When I got my first Bible in America, I took it home and searched every account of Jesus interacting with a woman. I wanted to be sure He wasn’t another religious leader who treated women with no respect, as a piece of property belonging to men of their family.
I heard my Iranian friend describe how her decision to leave Islam depended on the behavior of Jesus with women.
In various times together, I heard about her abusive father in Tehran, who abandoned his first wife and nine children to take a younger second wife, leaving them in utter poverty. Other tales of sexual harassment and permissible mistreatment of women by men in her home culture meant Christianity needed to offer something entirely different to get her attention and loyalty.
She found Jesus to be trustworthy as she read about his encounters with women in the male-dominated culture of His time. He proved that genuine care and redemption were available to all genders, all people, everywhere.
My friend surrendered her heart to Jesus and then shared with her younger sister the Truth that had changed her life. The younger woman left her graduate studies across the ocean to join her sister in a foreign, scary, yet wonderful world of Western civil rights freedom and even more, the love that the Christian faith offered, especially for women.
Here are four famous stories from the Bible describing Jesus’ respect for women that impacted my now ex-Muslim friends. Share them with beloved female friends that need freedom in Christ:
Samaritan Woman (John 4: 5-42)
The conversation between Jesus and the multi-partnered Samaritan woman was His longest recorded chat in the Bible.
He entered into religious, cultural, and deeply personal issues with her, leaving nothing unsaid. She was shocked that a Jewish man would push aside several racial and cultural norms to address her. First she responded in curiosity, then in eagerness to learn the full truth Jesus was offering in living water and true worship.
As He opened her heart to hope that she could be wanted, valued by such a prophet, such a man, she told everyone she could find the Good News Jesus gave her. The whole village saw the change in her and reached out to embrace Christ themselves through her testimony.
Martha (Luke 10:38-41; John 11, John 12:1-3)
Martha of Bethany and her siblings Mary and Lazarus were mentioned more often with Jesus than His own brothers or sisters.
Jesus talked to Martha about setting priorities of worship and being in the presence of the Lord over practical busyness. His intent was not to judge her but to encourage her to pursue a spirit-led life. Her gift of hospitality was appreciated by Jesus, but He desired her to aim for more than only household activity.
Liberating words for a woman in any culture.
When Lazarus died, Jesus took time to weep and teach with Martha. He declared to her that He was the resurrection and the life, one of the most outlandish claims ever made. He asked Martha if she believed this statement. Out of her love and close relationship with Jesus, she did not falter in her reply (John 11:27 NIV), “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Jesus proceeded to raise Lazarus from the dead and demonstrated not only His love for His friends, but His divine power and a preview of what was to happen to His own body.
Mary Magdalene (Matthew 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mark 15:40, 47; 16:1-19; Luke 8:2; 24:10; John 19:25; 20:1-18)
Many women named Mary interacted with Jesus, but this Mary from the town of Magdala was mentioned fourteen times in the Scriptures.
Jesus healed her afflicted, tormented soul. In gratitude she became a loyal disciple from that day forward. Mary Magdalene was one of the last people at the cross and first at the tomb three days later to be sure Jesus’ broken body was properly cared for.
Of all Jesus’ followers, predominately men, Mary Magdalene was the one He appeared to that wondrous morning in His resurrected state. He spoke her name when she did not immediately recognize Him standing before her in the garden. What a privilege and evidence of Jesus’ love for her to be the primary witness of His supreme act of overcoming death to save all people.
Mary, Mother of Jesus (Matthew 1; 2; 12:46; Luke 1; 2; John 2:1-11; 19:25; Acts 1:14)
Jesus’ mother Mary is the best-known woman from the Bible around the world.
She was not wealthy in worldly goods, only in humble, obedient faith to God which caused her to be selected to bear His Son, Jesus. Christ was raised by Mary in an atmosphere of reverence for God and belief in His plans for redeeming the world. Somehow this ordinary woman understood Jesus was her son and her Savior.
At the cross, Jesus made a final display of gratitude for the woman who gave her life in service to Him. While dying, Jesus instructed John, one of His closer companions, to care for Mary from this time forward. Amazing that He did not forget His mother while sacrificing Himself to save the entire world!
Equal Rights for Women Forever
Jesus came to the Earth in obedience to His Father for all women and all men and treated them equally.
After His resurrection, He told His followers that He was going back to heaven to prepare a place for them and all who place their faith in Him as Savior (John 14:2-3). His words and actions communicated clearly that Jesus saw women as valuable as men.
A local church has embraced my Persian friends, helping them navigate American culture and understand the Bible. Slowly they are gaining trust for others, even selected men.
Still they know there is no other man they will ever trust like Jesus. Because of their faith in Christ, they have a new life on Earth and a better one to come in heaven with Him forever.