A Jesus for Women
Pastor Duane Smets
May 28th, 2017
I. Feminists for Jesus
II. Forgiveness from Jesus
III. Friends of Jesus
One of the main ways we experience the leadership of Jesus in our church is by listening to Him and learning from Him from what He actually said that is recorded in the Bible. We believe God instructed various men to write down what Jesus said and did so that for all time we might hear from Him and follow Him.
So we’ve been doing that this year through Dr. Luke’s record of Jesus and it’s been great fun. Each section and each week in his book really addresses unique people and ways where Jesus engages and shows us what God is like, who we are as human beings, our value and worth and how the things wrong with the world and ourselves can be made right through Him.
This week we come upon a section where Luke highlights the important place of women in Jesus ministry. If you were here and remember back from the very beginning of the book, Luke’s thesis is that Jesus is for all peoples, all races, all ages, all places and for both genders.
Thus far in the book Luke has been subtly noting the elevation of women in Jesus life and ministry with the importance given to Mary, Jesus’ mother and her words, Elizabeth, Jesus’ aunt and her words, Anna the prophetess and her words. Now, here in chapter 7 and the beginning of chapter 8 Luke comes right out and says some things about the crucial and significant role women played in Jesus’ ministry and he tells the story of how one woman became a disciple of Jesus.
We’ll talk about in depth in a minute but what you got to know up front is what Jesus did was radical. Women in the first century were seen as property, to be seen and not heard and until Jesus, no philosopher, rabbi or teacher would ever publicly take on women as disciples.
So what we’re going to see today is how Jesus confronted the social practices of the day and restored women to their place of dignity and value as females made in the image of God who have immense worth and critical roles to play in our world.
More and more as I look out on the cultural landscape of today, it seems to me that we are increasingly living in a time which very much reflects the way things were in the culture of Jesus’ day and age.
Today, men in America don’t wear robes and such but like in Jesus’ day there were many different gods and religious belief systems and there was tension and fighting over that. There was strong animosity and prejudice and segregation between races, particularly among Jews and Gentiles. Police brutality from Roman soldiers abusing their authority was common place. And women were suppressed and were treated unfairly and unjustly. Sound familiar?
Today we’re talking about women. This year in our country, perhaps in response to a female losing the presidential race to a man who’s made grotesque and misogynistic comments about women and their body parts, there’s been a particular emphasis on women and their rights.
The annual women’s march this year was the largest one ever with 2.6 million people gathering at the capital to protest, making it the largest single day protest in US history. Prominent female voices like Jennifer Lawrence have been speaking up about unequal pay and opportunities in the workplace. Meanwhile, the porn industry which is built on the objectification of the female body continues to grow and be one of the most profitable businesses in the country.
So yeah. This is a big deal and I think what Jesus has to say about it is extremely relevant. Well, let’s go ahead and read the text, acknowledge it’s goodness from and pray over our time in it.
I’ll say this too. I want to personally ask for grace from you. I realize I’m a guy up here talking about women and some of the stuff we’re talking about today might be better coming from a woman. But I’m the guy who God has placed here and this is my job. So I’m going to do the best I can. This isn’t the first time I’ve ever preached about women’s issues and roles and I think every time I have, no matter how sensitive and careful I’ve gone about it, I haven’t said something just right and upset some people. So I’m just personally asking for you all to have a little grace on me today, I’m not Jesus, so I’m not perfect. But my goal today is to point to Jesus’ goodness and how He elevates and values women. He’s “A Jesus For Women.” Alright, let’s read the Bible.
One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and took his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”
41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
8:1 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, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
– Luke 7:36-8:3
• Pastoral Declaration: This is the Word of the Lord.
• Congregational Response: Thanks Be To God.
• Pastoral Prayer
Alright, what I want to do today is actually work backward through the text, starting with the three verses in chapter 8 and then the story of this particular woman and then look at the larger picture of what we learn here about what our relationships with “sinners” is supposed to look like. So I’ve got three points for us to walk through that, “Feminists For Jesus”, “Forgiveness From Jesus” and “Friends Of Jesus” and my take home line today is simply a little twist on my sermon title, “Jesus is for women.”
