“And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”” – Luke 4:17-21
Wow! I find this to be one of the most beautiful and powerful narratives in the bible. With the words “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” Jesus fulfilled and summed up His mission on earth! Right from the beginning of His ministry, Jesus declared, “It has been fulfilled! Today, what was prophesied has come to pass! It is done! At the end of His life the statement remained true and unchanged, as on the Cross Jesus cried out once again, “It is finished!” The mission has been accomplished! The captives are free! Hallelujah!
For women everywhere, there is a double reason to rejoice because Jesus has not only set us free from sin and reconciled us to God, He has also freed us from the snare and bondage that women have had to endure for ages! Come on, woman, give a shout and rejoice because the scripture has already been fulfilled and we have been set free, released and liberated!
If the Son Makes You free…
The word free means not subject to the rule or control of another or not bound, confined or detained by force. It also means to relieve from constraint, restraint or limitation. To free someone is to liberate, discharge, redeem, release, relieve, unshackle, unchain or loosen them.
So when He cried, “It is finished”, after reading Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus was telling all humanity, including women everywhere, that we have been set free, released, redeemed, unchained, and loosened from the constraints of sin, oppression and bondage. We are no longer subject to the rule or control of sin, Satan or any other thing or person, except God, of course. Indeed, the snare is broken, the limitations have been removed and we can be all that God intended and purposed for us to be!
Why then does the Church struggles with this? Why do many leaders struggle with this? Why do many women struggle with this? I know things are improving and women are gradually rising up in that freedom, however, we still have a long way to go because many, many women still sit in church struggling, feeling helpless, redundant, small, bound up and suffocating. Tradition and culture, wrong doctrines and teachings, fear, prejudice and religion have all contributed to keeping women in bondage and oppression, and making them of little use to the Kingdom of God.
This article is dedicated to all women out there who are still confused and struggling, with the hope that they will turn their eyes from all else to our Lord, Saviour, King and Friend, Jesus Christ, who shows women exceptional love and compassion, and gives them dignity and freedom.
Jesus, An Unusual Man!!!
Jesus was an unusual Man! Jesus was a Man who truly loved and valued women and demonstrated the Father’s heart towards us over and over again! The culture He was born into denied women many things, including access to God, but Jesus brought freedom to all the women He met. He was not afraid to be identified with women. He walked with them, related to them and befriended them on a level that was forbidden and considered a taboo in His day. Yes, Jesus was a Man who was not afraid to use women for the benefit of the Kingdom of God!!!
Pope John Paul II said of Him, “Jesus always showed the greatest esteem and the greatest respect for woman, for every woman, and in particular He was sensitive to female suffering. Going beyond the religious and social barriers of the time, Jesus re-established woman in her full dignity as a human person before God and before men.”
Therefore, to find a truly biblical view of women and their place in God’s kingdom, the best place to start is to take a good look at how He related to and treated the women He encountered. Jesus had a very radical view about women and often deliberately went out of His way to challenge the cultural biases against them. What lessons can we learn from Him?
Jewish Culture In Jesus’ Day
First, let’s take a brief look at Jewish culture during Jesus’ time on earth. In the culture in which Jesus was born, women were generally considered to be inferior to men. They were considered a little more than property, and were always under the authority of men – either their father before marriage, or their husband afterwards. A quote by Rabbi Jesus ben Sirach summed up a woman’s position, “He who acquires a wife gets his best possessions.”
Women were considered as ‘inferior’ or ‘servants’ and their place was in the field, at the well, or in the kitchen. They could not go out in public, talk to strangers and were not allowed to talk to men in public, except to their own husbands. When outside of their homes, they were to be doubly veiled.
Women were not allowed to testify in court since the testimony or witness of a woman was considered untrustworthy. They were not allowed to enter the temples and were segregated from men in the synagogues. Because women were only valued for their ‘subservient’ roles as wives and mothers, they were not permitted to be taught by rabbis. Rabbi Eliezer, who lived in Palestine in 1st century, was quoted to say, “Rather should the words of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman… Whoever teaches his daughter is like one who teaches obscenity”. A popular Jewish prayer goes like this, “Oh Lord I thank you for not creating me a woman.”
Jesus’ Attitude Towards Women
Bearing this in mind, we would find that Jesus’ interaction with women were rather radical and contradicted everything the society was accustomed to. Jesus broke many of their traditions and customs relating to women. Jesus overthrew centuries of Jewish law and tradition, and consistently treated women and men as equals. Jesus violated many of the regulations that portrayed women as inferior to men, and did not follow the rules of behaviour established by the Jewish religious groups of the day. The way He interacted with women was revolutionary! No wonder they were constantly seeking to kill Him!
They were many instances of Jesus’ personal interaction and dealings with women. Indeed, His mission was to set the captives free. Come with me and let’s meet some of those women… Yes, come see a Man!!!
Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:38-42)
In this narrative, we find Jesus with Mary sitting at feet, being taught the word of God by Him. It is important to remember that it was against Jewish tradition to teach a woman the Torah (Old Testament). Yet, here was Jesus, a Rabbi, teaching Mary, a woman, the word! This was unheard of and improper. Martha’s tone of voice showed her extreme annoyance with and surprise at Jesus for indulging in what was apparently unlawful, improper and out of order. Unfortunately, there are STILL too many Marthas in Church… I’ll say no more!
Jesus mildly rebuked Martha but praised Mary for choosing the ‘good part’ – freedom to pursue the knowledge of God! With this, Jesus overturned the tradition and taboo of not teaching a woman to read the Torah, the Word of God. If Jesus taught Mary the Word, all women can learn and study the word.
The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:7-30)
I love this story! Jesus met and had a conversation with a foreign woman! By Jewish tradition and law, this woman was doubly ritually unclean since she was both a foreigner and a woman. First of all, she was a Samaritan and so a foreigner. Jews and Samaritans in those days hated each other so much that Jews travelling from Galilee to Judea would rather take a longer route than pass through Samaria. Interacting with Samaritans, therefore, was a no no! Secondly, it was very improper and socially unacceptable for a man to talk to a woman other than his wife or children in public. No self respecting man would break that taboo, certainly not with someone considered a prostitute, as this woman perceived to be. No wonder Jesus’ disciples were shocked to see Him speaking to her!
Yet, Jesus deliberately passed through Samaria in order to meet with this nameless woman. To Him it was a double opportunity to set her free from the limitations of gender and race, giving her access to God and His kingdom. That double opportunity still stands for me, you and all non-Jewish women! Hallelujah!
Jesus entered in a conversation with the woman and revealed Himself and His mission on earth to her! The woman’s response was to become the first evangelist! Contrary to tradition, the people in the city believed the woman’s witness, which is what happens when you have been with Jesus!
The Haemorrhaging Woman (Luke 8:43-48, Mark 5:25-34)
This is the story of a nameless woman with a gynaecological problem who had been bleeding for 12 years, and who reached out to touched Jesus and was healed. The woman knew Jesus could heal her, but couldn’t approach Him to ask for healing. She was even so afraid to touch Him that she only sought to touch the hem of His garment. For her the limitations were also double – she was not only a woman, she was also considered unclean.
First of all, it was a major cultural offence for a woman to talk to a man other than her husband or son in public. Secondly, the natural menstrual cycle of woman was seen as ritually unclean, and anything a woman touched during her period became unclean and had to be purified. For this woman to touch Jesus was a really big deal!
We can only imagine the pain, rejection, loneliness and isolation she must have felt. Yet, Jesus ignored these ritual impurity laws and had mercy on her. Even though the crowd was pressing around Him, Jesus felt the woman’s touch and stopped to address her. He called her ‘daughter’, a term of endearment which restored her God-given identity. Jesus healed and restored her completely.
The Adulterous Woman (John 8:1-11)
The story portrays the hateful judgemental bias towards women in Jesus’ day. Here was a woman who had been caught in adultery and about to be stoned, according to Jewish Law (Hosea 5:14). However, there was no reference to the man she had been involved with. It appeared the woman alone was being punished, and the man seemed to have got away scot-free.
Jesus was compassionate towards the woman and said, “Neither do I condemn you”. This was one of the most beautiful expressions of His unconditional love. Neither does He condemn us!
The Woman With The Spirit of Infirmity (Luke 13:10-17)
This story tells us how the Man Jesus delivered and healed a woman from an indwelling satanic spirit. This, yet again, nameless woman was bound by Satan and suffered from a kind of spinal problem. She was bent over and yoked by her infirmity, thus her life, scope of vision and activity were limited. She suffered not only as a woman, but also from her disability. Interestingly, she was not the one who asked Jesus for healing. It was Jesus who initiated the step towards her deliverance and restoration. He had compassion on her and reached out to heal her.
Something even more dramatic happened in this story! Jesus referred to the woman as “daughter of Abraham,” implying that she had equal status with the sons of Abraham. The expression ‘son of Abraham’ was commonly used to respectfully refer to Jewish men, but ‘daughter of Abraham’, was an unknown parallel phrase and occurs nowhere else in the Bible. It would appear that Jesus created the title for this woman to change her status from a demon afflicted nobody to a covenant child of God by including her as a covenant member of Abraham’s family.
Women in Jesus’ Inner Circle (Luke 8:1-3)
Jesus accepted women in His inner circle. This scripture describes the inner circle of Jesus’ followers. There were twelve male disciples and an unspecified number of female supporters – Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and “many others.” It would appear that at least half of Jesus’ closest followers and friends were women.
Mary of Bethany, Again!!
