#1 - In New Testament times, women were considered ___________ to and ___________ to men.
“Women were not allowed to testify in court trials. They could not go out in public or talk to strangers. When outside the home they were to be doubly veiled. They had become second-class Jews, excluded from the worship and teaching of God, with status scarcely above slaves.” - Oxford Companion To The Bible.
Surely this offends our 21st century Western sensibilities. We see women as equal and complimentary partners in our culture. Eve was created out of the same likeness of God. She literally completed the creation of mankind. Together Adam and Eve were to be one flesh. We see no evidence at all of any inferiority of the woman or subservience to the man BEFORE the Fall, before sin entered the world.
It was only after the Fall of Mankind that men begin to dominate their female partners. Polygamy begins. Collection of women as objects of desire. Full expression in Solomon with 700 wives and 300 concubines. That was NOT God’s idea. “The two shall be one flesh.”
We do find examples of women leaders in the Old Testament.
(1) Prophetess Huldah delivered a scathing denunciation of the religious corruption and powerful prediction of doom that motivated King Josiah to make changes. (2 Kings 22:11-23:25).
(2) Deborah became disturbed at the unchallenged domination of her people by their enemies and called the commander in chief of the Israelite army to move against enemies. He wouldn’t do it unless she came and led. (Judges 4 & 5.)
(3) The wife of a boorish rancher, Nabal (which means “fool”) named Abigail, who provided sustenance to King David and his army - saved family from destruction. Ultimately became David’s wife after she was widowed. (1 Sam. 16/25)
But after another thousand years go by, the religious leaders had re-written and fashioned God’s Word into a means to subjugate women to little more than slaves.
#2 - Jesus extraordinary to ___________ women to __________ in Christianity.
“After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women…” Luke 8:1-2a NIV
Here is the behind-the-scenes look at the company that followed Jesus. They were not just men. In a time when most women were considered possessions to be used by husbands or possessions to be sold by fathers, Jesus welcomed women for the help that they could provide. Many who followed began to follow because of Jesus’ interaction…
Consider these women interacting with Jesus:
Jesus ignored ritual impurity laws. - Mark 5:25-34
The story of the woman with the issue of blood for 12 years! She touched Jesus. He stopped and healed her, despite being with an important man!
Jesus talked to a foreign woman (doubly ritually unclean - she was a woman AND a foreigner!) - John 4:7-5:30
Woman at the well. Disciples were surprised. But none of them said anything!
Jesus allowed the prostitute to perfume his feet. - Luke 7:36-50
Jesus taught women students (allowed Mary to sit at his feet.) - Luke 10:38-42
Jesus accepted women into his inner circle. - Luke 8:1-3
Mostly women were present at Jesus’ execution. - Matthew 27:55-56
Jesus appeared first to women after his resurrection.- Matt 28:9-10
Consider these women as faith models in Jesus’ teaching: Jesus not only included women, he even included them as “winners” in his stories!
The widow of Zarephath - Luke 4:24-26
The Queen of The South - Luke 11:31
The Woman Finding the Lost Coin - Luke 15:8-10
The Persistent Widow - Luke 18:1-8
The Poor Widow’s Offering - Luke 21:1-4
It is no wonder, then, that when Peter preaches his first sermon in Acts 2, he quotes the prophet Joel that BOTH sons and daughters will prophecy and that God will pour out His Spirit on “both men and women.”(Acts 2:17-18)
Peter had watched Jesus for 3 years. He then was watching the Holy Spirit being poured out at Pentecost on men and women alike. And so it is also no wonder that Paul declares this remarkable truth:
“In Christ, there is no difference between Jew and Greek, slave and free person, male and female. You are all the same in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28 NCV
So what does that mean that we are all the same in Christ Jesus? That we all come to the faith in the same way. Aware of our own sin. Aware of our own bondage. Aware that we need Christ. Saved by the same sacrifice. That we are all baptized into Christ. That we are all clothed with Christ and His character & power. It doesn’t matter whether we are one nationality or another, one race or another, it doesn’t matter what our economic status is, and it doesn’t matter whether we are a man or if we are a woman. We are all the same in Christ Jesus.
But we are not all the same, right? We all have different S.H.A.P.E.s - Spiritual gifts, Heart passions, Abilities, Personalities, Experiences. So what do we do with our special differences as a Christ-follower?
#3 - As Christ-followers we use our _________ and _________ as our ministries.
Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4. Each of these important chapters in the New Testament talk about our different spiritual gifts. Each passage talks about the diverse “body of Christ.” Each passage talks about how we as Christ-followers should use our gifts to benefit the entire body of Christ. AND EACH PASSAGE TALKS TO BOTH MEN AND WOMEN. There is no distinction. In fact several times the Bible specifically says “each of us” meaning every person in the body!
This simply follows the example of Christ in Church 1.0. We don’t actually see any churches yet. But we see how Jesus led both men and women in his teaching ministry.
Example #1: Mary Magdalene - _____________________
“Also some women were with him. They had been cured from evil spirits and various illnesses. These women were Mary, also called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out.” Luke 8:2 GWT
Dr. Luke goes out of his way to mention the women. Because it was so unusual. And he gives us examples. The first example he mentions is Mary Magdalene. Magdalene is not her last name. It is a reference to the place she is from. Mary from Magdalene. She is mentioned as the first example of women who follow Jesus who have been cured of evil spirits and various illnesses. The “seven demons” is probably not a specific number but a reference to completeness. She was completely demon filled. She was known as someone beyond the hope of restoration.
And she was probably well known in the region. So she followed Jesus to provide encouragement and hope to everyone else. If Mary from Magdalene could be healed by Jesus, then anyone could be healed!
Which gives us an important principle in Christianity. Maybe you’ve heard the phrase that “HURT people HURT people.” That’s the negative and unredeemed truth outside of Christianity. Here is the Christian version exemplified by Mary: “HEALED people HEAL people!” If you have been healed in some way - mentally, spiritually, emotionally, relationally - and we’ve all been healed in one way or another - expect that God will probably use you and your story to help heal others!
Example #2: Joanna - _______________________
“Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager.” Luke 8:3a NLT
Chuza and Joanna were so good at managing the affairs of the rich and famous, that King Herod himself hired this pair to manage his own affairs. This gives us a glimpse inside of Herod’s court. People were talking about Jesus. People were making the decision to follow Jesus regardless of the evil Herod would spew against John and Jesus. Joanna was one of these followers within Herod’s court. She knew how to manage the affairs of kings and kingdoms. So it is no surprise that she would want to use her special skills to help manage the thousands, who would follow Jesus. If you have a special talent that is valuable in the workplace, don’t be surprised if Christ lets you know that he could use your skill set within the church!
Example #3: Susanna - _______________________
“Susanna and many others, who were contributing to their support out of their private means.” Luke 8:3b NASB
Finally we have the story of Susanna. She is so special that she didn’t need any other descriptors. She was Susanna. A one-word name. You say “Susanna” and everyone knows! Most versions of the Bible put a period or a semi-colon after her name. She was known for her wealth and for her connections. If you needed money to get something done, talk to Susanna. If you needed to know who knew the right person in society or culture, talk to Susanna. She wasn’t the only one. We read that there were “many others” like Susanna, who contributed their personal wealth to help Jesus. Not all of us can be like Susanna. Not all of us are wealthy. But if you are, don’t be surprised that God would tap you on the shoulder and let you know that He has blessed you with this wealth for a special purpose - to help out His church!