This week, Jessica McKillip shares what she learned in her Tuesday Morning study at Equip Her. She was part of the Let Women Teach Us class taught by Kathy Bowman.
I was hesitant to sign up for the “Let Women Teach Us” Bible study because often in our society today, if you focus on one group, it’s at the detriment of another. I didn’t want this to be a study of women in conjunction with a bashing of men. Thankfully, it wasn’t!
Since my hesitation was wrapped firmly in our 21st century culture, I did a little research to remind myself that my culture was not the same culture that the women of the Bible would have experienced. What was their culture? Theirs was a culture in which men were valued and women were not. Sandra Richter in her study on Ruth says women moved through society as their father’s daughter, then their husband’s wife, and finally as their son’s mother. If they did not have any of these qualifiers they really had no place in society.
We see the low value women were given in some historical writings. Rabbi Eliezer wrote, “If any man gives his daughter a knowledge of the Law, it is as though he taught her lechery” (i.e. lustfulness) (Matthews). Another example is from the teachings of Jose ben Johanan of Jerusalem, “He who talks much with womankind brings evil upon himself and neglects the study of the Law and at the last will inherit Gehenna” (Matthews). Gehenna was a place where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire to other gods (Jerimiah 7:31). Afterwards it was cursed (Jeremiah 19:2-6). “In New Testament Judaism as practiced by the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, women were held responsible for the evil in the world” (Matthews). “Jewish rabbinic law held that the testimony of 100 women is not equal to that of one man” (Matthews).
So, in light of those cultural norms, I’ll highlight two of the women we studied. In these examples, we get to see Jesus interact with two specific women and he interacts with them in a way that surprises and confuses those around him.
In Mark 5:21-34 we see Jesus amid a large crowd that is pressing in on him. A woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years reaches out to touch Jesus’ cloak hoping for healing. She is immediately healed. Jesus turns and asks who touched him. By stopping, Jesus will acknowledge to the crowd that an unclean woman touched him making him unclean as well. Despite the expectation that Jesus would be viewed as unclean, he makes her act known. He not only acknowledges her, he calls her daughter. This woman who had suffered at the hands of physicians and been outcast from society was called “daughter” by Jesus. Jesus was willing to be identified with an unclean woman in order to make her whole. After healing the hemorrhaging woman, Jesus goes on to heal Jairus’ daughter, a twelve-year-old girl. Jesus is showing his disciples and the society around him that contrary to the culture of the day he values each and every person.
In John 4:1-30 we see Jesus go out of his way to spend time with a despised woman in a despised country. Jesus meets the woman at the well in Samaria drawing water alone, most likely because she was not accepted by the other women. Jesus not only talks to her, but asks her for a drink of water. (A Samaritan woman was unclean, therefore, her vessel would also be unclean.) Jesus offers the woman living water; water that, if she drinks of, she will never thirst again. She is still uncertain of what Jesus means, but Jesus tells her personal details about her life and finally reveals himself to her. She says that she knows the Messiah is coming, and Jesus responds, “I who speak to you am He.” (v.26). She returns to the town and, because her testimony was so powerful, the men of the city come to the well to hear from Jesus and many believed.
Our study wasn’t just a study of women throughout the Bible. It was a study of the hand of God on each of their lives. God valued each of them individually. They each were responsible for listening to God, obeying God, or reaching out to God . . . or not. (Sapphira did not, and she was judged individually, not as a result of her husband’s actions, but her own. Acts 4:32-5:11). We can each be like the hemorrhaging woman or the woman at the well. We can feel like we’re an outcast of society, unclean, discarded, or lonely, but by bravely seeking Jesus we can be loved by Him. We can be called “daughter.”
Matthews, Alice. “How Jesus Discipled Women.” July 13, 2017 http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2017/july/how-jesus-discipled-women.html. Accessed 2 April 2019.
“Ruth Bible Study: Session 2 Sandra Richter.” YouTube, uploaded by Seedbed, 18, Jauary 2018, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h_HVSMtAfac&t=1318s. Accessed 2 April 2019.