The New Testament shows us that Jesus treated women as friends. He demonstrated the worth of women in the way he treated them—particularly in a culture and time that did not hold women in high regard.
So, why does that matter? It matters because as believers we are called to look like Jesus. For women, this means having a right understanding of our worth and value, based upon Jesus’s treatment of women. For men, whether single or married, this means looking to Jesus as the example of how to treat women.
Elyse Fitzpatrick and Eric Schumacher recently released a book called Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women, which examines how Jesus treated and valued women. I found the book incredibly helpful to my own understanding and want to share a few highlights:
1. Jesus Noticed Women
In an era when women were often treated as lower than animals and servants, especially by men in power, Jesus revolutionized the world by entering into the lives of women and treating them as they were—image-bearers created with great value and worth. Jesus not only noticed women, but he also praised them and used them as examples of what it meant to love and serve him. In Luke 21 Jesus not only noticed the poor widow but, in front of everyone, including men, he praised the widow’s obedience and trust. He spoke life into her and exposed her value, something no other men around him would dare to think of doing. Jesus noticed women, and he loved them.
2. Jesus Enjoyed the Company of Women
The Bible specifically mentions women being present at both the cross and the tomb. These ladies, who knew and cared for Jesus, had gathered to be near their Savior and friend. They enjoyed his company and knew they had no reason to fear how they would be treated by him. They never worried if he would belittle them, never worried if he would treat as objects or as seductresses.
Jesus enjoyed the company of women, and he demonstrated that in the way he befriended them. We see this displayed in his relationship with Mary and Martha. When Jesus came to them after their brother had died, Mary ran to Jesus and boldly asked him where he was and why he hadn’t come sooner! This level of trust and display of honest grief and despair shows the depth of friendship Mary had with Jesus. How did Jesus respond to their grief? He wept. Jesus entered into Mary and Martha’s pain.
3. Jesus Taught & Discipled Women
During biblical times, most women were not given the opportunity to be educated. In fact, many leaders—especially religious ones—viewed educating women as scandalous. Yet, Jesus quickly debunked this ideology. In Luke 10, we read that Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, but that’s not all that Luke describes. He goes out of his way to say that Mary was sitting and listening. In other words: Jesus was teaching and educating Mary.
The authors go on to say that “Jesus’ willingness to allow women to listen to his teaching and to become part of his ministry went against the rabbinic practices of his day. Our Lord, from the beginning, loves and includes women among his disciples and his fellowship.”
From the beginning, Jesus has included women in his plan of redemption. And as Worthy shares, he continued to utilize women throughout his ministry. The first European convert to Christianity was a woman, as was the first European to receive the sign of the covenant. And the first European church? It met in the home of a successful businesswoman named Lydia.
The kingdom Jesus came to establish was for both men and women, and Jesus, from the very beginning, showed he would use both to further his kingdom.
Women, You are Valuable & Worthy
As women, we can easily search for our value in many different places—our marital status, professional success, appearance, or intelligence (just to name a few!). But Jesus showed us that our value comes from being created in the image of God.
The way that Jesus interacted with women was not simply for their own comfort or to make them feel good about themselves. Indeed, Jesus values women equally with men. But rather than stopping there, his example shows us that he believes women play a role in advancing his kingdom. And not only a role, but a voice. As women, Jesus desires for us to be a part of the local church, to have a place to speak into ministry, and to see our greatest task as making disciples—whether that is within the church or in our own home.