Lately, the definition of a woman has been getting a lot of attention in our culture. It can be hard to drown out all of the media and opinions, but it's what we need to do when it comes to any topic surrounding identity. As my husband likes to do, we need to go back to the W.W.J.D. mentality.
When Jesus walked the earth, there was certainly not a Women's History Month like our nation celebrated several months ago. Culturally speaking, women's history wasn't even a thing. Even in the Bible, I'd say most times the women were identified by their husbands; no name given for them, just "the wife of so-and-so". But y'all, that's one of the great things about Jesus; He was —and still is— counter-cultural. One morning around the time of Women's History Month, the passage of scripture in my devotion came from Luke 8. In the ESV translation, the passage is headed, "Women Accompanying Jesus". So naturally, with Women's History Month, and all the politics and social media kerfuffle around it, I started thinking like my husband (scary, I know!), and I applied the W.W.J.D. lens to the whole concept of how women should be honored and recognized and treated. So let's just dive right in! Here is the passage in Luke 8:
'Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.' (ESV)
First of all, I just love that Jesus had women who followed Him. In that culture, Jewish girls didn't even get to go to school and learn scripture like the boys did. Most of the time, they didn't learn to read or write at all, and they certainly didn't have the option of being students under a Rabbi. But here we get to know that none of that mattered to Jesus. He didn't follow what culture and religion deemed acceptable at the time. Instead, He allowed women to follow Him just as men did.
Second of all, I love that Luke actually mentions some of the women by name. Even Joanna. He does still say that she's the wife of Chuza, but he doesn't just identify her by that. He actually writes her name, giving her an identity of her own. Again, it's just counter-cultural.
There are so many other instances in the Bible where Jesus interacts with women. The woman at the well (John 4:1-29), Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), the woman who washes His feet with her tears (Luke 7:36-50), etc. However, the one that stands out to me the most is this: after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to women first. I firmly believe that Jesus never did anything without thoughtful intention, so I know there was a reason behind this. I don't know the reason for sure, but I do believe that it was no mistake that Jesus chose women to be the first to witness the biggest miracle in the Gospels. It shows their importance and their value that He revealed Himself to them first.
Please understand that I fully believe that the Bible is also very clear on the unique roles of men and women in the world, but that is another topic entirely. The point of this post is simply to say this: Jesus valued women. Women walked with Him, learned from Him, were healed by Him, were saved by Him, and were there with Him in every part of His ministry, from preaching in the cities and the villages to being raised from the dead. Jesus never asked the women to prove themselves as equal to the men either. He just valued them for who they were. So if Jesus valued women as women, then I think it's safe to say we need to do the same. We, as women, do not need to do all the things that men do or be all the things that men are. True empowerment as women comes from embracing womanhood and understanding that we don't have to be just like men in order to be valued just like men. Ladies and gentlemen, find your identity in Jesus. When we do that, we will all see the value in ourselves and in each other.