Finally, let’s look at the story of Mary of Bethany, the woman who anointed Jesus. Two anointing took place – one in Galilee where again, Jesus interacted with an immoral woman who anointed Him (Luke 7:36-50) and this one in Bethany.
“Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” (John 12:1-3)
The scripture says, they made Jesus a supper and Martha came in to do what she was accustomed to – she came to wait on and serve Jesus and the guests. Martha, obviously, hadn’t changed! Oh, how many women encounter Jesus and remain unchanged and bound by tradition, culture and fear!!!
Anyway, Mary who had been set free from tradition and empowered by Jesus, on the other hand, came in to worship Jesus. Mary’s interactions with Jesus and His empowerment through the Word encouraged her to break three social and cultural taboos in this incident. The people present must have had a real shock when Jesus commended her actions and distinguished it as something that would be remembered wherever the gospel is preached. Mary demonstrated her love and appreciation for what the Lord has done and set an example for women everywhere to emulate.
The Significance of Mary’s Actions
1. Mary entered a “male-only club”.
Women were not allowed to sit with men on important occasions such as this one. However, Mary entered because Jesus was there; for where Jesus is there is acceptance, dignity and freedom for women. Mary’s actions tells us that God has made a way for women in what, until then and now, has been a man’s world. In today’s male-dominated world of Church and ministry, many women, like Mary, who have encountered Jesus and are being empowered through His word are rising up, responding to His call and entering an arena that has been denied them for so long. Woman, so far as Jesus is there, you have access!
History has proved that when women get actively involved in evangelism and mission work the harvest is greater. The Quakers and Salvation Army are organisations that utilised women in evangelism and missions. It is time to release women to get into the harvest field to join men, together and in partnership, to fulfil the Great Commission.
2. Mary unveiled her hair.
Mary unveiled her hair, which is her glory – her substance, weight, honour, splendour, magnificence and excellence. (1 Corinthians 11:15). In Jesus’ time, only a prostitute would unveil her hair in public. So, it was very dramatic for Mary to enter this all-male gathering and unveil her hair. Why did she do it? What is the significance of that to us?
I believe that as women join in the work of God’s kingdom, the glory that only a woman possesses, and which has been hidden and covered for so long, will be unfolded and unravelled. There are certain qualities that women possess naturally and which the Church requires to effectively fulfil the Great Commission. A woman’s ability to take seed, incubate, nurture and birth it. This life giving, seed multiplying and birthing ability could be released for the benefit of the Church. Many ministries could be birthed and sustained on the knees and by the activities of women. Many souls could be birthed into the kingdom of God as a result of much prayer and diligent evangelism. Women also possess the ability and patience to nurture and nourish what they have birthed, thus souls won into the kingdom can be nurtured and discipled by women till they reach maturity. Also, women possess the ability to network and sustain relationships, which are necessary qualities required to bring the Church together in the bond of unity and love.
Indeed, it is time for the glory that only woman possesses to be revealed and exposed in the Church and to the world. Women in Christ, let us arise and unveil our glory. IT IS ALRIGHT WITH JESUS!!!
3. Mary anointed Jesus’ Feet with Fragrant Oil
Finally, like the fragrance of this costly oil, women who will arise and be use by God will be committed and devoted people who love the Lord passionately. They will be women whose lives have been touched and transformed by God’s hands. The fragrance that will be released as the lives of these women are poured out will flow from love, adoration, devotion and worship, and will fill the whole earth. These women will spare no cost to prepare the body of Christ for His Second Coming. These women will go to the ends of the earth to preach the Gospel and establish the kingdom of God on earth. Like Mary these women will sacrifice all, as they march into hell to release captives held by the enemy.
The oil Mary used was mainly reserved for anointing the dead to prevent the corpse from decomposing and corrupting. Yet, Mary poured this precious oil on the living body of Jesus. In applying this precious oil to the living body of Jesus Christ, Mary was preserving the Body of Christ, and proclaiming that the Body of Jesus, the Resurrection and Life, will not die, corrupt, rot or perish. As women rise up, we will continue to play this same crucial role in preserving the Body of Christ, especially in these end-times. The oil and fragrance from our broken lives, in worship and service, will cover and preserve the Church, the Living Body of Jesus.
It Is Finished!!!
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” – John 8:32
Dear women in Christ, Jesus came to show us the way. He came to show us the Father’s heart. Jesus came to redeem humanity, including us! The gospel He preached set women free and released them from the oppression and bondage they had endured. He showed care, compassion and exceptional love towards the women He came across. Every opportunity Jesus had, He used proclaim what God had already FINISHED!!!
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed! Woman, in Christ, you are free indeed!!!
IT IS FINISHED!
By Apostle Jennifer Abigail Wallace
An extract from Apostle Jennifer Abigail Wallace book, “FREE TO SERVE, GOD’S LIBERATED WOMAN.”
This article can be used by permission but with reference to author