A few years ago I bought an ill-fitting black t-shirt online. Despite the fit issues, I became fond of the shirt because in hot pink print it says: “This is what a feminist looks like.” Today, on this International Women’s Day, I’ve been reflecting on Jesus' views of women.
Can I point to a specific place in the Bible where Jesus says, “I believe in equal rights for women”? No. But I know to my core that he’s a feminist. I know this because he’s my friend, because I’ve listened to his teachings, and because I’ve read first-hand accounts of his actions. Jesus’ entire life bears witness to his love and care for all, especially people who were treated as less than worthy, people like women.
There are numerous examples in the Bible that I can point to prove my point.
- Jesus was an ally to the woman caught in adultery (as I discuss in this post).
- Jesus not only allowed but encouraged Mary, Martha’s sister, to sit in a group of mostly men to listen to his teaching, something that would've been taboo in their culture.
- Jesus first revealed his identity as the son of God to the woman at the well.
- Jesus compares himself to a mother hen when he laments over Israel and its impending destruction.
- Jesus had numerous female disciples, including Mary Magdalene, one of the only female followers who the male Gospel writers thought to name.
- When Jesus was resurrected, he first appeared to a group of women. (The fact that the men didn’t believe the women and went to check the empty tomb for themselves is a reflection of their bias, not Jesus'.)
- Perhaps the choice of a woman to be the vessel to co-create the Lord in her womb is the greatest evidence of all that Jesus is a feminist. Reverence for Mary is one area where the Catholic Church definitely has it right.
Women were present and significant at every step of Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. It's clear to me that Jesus respected and protected women, that he had female friends, and that he honored women as life-givers and partners in ministry.
There are no female Gospel writers in the Bible. The women who followed Jesus during his lifetime are silenced by illiteracy and by a patriarchal culture. We don’t know what they thought of Jesus or how they helped his ministry. The Bible is also silent on Jesus’ appearance. We don’t know what he looked like or what he wore. But I do know this: my ill-fitting black t-shirt fits Jesus to a T.