I. Feminists for Jesus
With this first point, I want us to notice some things said about the three women who are named and honored here at the beginning of chapter 8.
First, Mary Magdalene. The Bible doesn’t tell us what these evil spirits did to her and what infirmities she had that Jesus healed her of. What the Bible does tell us is that in response to Jesus’ grace in her life, she became one of His most devoted followers and disciples.
When we talk about “disciples” and when you study that word and how it is used, there are basically three kinds or levels of discipleship.
There’s the first tier, the “official disciples” of whom there were only twelve and who were hand selected by Jesus to enter this three-year apprenticeship program with him. Then there’s the second tier, which we’ll call “devoted disciples.” They are those who heard Jesus message and became devoted followers.
Then there’s a third group let’s call “temporary disciples”. This group is a group that followed him around for a little while, interested but then eventually left because Jesus said some things that were too hard or difficult for them to accept or believe.
Mary belongs to this second group of “devoted disciples” and the Bible gives her a very special place in the story of Jesus.
First, when Jesus died on the cross, all Jesus’ official disciples abandoned him out of disappointment and fear for their lives. But guess who didn’t leave? Mary Magdalene. She was there watching (Mark 15:40).
Then after Jesus died and they took His body down and buried Him, guess who followed the whole way along? Mary Magdalene. She stayed with Jesus to the very end until they closed the tomb door (Mark 15:47).
Then, in perhaps the biggest honor placed on any of Jesus’ disciples, guess who is the very first person Jesus shows Himself to when He rises from the dead? Mary Magdalene! She’s the first person Jesus speaks to. She was weeping and Jesus standing behind her calls her name, “Mary!” And she turns around embracing Jesus so hard, He basically says, “You’re hurting me” and tells her to go tell the other disciples. Which she does saying, “I have seen the Lord! (John 20:11-18).”
The risen Jesus showing Himself to Mary first is a really big deal. It’s actually one of the best arguments for the authenticity and accuracy of the story because you see in the first century a woman’s testimony was considered unreliable. So a woman could not give a testimony in court. If the story of Jesus and His resurrection was a made up myth, then you don’t have a woman being the one who first discovers it. That would work against you.
So you see, Mary Magdalene, a woman, actually turns out to be Jesus’ best disciple. She wins!
Next, we’ve got Joanna. She’s the wife of Chuza and is Herod’s household manager. That’s a big deal. Herod was the Jewish King! And she is managing his household. Typically that would mean she oversees and is running all his staff and landholding properties. That’s a big job!
Then there’s Susanna, who we don’t know much about other than that she had money and was generous with it. Verse 3 says she provided for Jesus financially out of her means. Jesus’ ministry, just like the ministry of our church, took money. Money enables the mission to move forward and it requires people who have money to give a portion of it to help the ministry of Jesus happen. So Susanna is a very generous person.
The picture of Joanna and Susanna is much like the type of woman Proverbs 31 in the Bible describes. I think it would be fitting today to read that passage as it describes in Proverbs 31:10-31,
“An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.12 She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.13 She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands. 14 She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. 15 She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.16 She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.17 She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong. 18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. 19 She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle. 20 She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. 21 She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet. 22 She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple. 23 Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. 24 She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant. 25 Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. 26 She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. 27 She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.”
This woman is off the hook! I mean she’s a realtor, a cook, an entrepreneur, makes good money, she’s a good mom, a loving wife, she works out, she’s beautiful, kind, funny, gracious, respected. I mean whew! She’s incredible.
I can’t believe she married me! Serious. This is how I feel about my wife. Other than that snow thing because she hates the snow, she’s got it going on!
In all seriousness, I think the picture the Bible gives here of a true and godly feminist is so large, what it is saying is there’s hardly anything a woman can’t do. It’s saying that a woman is highly valuable and should be free to put her gifts and talents to work and be who God made her to be.
Our country has come a long way from the time where women were not allowed to vote and were expected to just always be at home with the kids cooking and cleaning. But just like when there’s been a history of injustice, akin to the history of racial prejudice in our country, there’s a lasting imprint and attitude that carries over and continues to affect the feelings of women and the treatment of women today.
