He was preaching about the resurrection. He was fleshing out the details of the scene at the empty tomb. He talked of how the women arrived first and were told by 2 men in dazzling white robes that Jesus wasn’t there; He'd resurrected. How the group of women ran back to tell the disciples what happened, but they didn’t believe the women. They thought it was crazy nonsense.
The pastor went on to ask the congregation, what do we learn from this? Perhaps it was a rhetorical question, but I couldn’t help myself. “Listen to the women!” I shouted from my seat. There was a roar of laughter for sure, and yet, that was not, in fact, the point of my pastor husband’s message. He laughed nervously and moved on.
Listen to the women? What does that have to do with the story?
Basically, everything. In the cultural context of first century Jerusalem, women were to be silent; they were considered less than men and didn’t have a voice. They were definitely not credible witnesses in a court of law. How absolutely beautiful that Jesus chose to reveal Himself in His resurrected body to women first. Not only that, but He commanded them to go and tell the men He had risen. He entrusted the culturally untrustworthy women with the most important news in history.
This was no accident. Jesus didn’t have to appear to the women first. He KNEW their place and value in that society and time in history. He KNEW men wouldn’t believe the women or take them seriously. But He chose to anyway. Why?
Since that moment in the garden when Eve was deceived by the serpent, we women have suffered severe consequences in society. Mainly, we are often undervalued and underestimated for our rockstar contributions to this world.
Women are oppressed and treated as second class citizens to varying degrees in every time period and culture in history. Jewish men recite this blessing from the Talmud:
Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has not made me a woman.
Yikes. But how refreshing to see the Jewish Rabbi Jesus treating women differently. Here are a few other examples from Scripture:
The woman with the issue of blood. Jesus stopped and noticed her. He engaged her in conversation. And he healed her. He did not punish her or call her unclean and send her away. He did not dismiss her. (Luke 8)
Mary who anointed Him with oil in the house of a Pharisee. A prostitute. He allowed her to touch Him, anoint Him, wipe His feet with her tears. And He praised her for it. Again, He acknowledged her.
Mary sat at the feet of Jesus, like a Rabbinical student, learning from Him. He tells her sister Martha that Mary has chosen the better. (Luke 10)
The woman caught in adultery - Jesus stands up for her, protects her and forgives her sins. (John 8)
The woman at the well. Not only does He speak to her, but He has a deep theological conversation with her. And He lets her be the one to go back into town as an eyewitness who testifies: Come and meet a man who told me everything about my life… could this be the Messiah? And many in the town believed in Jesus because of her. (John 4)
Jesus did not come to condemn women, He came to liberate them, to set them free from the curse of the original sin. And He came to show men how to do the same. He redeems women and restores them. He gives us back our value and celebrates us. This is the good news of the gospel. We are free from the curse! And I am so amazed by this.
Our own western society still struggles to give women their full value, even in Christian circles. Dare I say ESPECIALLY in some Christian circles. No matter. Jesus shows us otherwise. From here, let’s be women who celebrate each other. Let’s speak words of life over one another and be each other’s biggest supporters. No more gossip. No more comparing, no more slander. No more mean-spirited passive aggressive comments and animosity toward each other. Instead, let’s be the first to “listen to the women.” They have some incredible things to share with this world about the scandalous love of an awesome God.