Women in Jesus' Actions
It was not only in what He taught, but also in how He related to women publicly that Jesus displayed a truly revolutionary attitude-in the sense that He was overthrowing the wrong social conventions of His day. Consider the following three incidents in His ministry, each of which involved a woman.
Jesus' very public ministry to the Samaritan woman at a well, recorded in John 4:1-42, contravened accepted practice for a Jewish male of His day. He not only talked to the woman in public, He instructed her and revealed Himself to her as the Messiah. The disciples' astonishment at Jesus' action is indicated in John 4:27a: "And upon this came his disciples, and marveled that he talked with the woman." Jesus did not follow the rabbinic dictum to not engage in public discourse with a woman. He always sought to minister to women, rather than ignore them, even if it meant risking the misunderstanding of his male disciples.
The case of the woman taken in adultery, recorded in John 7:53-8:11, provides another example of His compassionate attitude toward women. Jesus rebuked her accusers, who had conveniently ignored the guilty man. While not approving of her action ("go, and sin no more," Jn. 8:11), His tender dealing with her contrasted sharply with the harsh and hypocritical attitude of those who were so quick to pronounce the sentence of death upon her.
The incident in the house of Mary and Martha, recorded in Luke 10:38-42, provides yet another example of Jesus' practice of contravening the accepted social norms of His day regarding the instruction of women. Jesus not only took the time to instruct Mary, but His words to Martha indicate that Mary had actually "chosen that good part" (Lk. 10:42). While Jesus would never have condemned a woman for attending to household duties, He still commended Mary for desiring to study and learn the Word. The rabbis thought women were intellectually inferior and incapable of study; Jesus evidently thought otherwise.
In addition to these incidents in His ministry, it is noteworthy that women were the last ones at the cross, when all of the male disciples, except John, forsook their Master and fled. They were also the first ones at the tomb, when those same males were cowering in fear.
It was a woman whom Jesus chose to be the first witness to His resurrection. Mary Magdalene was the astonished recipient of this great privilege, recorded in Luke 14:1-10. He then commissioned her to testify to its truth. The rabbis did not believe women were reliable witnesses. Jesus thought otherwise. Do not forget, however, the reaction of the men when they heard the testimony of the women: "And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not" (Lk. 24:11).