Now because of that, in reaction, we have what is known as “feminism” in our culture. It can mean different things to different people, but basically, it’s a movement or ideology meant to swing the pendulum back giving women equal rights and equal standing. Which at its heart is a good thing. God created both male and female in His image and both are equally valuable and honored in His sight.
What happens however with some feminist talk, I think, is that the pendulum swings back a little too far wherein the attempt to restore the value and dignity of women it does so at the expense of gender and those God-given distinctions and roles.
One example of this is a popular book going around right now titled, Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. I read the first three chapters of her book this week. She rejects the complete inspiration and authority of the Bible and reimagines a different kind of God and different kind of relationship between man and woman.
“Patriarchy is not God’s vision for humanity.”
She calls herself an egalitarian and says she believes,
“Leadership is not determined by gender but by the gifting and calling of the Holy Spirit.”
The problem with that is that God calls Himself “Father”, the divine patriarch. Jesus instructs us to pray to Him as such. Within the Holy Trinity, each person has distinct and different roles, but all are equal and valuable. And regardless of whether we like it or not our roles as men and women, that the Holy Spirit gives to us do have something to do with gender.
Men cannot have babies. That’s a role defined by gender. And God, very clearly, in numerous places calls men to lovingly lead their homes, protecting and providing for their wife and children. Women do want to be loved and cared for and that’s why the Bible is hard on men, calling them not to abdicate or abuse that role. It’s when they do that women get hurt and feel they must then protect themselves from male leadership.
In my opinion, there’s a much better book out there called Accidental Feminism, written by Courtney Reissig. I wish she were here cause I’d just have her up on stage to talk to us then. But I’ll read what she writes.
“Although many Christians wouldn’t identify themselves as feminists, the reality is that the feminist movement has influenced us all in profound ways. We unconsciously reflect our culture’s ideas related to womanhood rather than what’s found in the Bible.
I’m an accidental feminist. For many years I unwittingly possessed some heart attitudes that made me a classic feminist.
I believe many women today find themselves confused, just like I was as an early Christian. Part of my rebellion against things that I deemed too domestic or feminine was rooted in my misunderstanding of what it means to be a Christian woman. What exactly does it look like to be a Christian wife? Is it baking cookies, keeping an immaculate home, and being a mom to five kids? What about the woman who is a baking novice or, like me, a baking failure? Is womanhood only about the quiet and sensitive types? What about the woman who has a career? The woman who can’t have kids or simply doesn’t want a 'quiverful'? What about the woman who doesn’t feel gifted to teach in her local church? Is there a place for her? What about the woman who does? Does she? What about the vast number of single women in our churches today? Is there room for these sisters?
Caricatures of womanhood are what get us into trouble. When we reduce womanhood to the tasks we accomplish, or cultural expectations, or talents and personality traits, we are doing a disservice to women everywhere. Recovering from feminism and embracing God’s idea of womanhood is far more than a throwback to a 1950s television show.
What I failed to understand was that true freedom cannot be found in independence from authority at all. True freedom is found in understanding our Creator and how he wants us to live. True freedom is knowing that this world has meaning, and we are created for a purpose. True freedom is knowing that God had a good design when he created us male and female.”
I think that’s helpful. I hope it is. Essentially all I’m saying is that Jesus is for women. He is for women being truly free and truly feminine to the fullest. I talked to my wife this week about this and she said that basically what all women struggle with is either fear that she won’t be taken care of, guilt that she’s done something wrong and shame that she’s not enough.
What Jesus does is elevate women, taking the fear away because He’s trustworthy, covering and dying for any guilt, and casting out shame because He loves women in who they are deep down. Jesus is for women.
Well, this has been a long point, I pray it's been helpful. Let’s transition now and look into this story where we see Jesus elevate this woman, taking her fear, guilt, and shame and restoring her, our second main point, “Forgiveness from Jesus.”
II. Forgiveness from Jesus
Okay, so first let me set the scene. Likely after one of the days when Jesus was teaching in the synagogue church, this guy named Simon (not Simon Peter), who was Pharisee, meaning one of the religious leaders, invites Jesus over to his house for lunch to talk and discuss Jesus’ teachings.
These kind of lunches were common, usually on an outdoor patio of sorts, where they would lay down at a low table, leaning on one arm and eating with the other, with their feet behind them and they would talk. The public was welcome to these kinds of lunches, to stand at the courtyard wall and listen to the discussion.
