Jesus: Elevator of Women

I’d like to give a special welcome to those of you who are here today and you haven’t come to the point where you are really buying this Jesus stuff – maybe you are alittle cynical about the church or skeptical about God – but you love your momma! And so you know it blesses your mom to come to church with her – and well, I think the world of you for doing that, and I really do hope that maybe you will hear something today to challenge your perceptions about God.

Just a heads up that today’s message is a bit more informational than motivational. And so I figured I’d start with some quotes about mothers that I found particularly inspirational….

“All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” —Abraham Lincoln

“I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.” —Abraham Lincoln. What a momma’s boy, this guy!

“It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.” —Roald Dahl

“When you’re in the thick of raising your kids by yourself, you tend to keep a running list of everything you think you’re doing wrong. I recommend taking a lot of family pictures as evidence to the contrary.” —Connie Schultz

“There’s no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” —Jill Churchill

“Everybody wants to save the Earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes.” —P.J. O’Rourke

So there you go – kids. Do the dishes. And try not to be a blister today.

Whatever you do today, I hope you honor her and just know that when you honor her you are behaving very biblically.

Mother’s Day is a very biblical day on the calendar. Hallmark didn’t invent this day. The idea of honoring your father and mother goes back thousands of years – it’s important enough for God to make the top ten list – right? The ten commandments.

Honor your father and your mother. As a matter of fact it’s the first commandment after the first four commandments that deal with honoring God. It’s listed BEFORE do not murder. You might think that “Do Not Murder” would top the chats, right? Like God says, hey let’s just get the easy one’s taken care of – don’t murder each other.

But no – it starts with – Honor you father AND your mother. And you will live a long full life. Now why? Why will you live a full long life if you honor your parents? Because your parents have accumulated a few things as they have gotten older. Gray hairs. Knick Knacks of assorted varieties. Out of style clothing. And tons of experience. And so their experience leads to wisdom which, if heeded will result in a more smartly lived life. Fuller, wiser, better.

Now I want to point out that in this command, the command is to honor your father – and your mother. And we here, now in the 21st century, we don’t blink when we read this, of course we should honor both parents.

But I am proposing today that the fact that 3500 years ago this notion was chiseled into a rock and placed before a nation, was in fact rather revolutionary. How were women treated 3500 years ago? Well, I’d say that you could travel to many parts of the world this very day to get an idea. Just about anywhere where the good news of Jesus has not taken root, we see societies that denigrate women.

There are many places in the world today – millions and millions of women whose safety is at risk – whose lives are physically in danger for such minor things as, wearing lipstick. Or walking around with their head uncovered. Or talking to another man.

One of the things I like to do sometimes when I am bored is to travel to websites promoting atheism, or promoting that we shed ourselves of religion. And one of the topics that I see often written about is this idea that Christianity degrades women.

SO I want to talk about it today because for one thing there might be friends and family members who have accepted this myth as a reality and it might be an impediment to your faith journey – because they think that doing so will cause them to have to accept some false narrative that the bible degrades women.

And secondly, I fear that there may be some people who think internally that the bible says the same, and so perhaps you have believed it a little bit – enough to wonder if you are equal in the eyes of Jesus or is your duty to play a subservient role.

So I want to look at the way that Jesus interacts with women. And we will see time and again that Jesus elevates and honors women throughout his life and ministry.

Jesus was a friend to women. Religion wasn’t. Religion isn’t. Religion, generally speaking is not a friend to anyone. But especially women.

But Jesus came not to establish a religion but to establish a relationship. And we will see time and again how Jesus went against cultural norms to minister to and elvate women living in a man’s world of the first century AD.

I’m not just talking about how Jesus ws good to his mother. Of course he was. I’m talking about the overwhelming evidence of how Jesus specifically, carefully, lovingly reached broke through traditional social barriers that had grown to be very oppressive against women.

And throughout scripture we will see that Jesus not only honors his own mother, but through his life and ministry he elevates all of women, mothers and non mothers alike, he elevates women in ways unlike anyone of any influence ever had before.

So let’s get started, and to begin I think we have to start with an understanding of how society viewed women in general. So here are some quotes from Jesus’ day that will help us get a glimpse into how the culture of Jesus day treated women.

Suffice it to say that it was a man’s world in Jesus’ day. And if we fail to understand the oppressive way that first century culture treated women, then we will fail to grasp the radical nature of Jesus’ actions.

For instance Women were not allowed to be taught the scriptures – they were not allowed to be theology students. Let the words of the Law be burned rather than committed to women….
Women were not allowed to be witnesses in a court of law they had no legal rights. Amazing to think that Jesus chose women to be the first witnesses of his resurrection.
One common prayer that men prayed was a prayer of thanksgiving that God had not made them a gentile, or a woman, or an ignorant man.
In the Jerusalem temple, women were limited to one outer portion, the women’s court, which was five steps below the court for the men.
A rabbi – remember now – Jesus was a rabbi – but not typical in any way, because a typical Rabbi regarded it beneath his dignity to speak to a woman in public. Let alone touch her.

