Sabtu, 12 Juli 2008
Jesus' Treatment of Women
by John Kohlenberger
Two New Testament texts run radically counter to the culture of the early church. Unfortunately, they also run counter to the culture of much of the contemporary church, though they are foundational to the values and mission of Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE). The first is a statement from Jesus in the context of the disciples squabbling over their relative greatness. The second is from Paul to a church trying to live the Christian life by laws and traditions instead of by the Spirit and through faith
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:25-28 TNIV; also Mark 10:42-45)
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28 TNIV)
Scholars often point out that Paul’s statement reverses a well-known Jewish prayer that assigns blessedness (and lack thereof) to ethnicity, social class and gender: “Blessed be God that he did not make me a Gentile; blessed be God that he did not make me ignorant [or a slave]; blessed be God that he did not make me a woman” (Tosefta Berakoth 7:18). Paul may have had this blessing in mind when he wrote to the Galatians, while under attack by Judaizers, but he could have easily documented his dismissal of Jewish or Roman hierarchy by citing Jesus’ treatment of women.
Destined to Cause the Falling and Rising of Many
The birth of Jesus was surrounded by many unique and miraculous events, accompanied by wondrous words from angels and humans, both male and female. Simeon’s statement to Mary at Jesus’ circumcision, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel . . .” (Luke 2:34 tniv), is a lens through which we can view Jesus’ encounters with people. Interestingly, every woman that Jesus encounters is raised in her spiritual and physical state as well as in her social status.
Neither Jew nor Gentile
Though Jesus’ primary mission was to “the lost sheep of Israel” (Matt. 15:24), his love and redemption were not limited to one ethnic group. On the road from Judea to Galilee, Jesus encountered a Samaritan woman from the town of Sychar. She was amazed that a Jewish man would talk with a Samaritan woman (John 4:9); his disciples at that point were amazed that he would talk with a woman at all (John 4:27). Although Jesus pointed out her sins of adultery and promiscuity (John 4:17-18) and the ignorance of her religious beliefs (John 4:22), he accepted her as she was: a woman, a Samaritan, a sinner. He spoke to her with words of Spirit and truth, and revealed to her—first of all people in John’s Gospel—that he was the Messiah, the great “I am” (John 4:23-26). In that encounter she was raised from sinner to saint, and her social status skyrocketed as many in her village believed in Jesus through her testimony (John 4:29).
She was amazed that a Jewish man would talk with a Samaritan woman; his disciples at that point were amazed that he would talk with a woman at all.
Farther north, in the region of Tyre and Sidon, Jesus encountered a Canaanite woman who pleaded for her daughter, who was possessed by an unclean spirit. Addressing him as “Lord, Son of David” (Matt. 15:22), she acknowledged his social status and ethnicity, which were viewed as superior. At first he appears to dismiss her on the grounds of ethnicity (Matt. 15:24), but her persistence and wise interaction lead him to commend her great faith and grant her request (Matt. 15:28). In Matthew’s narrative, Jesus had just rebuked the Jewish leadership for their blindness, for having hearts far from God, for not understanding clean versus unclean (Matt. 15:1-20). But this Gentile woman saw Jesus for who he was and, with a word, Jesus made her and her daughter clean and brought them near.
Neither Slave nor Free
With a touch and a word, Jesus brought back to life the daughter of Jairus, the leader of a synagogue (Matt. 9:18-19, 23-25; Mark 5:22-24, 35-43; Luke 8:41-42, 49-56). But Jesus did not limit his contact to the upper classes of free people. On the way to Jairus’ house, he allowed himself to be touched by a woman who had been unclean for twelve years because of an unceasing flow of blood (Matt. 9:20-22; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 8:43-48). Though cut off from normal society and public worship for more than a decade, this woman still had faith. The power that went out from Jesus healed her physically and restored her spiritual and social status.
While dining with a Pharisee, Jesus accepted the touch of a sinful woman, who washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair (Luke 7:36-38). In the Pharisee’s eyes, this shocking display proved that Jesus was not a prophet (Luke 7:39). Jesus contrasted the actions of the Pharisee and the woman to reveal the man’s lack of love and social graces, causing his status to fall (Luke 7:40-47). But the woman, who demonstrated love and faith, was raised spiritually and socially and went away forgiven and restored (“in peace” Luke 7:48, 50).
But the woman, who demonstrated love and faith, was raised spiritually and socially and went away forgiven and restored.
In the patriarchal world of ancient Israel, women of the lower classes could not easily be self-sufficient. Widows were a needy group, especially widows with no other family. In Nain, Jesus encountered a widow who had just lost her only son: her only family and only means of support, as far as we know (Luke 7:11-12). Moved with deep compassion, Jesus raised her son from the dead, lifting her spirits and restoring her family (Luke 7:13-15).
