"Jesus Never Tells Me I'm 'Just a Girl'"
Jo Vitale takes a look at Jesus' view toward women, noting his counter-cultural attitude.
We're celebrating International Women's Day today, March 8, with this meaningful talk from Jo Vitale that looks at Jesus' counter-cultural attitude toward women. This clip is an excerpt from a longer talk where Jo discussed the question, "Is the Bible good news for women?" Click here to watch.
Please Note: Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio in the video before quoting in print.
"Jesus never tells me that I'm just a girl. Far from it. For example, the influence of Greek culture on Jewish thought at that time had led to the widespread belief that women succumbed to sexual temptation far more easily than men and therefore, to catch sight of a beautiful woman was to find yourself in grave danger. As one Jewish law code actually later stated, "It's more dangerous to walk behind a woman than it is to walk behind a lion." And it was in that culture that if a man was sexually immoral with a woman, then it wasn't the man who was blamed for crossing the line, but actually it was the woman on account of her powers of seduction that led him astray. And it seems kind of tragic that 2,000 years have passed and we're still tangled up in our culture in those same painful arguments.
And yet, it was into that context that Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount in which he turns these cultural assumptions completely on their head when he says, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).
Any man who heard Jesus speak those words would have fallen off his chair because Jesus is teaching the exact opposite of what his culture affirmed. Far from blaming women, Jesus' challenge here is to recognize that actually lust, it originates in our own hearts and we need to take responsibility for it and we're called to a higher standard of seeing other people not as sexual objects but as human beings equally made in the image of God.
And given today's public discourse around female opportunity, Jesus' attitude towards female education is also striking, particularly when he lived at a time when the education of women was so strongly discouraged that Jewish law stated "If any man gives his daughter a knowledge of the law, it's as though he taught her lechery." It's as though he taught her wrongdoing.
And yet, when Martha summons her sister Mary away from where Jesus is teaching in their home and back into the kitchen, Jesus actually prevents Mary from leaving. Instead, he says that Mary has chosen what is better and it won't be taken away from her. The text even describes Mary as sitting at Jesus' feet. A well-known symbolic statement for that time is that anyone who sat at the feet of a rabbi was counted among his most honored and closest disciples.
In fact, far from stifling the voices of women, Jesus even allows women to be the first witnesses to his resurrection at a time when the testimony of women was considered so unreliable, it wasn't even taken as valid in a Jewish court of law and yet Jesus allows the credibility of his resurrection, the most significant historical event of all time, to rest upon their witness.
Time and again, throughout the Gospels, we see Jesus Christ going up against culturally oppressive attitudes towards women and overturning them.