During the meal, this woman enters in. And what you’ve got to know is this woman is a prostitute. Luke calls her “a woman of the city” which means she works the streets. Simon the Pharisee calls her a “sinner”, a euphemism for whore here and condemns Jesus for His kindness to her despite “who and what sort of woman this is”.
So imagine with me this scene. This woman had heard Jesus teach, heard Him speak of forgiveness and grace and restoration for anyone, regardless of what they found themselves in. Something happens in her heart and she finds herself believing in Jesus and His message, so she goes home, grabs a jar of alabaster oil, worth a whole year of wages…all the money she made from giving her body to men who used and abused her. She grabs the jar and goes to the luncheon.
At first, she’s standing at the courtyard wall, holding her jar. She’s looking at Jesus, listening to Jesus, believing and she’s overcome. She tries not to cry but as she’s thinking about all the wrong things she’s done, giving her body and soul away, she’s overcome and bursts into tears. Tears of relief, gratitude and joy towards Jesus for the mercy she found in Him.
She goes to His dirty feet crying, breaks the jar of oil pouring it over his feet. She lets her hair down, which was illegal to do in public, so she gives away any reputation and job and begins kissing and drying Jesus feet, wholly casting herself on His mercy. In an act of pure humility, she entrusts herself to Jesus. All the years she spent kissing other men, now her lips kiss the feet of her Savior.
Jesus doesn’t stop her. He could’ve. Social rules would say He should have. But He doesn’t. He welcomes her and tells her,
“Your sins are forgiven. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.”
This week as I was studying I was trying to get into the heart and mindset of how this woman felt. No one ever plans to become a prostitute or a stripper…thinking “that’s what I want to be when I grow up.” So I talked to Dave Christman, our City Engagement Director who is initiating work in our city through our church to address human trafficking was helpful. Human trafficking is the passing of men, women, boys, girls around for sex acts, often for money. San Diego is the 5th highest city in the country for human trafficking.
It starts as young as middle school through what’s called "boyfriending", where gang members will have one of their young men boyfriend a girl, telling her he loves her, has sex with her, then starts suggesting other sex acts with other people, like a threesome. Saying things like, “if you love me you’ll do this.” So they do. Then they start telling her to do other things with more and more men and threaten to tell other people about what she’s already done if she doesn’t or threaten to harm her family if she doesn’t perform.
It also happens with a lot of high schools and college gals in a similar way through “modeling” offers. The San Diego Reader did an article on it just a few months ago. Guys will set up shop in a hotel and shoot pictures, encourage nudity, then begin threats if they don’t continue in it.
But it’s not just those who have been trafficked. Sex and the seeing a woman solely as a sex object is so huge in our culture. In movies, TV, music, clothing…everywhere. And we need to think about the damage that causes and the grace that those who have been exploited need. I’ve got a short video for us to help with that. Just a warning too, it’s PG-13 and you might need some tissue.
The forgiveness Jesus offers is one that wipes away the scars, the pain, the hurt and the damage done to the soul. Jesus brings healing and restoration to the broken. This is what we have to offer our city, the forgiveness and hope of Jesus.
Now here’s the thing. It’s easy to look in on this story and think, “Ah, poor girl.” Or yeah, “She did need forgiveness.” But Jesus actually corrects that. Look at verse 47. Talking to Simon the religious leader who didn’t think he was a sinner too Jesus says, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven - for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little loves little.”
What Jesus is pointing out is that no one is better than the woman in this story. Everyone needs forgiveness. What Simon couldn’t see is that he needed forgiveness just as much as this woman and that’s the reason he didn’t love Jesus like this woman did.
That’s why Jesus tells the whole story about being forgiven a great debt. To try to help Simon see that He had a great debt.
What Jesus says here is really true. If you feel a lack of love towards people it’s likely because you have not really experienced the grace and forgiveness of Christ in your own heart and life. Do you want to be a more loving person? Then dig into your sin and turn to Christ for forgiveness. That’ll make you loving. Consider the ways you are like this woman.