Neither Male nor Female
Everything Jesus did with men, according to the Gospels, he did with women as well. While it is true that the Twelve, the apostles, were all male (Matt. 10:2-4; Mark 3:14-19; Luke 6:13-16), this group was assembled to constitute the New Israel, reflecting the twelve patriarchs of the historic Israel. Many women were counted among Jesus’ disciples (Matt. 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-41; Luke 8:1-3). In fact, the first witnesses of the resurrection were women, who were sent by angels and by Jesus as the first messengers of this good news (Matt. 28:5-10; Mark 16:1-7; Luke 24:1-11; John 20:11-18)—though the men did not accept their divine commission at first (Luke 24:11, 22).
Unlike the rabbis, Jesus regularly used women as positive examples in his teaching. He described the kingdom as being like yeast a woman mixed into dough (Matt. 13:33). He explained that prostitutes can enter the kingdom as believers ahead of the priests and elders (Matt. 21:31-32). He also pointed out that Elijah was sent to a Gentile widow (Luke 4:24-26). When speaking of his mission to save even one lost sinner, he used the example of a shepherd finding a lost sheep and a woman finding a lost coin (Luke 15:1-10). Further, Jesus used women as negative examples only two times, both in his teachings about watchfulness: the parable of the foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) and the historical example of Lot’s wife (Luke 17:32). Finally, Jesus taught both men and women, whether in large public settings (Matt. 14:13-21; 15:29-39) or in a more intimate setting (Luke 10:38-39).
How wonderful it would be if the church sat at Jesus’ feet and learned from his example!
Jesus came not to be served, but to serve (Matt. 20:28). In the Gospels, no men ever offered service to Jesus, but angels (Matt. 4:11) and women did. In fact, Jesus’ major support group was made up of the women who followed him from Galilee and cared for his needs (Matt. 27:55; Mark 15:41), from Joanna the aristocrat to Mary Magdalene from the lower classes (Luke 8:1-3). Jesus accepted and even depended upon their service, though the closest he came to rebuking a woman was when he told Martha that it was better to sit at his feet and learn than to fret over the culturally-expected service of hospitality (Luke 10:38-45).
How wonderful it would be if the church sat at Jesus’ feet and learned from his example! Perhaps we too would develop the great faith of a Gentile woman, demonstrate the great love of a sinful woman, and devote our lives to proclaiming the good news of our risen Lord like the courageous women who witnessed the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. Perhaps we would learn to agree with Paul that we must consider others as better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), to submit instead of demanding submission (Eph. 5:21), and to reject the class system and hierarchy of the fallen world in favor of celebrating our oneness in Christ (Gal. 3:28).
Ten then, but now?
Reading: Malachi 3:1-12
"God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor 9:7b)
One of the commonest questions of Christians is, Is tithing compulsory? This is the question of a thankless heart. For all that God has bestowed on us, the tithe, that is the one tenth, is the minimum we can give Him to thank and honour Him.
Abraham tithed when there was no law of tithing (Gen 14:20). His was a voluntary act of thanksgiving. His grandson Jacob voluntarily promised God, "Of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You" (Gen 28:22).
This voluntary practice became a law of God to His people when the Nation of Israel was constituted. The Law given through Moses says, "All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord's. It is holy to the Lord" (Lev 27:30).
The Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus' day were tithing of even "mint and anise and cummin," but they left out justice and mercy and faith. So He taught them that the act of tithing must be done in the attitude of love (Mt 23:23).
We have the New Covenant following the death of Christ, and under this there is no legalistic teaching on tithing. Because the New Covenant is a "better" Covenant, better methods of giving are taught: Cheerful giving (2 Cor 9:7), Liberal giving (2 Cor 8:2), Sacrificial giving (2 Cor 8:3). Therefore for a Christian today tithing is a good place to "start," but he must grow in it. We must give and give and keep on giving until it affects us! That which costs us nothing is worth nothing (2 Sam 24:24).
A poor widow gave away all she had (Mk 12:41-44). Mary poured out all her savings (Mk 14:3-9). Jesus praised both of them profusely. Going from "tithe" to "total" is part of Christian growth (2 Cor 8:7). Those who don't even give a tenth of their income to God are called thieves and robbers (Mal 3:8).
We have entered second half of this year today. If in your life and family you don't have the habit of setting aside atleast ten percent of your income for God, begin today. Don't start spending immediately after you receive your salary. Kneel down before God, thank Him for His blessing, set aside His portion, and after that go ahead with your payments and purchase. This is a healthy habit.