Ministry (23): Messengers of the resurrection
Same value, same dignity, and the same mandate: this is based on God’s will as Creator. But ancient Judaism practised inequality. With Jesus Christ it was completely different: the gospel tells us about female students and disciples and other women who proclaimed His teaching to others.
Palestine was a patriarchally defined world. At the time of the New Testament, Jewish women usually had hardly any rights: neither the right to an occupation, nor to property, nor to education, nor to fight for their own rights in court. The woman was subject either to her father or to her husband. Beyond domestic or maternal duties, women played no role.
The events in Bethany are therefore all the more remarkable.
Jesus and the student
Jesus visited two of His female disciples: while Martha worked hard to make Him comfortable and serve Him, Mary “sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” (Luke 10: 39). Thus she assumes the typical position of a student and listens to Him teach, which Paul also mentions (“but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel”, Acts 22: 3).
This was extremely unusual for the time. An average rabbi would hardly have agreed to teach a woman. Yet Jesus not only taught the woman, but even encouraged and defended her desire to be taught: “But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10: 42).
Jesus and the preacher
In a jiffy, students can turn into preachers. This is shown by the incident at Jacob’s well just outside the gates of Sychar. There Jesus talked to and taught a Samaritan woman, a woman from the unloved Jewish sister nation, which was doubly unseemly for a rabbi. Especially since it was Jesus Himself who had approached her.
What Jesus said convinced the woman. She left her jug and ran the city and testified and proclaimed: “Come, see a man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” (John 4: 29) The effect was quite amazing: “And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified.”
Jesus obviously supported this missionary activity because John says further: “He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word.”
Jesus and His female disciples
Mary and the Samaritan woman are not isolated cases, far from it. The gospels speak of “certain women” (Luke 8:2) “who also followed Him” (Mark 15: 41). These include different Marys, for example, the one from the city of Magdala, the mother of James, or the wife of Clopas. But less common names are also mentioned: Joanna, Susanna, Salome, and “many others”, as the Bible says.
These women did not limit themselves to the passive role of listeners and disciples, but actively helped Jesus. They supported Him out of their own means (Luke 8: 3). In other words, the women provided financial support for the itinerant preacher and His disciples out of their own pocket.
Jesus and the messengers
In the end, women proved to be His most loyal supporters: they stuck with Jesus Christ and accompanied Him right to the foot of the cross. Men are hardly mentioned by name there. In contrast, “many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there” (Matthew 27: 55), some of whom are also specifically named. And finally, it was the women who took care of the body of Jesus after His death on the cross.
But above all, women were the first bearers of the Easter message, namely the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Depending on the gospel, they received the commission to announce it from the angels (Mark) or from the Lord Himself (John): “Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me” (Matthew 28: 10).
With this announcement of Jesus’ resurrection, the women did not spread just any news, but the central message of the Christian declaration of belief. Thereby they laid the foundation for everything that would later become church.
However, Jesus Christ only called men to be Apostles. Why? This question will be the subject of the next instalment of this series.
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