The culture into which Jesus was born was a culture that has cultivated a studied degradation of women. And with that backdrop, we’re going to see that Jesus consistently elevates women by treating them with dignity and respect.

Let’s start by looking at a passage in Matthew 19, and there we see that Jesus elevated women in marriage. by making Husband and Wife equal shareholders in a marriage.

By Matthew 19 Jesus has made many enemies from the religious establishment who are seeking to build a case against Jesus by trapping him into appearing to be against Moses. And so they ask him, “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

Here’s the deal – by the way – Moses never said that you can divorce a woman for any reason. That was man’s definition and was used by men to subjugate women in fear.

Earlier I said Religion is no friend of anyone – because religion turns into a way to control people, often through fear. And so here religion was used to control women through fear.

So the religious people had decided that men could righteously divorce a wife for anything, even something as simple as burning their breakfast. Nice, huh? Controlling with fear.

Now the very fact that they use this question as a trap indicates they know how Jesus will respond. Right? They know that Jesus is going to stand up for the wife. And Jesus does so in such a brilliant fashion. He skips over Moses and goes all the way back to Genesis, and he quotes God the Father himself –

4 “Haven’t you read the Scriptures?” Jesus replied. That alone was a great little insult – Jesus asks the proudly religious leaders if they are perhaps ignorant of scripture?
They record that from the beginning ‘God made them male and female.’” 5 And he said, “‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.’ 6 Since they are no longer two but one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”

If they are one, there ought to be no tearing apart… but them Jesus goes a proper step further. The husband who divorces his wife? Unless there has been marital unfaithfulness is guilty of adultery. Not only is he not allowed to just divorce his wife, but if he does he is guilty of breaking one of the ten commandments.

9 And I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”

We see Jesus elevating the role of a wife to an equal shareholder. She has responsibilities to be faithful to her husband, just as much as he does. They were two who are now one.

Now, some might object to me saying Jesus elevated the role of women in marriage. People like to point to the Apostle Paul who wrote much of the New Testament, and people make a lot of hay out of Paul saying that part of the job description of a wife is to submit to the godly leadership of her husband.

Now I’ve pointed out in the past that in any partnership if the vote is one to one, who breaks the tie? In those exceptionally rare situations God is asking the wife to say, okay husband, I’ll make the decision to allow you to lead.

But also, let me point out – that the same passage says submit one to another in love.

I will also point out that the Bible calls on husbands to love their wives, to stay faithful to their wives, to love their wives as Christ loved the church, laying down his life for her. Ephesians 5.

Now, I’m trying to make the case here that Jesus elevates the personhood of women. elevates their status. Lifts them up. And in a day when all it took was for a husband to write out I divorce you, and send his wife penniless into the streets, we see Jesus elevating them to equal partners. And we read his early church instructing men to lay down their life and love their wives as Christ loves his Church.

That’s rather progressive. Certainly for 2000 years ago, and I will also say that if every husband actually did what Jesus and Paul instructed them to do regarding loving and honoring and cherishing their wives, no one could make a case that somehow the women married to such men are in any way devalued or degraded.

Wouldn’t it in fact be the opposite? That Christianity elevates women?

Jesus is a friend of women. Yes he is.

2. Jesus consistently disregarded religious rules and rulers to help women.  He demonstrated that God sees even one woman as being of great value.

For example – in John 8, we read about the incident where a woman is caught in the act of adultery. She, and only she, is dragged before Jesus by the religious authorities, who want to know the limits of Jesus compassion.

Moses says that she deserves death. Now Moses said both deserve death, such is the grievous nature of adultery in the eyes of the Lord. Of course there is no sign of the man. Such was the ways of the world in Jesus’ day.

Jesus simply says “Let he who has never sinned be the first to throw a stone.” And of course, one by one they leave. Jesus turns to the woman and asks, where are your accusers? She says, “There is no one left to accuse me.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I.”

Jesus was willing to put aside the religious rules, in order to make sure that this woman was loved and cared for.

There is an instance in Matthew 9 where a woman who had a blood disease of some kind sneaks up and touches the hem of Jesus garment. She believes that Jesus could heal her but she didn’t dare come straight to him to ask. For one thing it would have been inappropriate, as she was religiously unclean because of her bleeding. She would have placed Jesus in an awkward spot of basically asking him to become unclean as well were he to touch her.

So she hatches a plan whereby she snuck behind him and grabbed him as he walked by. But Jesus stops the caravan. He stops the whole processional. Why? Because he wants this woman to understand it wasn’t an accident. And that she was accepted by Him.

By doing so he elevates her position in the eyes of those who have disregarded her for her sickness. He calls her “Daughter, your faith has healed you!” How kind, how tender of Jesus to encourage and elevate this suffering woman in her time of healing.

The most clear picture to me of Jesus disregarding religious rules is found in John 4, where Jesus speaks with the Samaritan woman at the well.

