Remembering Jesus’ Revolutionary Work during Women’s History Month
Since 1911, March 8 has been recognized as International Women’s Day. In 1987, Congress proclaimed the month of March each year to be National Women’s History Month. These occasions rightly recognize incredible achievements of women in national and world history. They also celebrate the amazing contributions women make to families, communities, societies, and cultures across the world.
These official and important recognitions provide an opportunity to consider how much Jesus recognized and valued women in his earthly ministry. Jesus made a special effort to meet and relate to the Samaritan woman at the well whose personal history had stigmatized and isolated her from others in her community. That woman became the first in her community to learn Jesus’ identity as the promised Messiah. When Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, sat at Jesus’ feet while he was teaching his disciples instead helping with the duties of hospitality, he did not send her away or refuse her company as the custom of the time instructed. Instead, he welcomed her as his student and commended her for choosing “the one necessary thing.” The Gospel of Luke reports that women were among the disciples who followed Jesus from town to town, supporting him in his itinerant ministry. Jesus treated women he encountered with dignity, equality, and respect at a time when the powers and social structures of the world separated most women from the public sphere. On the day of his resurrection, Jesus entrusted the glorious good news of his victory over sin and death to the women who came first to the tomb to honor him and found the stone rolled away.
Whenever we read about social issues in the Bible, we can read for the positions that are described in the text. That is important. It is also possible and important, however, to note not only the positions taken on social issues, but also the DIRECTION in which those positions in the Bible are moving. It is clear from Jesus’ actions and interactions with women that he moved in the direction of recognizing the dignity, worth, and equality of women as created in the image of God and precious in God’s sight. The actions and example of Jesus sparked a revolution in the status of women that, though it has been far too slow to take hold, has made a monumental difference in world history. During Women’s History Month, we can be grateful for the changes that Jesus initiated, but also mindful of the continuing need to follow his example and his direction in our own day and time.