temple proper the females occupied, according to Jewish tradition, only a raised gallery along three sides of the court. They were allowed to observe the ceremonies but never to participate in them.
Rabbinic literature was filled with contempt for women. The rabbis taught that women were not to be saluted, or spoken to in the street, and they were not to be instructed in the law or receive an inheritance. A woman walked six paces behind her husband and if she uncovered her hair in a public place she was considered a harlot.
In ancient Israel the Jewish culture was one of the most male dominant cultures in the whole world. In ancient Judaism the woman only had rights in the home and even that was very limited…. The Mishnah taught that a woman was like a gentile slave who could be obtained by intercourse, money or writ (m. Qidd 1:1).
Women could not play a significant role in the synagogue… Women were not even counted as members in a synagogue count. They did not recite the daily shema, they did not read the Torah in the synagogue (Ber 3:3).
They could not be disciples of any great rabbi, they certainly could not travel with any rabbi.
In court a woman’s testimony was considered suspect (m. Ned. 11:10). Women also did not have the right to divorce.
Obviously our Lord Christ disregarded these social strictures and by His free and continuous interaction with women and their needs communicated that women were the ontological equal of men. When I note that the actions of our Lord Christ with women communicates that women are the ontological equal of men I mean to communicate that there is no sense, in the ministry of the Lord Christ, that women, in their essence … in their personhood, in their human-ness are of lesser quality then men.
However, while women are created as man’s ontological equal men, men and women remain functionally unequal. Their functional inequality in Scripture in the life of Christ is most clearly seen in the fact that when Christ called disciples He called 12 men. This was not and is not a slight to women. It is only to recognize that while women are ontologically equal to men that functional differences, in God’s economy, remain. Those functional differences do nothing to demean women or to lift men. Those functional differences merely mirror reality as God created it.
In our own culture we continue to confuse the distinction between ontological equality and functional inequality. We put women in roles of Pastors, Elders, and Deacons, in the Church when that is clearly forbidden (I Cor. 14:34). We put women in our military even near and in combat roles. We make women “first responders” (Policemen, Firemen, etc.) and by doing so we demean and denigrate women. When we treat women this way, even if they want to be treated this way, what we are doing is the equivalent of using Rose buds and Rose petals as firewood kindling for our ovens. We are using the finest Renoir’s, Rembrandt’s, and Rubens to line the birdcage.