John 4:9 “The woman was surprised,” Why? Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans. Men don’t talk to women. Rabbi’s don’t teach theology to women. She was expecting nothing but the cold shoulder from Jesus. Instead Jesus is willing to cross all three thresholds and begins to minister to her at the deepest levels of her heart.

He knew that she was thirsting… thirsting for love and acceptance and she was looking for it in all the wrong places – specifically, men.

Jesus begins to point her to the living water – God himself, who can quench the deepest spiritual thirst. It is here at this moment, that Jesus reveals something to her that even the disciples had not yet put together. This man was the Messiah, God’s anointed one. 26 Then Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!”

It is also at this time that the disciples show up and what do they murmur about off stage?
27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 

Have you ever really noticed this before? Both the woman and Jesus disciples are shocked when they see Jesus breaking religious rules in order to care for someone – specifically women – because these rules were most often used against women to oppress them, quite frankly.

Jesus breaks all the rules and shows his disciples and the world that Jesus is a friend to women. He loves them because they are human beings. And human beings matter to God.

The results in the case of the Samaritan woman are staggering to say the least. This woman runs into her town and becomes an evangelist. She becomes a minister…

Which leads me to my third proof- evidence that Jesus elevated women and treated them with respect and dignity at every turn.

3. Jesus elevates the Ministry of Women to unprecedented heights.

Check out these verses in Luke 8,
8 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, 2 along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; 3 Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

He took his disciples and a large group of influential women with him. Luke names them. And then he adds that there was a large group of wealthy women who were bankrolling Jesus’ ministry.

Isn’t that interesting? But what’s even more is the fact that the tour was a ministry tour. Preaching the good news about the availability of the Kingdom. The disciples and these women were all ministering with Jesus.

In a day when women were told they weren’t important enough to learn theology Jesus teaches them theology all the time.

In Luke 10 there is an interesting story about two sisters – Mary and Martha. Jesus comes to visit and Martha falls into the role of the average women in Jesus day. She heads off to the kitchen to prepare a meal, leaving Jesus to teach theology to the men.

But Martha’s sister Mary shuns that kind of traditional role, and instead sits at Jesus feet soaking in every word. Jesus never sends her away, and in fact commends her in front of Martha when Martha begins to complain. Jesus says, Mary has discovered the important thing – let her be.

It’s women who stay at the crucifixion when most of the men have run. The resurrected Jesus appears first to women.

At every turn we see Jesus elevating the role, the rights, the responsibilities of women. Oh, the Bible is anti-women. The bible degrades women, I read.

You know, will you give me just a tiny moment here to rant just a bit. A mini-mothers day rant.

People want to make an argument that the bible degrades women? The bible that says to honor your mother, to listen to her advice, to love your wives, to lay down your life for your wife, to stay true to your wife, that’s degrading?

You want to talk about degrading? Let’s talk about hollywood. You want to talk about degrading women?

You know – I keep trying to find a show that I can watch – we, like many of you, have streaming channels – Amazon. I started to watch with my daughter this week a show – sounded like a thriller – about a women who discovers clones. And it took about 20 minutes into episode one before this young actress was suddenly stripping naked for a scene that was completely inconsequential – and utterly degrading. Why? Because we want to show people we’re serious as a show.

But the Bible is degrading. Okay. I’m not buying it and neither should you. Because at every turn Jesus elevates women and treats them with respect and dignity.

He even compares God to a woman, in Luke 15 he says that God is like a woman who has lost some coins. He says that God has looked upon Jerusalem as a mother hen desires to gather her chicks.

Check out this interesting verse in Isaiah 49. After listening to Israel complain about feeling deserted by God, God responds this way…

“Never! Can a mother forget her nursing child?
    Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible,
    I would not forget you!

A Mothers Love for her child is unconditional. It’s indestructible! And God says, I want you to compare my love for you to a mothers love for her infant.

And even moreso – God is saying – See that mothers love for her newborn baby? It’s nothing compared to how I love you!

At every turn Jesus lifts up, honors, elevates women to their rightful place.

And so as we close our talk this morning, will you please allow me to ask you to be very intentional at some point in doing the same thing – to intentionally lift up your mom, to bless her.

This is a blue plate. One day I came home from work and Jody said, “Look at what I bought at Big Lots today.” And she went on to explain that every once in a while at dinner time someone would get the blue plate special. And if you got the blue plate then after dinner we went around the table and each of us took turns to bless the person with the blue plate.

Isn’t that a great idea? We’ve had the blue plate at least 13 years. I say that because Josh was too you to participate and so whenever it got to him one of our other kids would say on his behalf, “Thanks for changing my stinky diapers.”

But as the kids have gotten older they have been challenged to really think it through. And so we will say one thing that I appreciate about you is…

Do you have a blue plate special? Find something like it today and stick it in front of mom and let her know what about her you have grown to appreciate. There are no perfect moms, but there’s alot of good ones. And today is your opportunity to elevate her with your encouraging words.

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