A good question to ask yourself anytime you’re reading the Bible is who I am in this story? With this story, you’ve only got two options because you’re not Jesus. So you’re either prideful Simon or the penitent woman.
What Jesus wants us to see is that all of us really are this woman. We’ve had hurtful things done to us and we’ve all done things with our bodies that are wrong and sinful. What we need is the love and forgiveness of God.
Some of you today are just like this woman. Maybe you’ve been trafficked or given your body to someone who didn’t really love you and it’s scarred your soul. There is forgiveness and healing from Christ if you turn to Him.
Some of you today need to be like this woman. Maybe you’ve thought you’re one of the good guys and that you’re not a sinner and it’s soured your soul. There is forgiveness and healing from Christ if you open yourself to Him.
Jesus is for women. For women like this woman was and for all who need to become like this woman did.
Well, let’s conclude today with our final point, a short one, “Friends Of Jesus.”
III. Friends of Jesus
The attitude of Simon in this story seems to be a patronizing one. He extends an invitation to Jesus to come to lunch but he doesn’t offer him any of the things a normal hospitable host would. No water to wash his feet off with, no oil for them so his feet don’t stink up the table, no greeting kiss, hug or handshake. He has Jesus over but doesn’t have any respect for Him.
Then at dinner, He berates Jesus. Look at verse 39. “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” He knows the people saw Jesus as a Prophet from God and that Jesus saw Himself that way too. But Simon mocks it and instead calls him “teacher” in the next verse.
His reasoning is, a man of God should not associate or welcome friendship with sinners like Jesus does with this woman. In contrast, Jesus reasoning is if you are a man or woman of God you then you better associate and welcome into friendship people who are sinners.
You see too often, we look out at the world judging it. I had this experience the other day at a new gym I was checking out where the guy checking me in was kind of jerk towards me. I went it with a buddy from here at the church and this guy was nice at first, I’m pretty sure was gay and asked if me and my friend were together? It was when I said no, that his attitude change and he was really rude and dismissive as I was asking questions about the gym.
While I was working out I realized I was upset. I was thinking in my head, “what poor customer service” and feeling resentment towards this guy. But then I just kind of felt God’s Spirit nudge me, sort of saying, “that’s the very reason you need to be nice to the guy.” So after my workout I went up to him and was super friendly to him, thanking him and just trying to show him the love and grace of Jesus. And you know what? His whole demeanor changed and he was nice, shook my hand said he hoped to see me again.
You see we have to, I have to stop seeing the world as a place that owes me something and being upset at it when people don’t treat me right. Everyone is hurting and broken and needs the love and friendship of Jesus and we are meant to be his instruments for that. Through befriending people we have an opportunity to show off Jesus and tell people about Him and His church.
Philip Ryken, the current president of Wheaton College says this,
“It is our calling as Christians to share the love of Christ with people who need His grace. In the same way that Jesus came to save lost sinners, and in the same way that he has touched our own lives, we are called to reach out with his love.
The love of Christ is to govern our response to the girl at school who has a reputation for sleeping around, to the homeless man addicted to crack cocaine, to the openly gay couple in our apartment building, to the inmate with the violent record, to the family member who scorns the gospel, to the pastor who denies the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.
The love of Christ leads us to build relationships with the obvious sinners we know. Too often, we don’t have relationships with them at all, or if we do, our contempt for their sin shows through. They can tell what we really think of them, and this hinders them from ever hearing the gospel we want to give them.”
Our theme this year as a church is engage. We want to engage people in our city. And the truth is we often are not very good at that. So I want to push you a bit today. Engage. Jump in. Figure it out. If you haven’t picked up a copy of Friend of Sinners from our bookstore or online yet, get it. It will help you. It’s written by my friend Harvey Turner and is the best book I’ve ever read on this.
His point is simple. Jesus was called a “friend of sinners” so you should be to and his book gives some real practical aid to how to do that. I’m endeavoring to learn how to make more friends with sinners and I hope you’ll join me with that and engage our city.
In the story today Jesus shows us what it looks like to welcome in and forgive people. His forgiveness is like none other because it’s divine. That’s why in verse 49 those at the table say, “Who is this, who even forgives sin?”
It was well known then that God alone can forgive sin. That’s what’s not well known today. We try to work off and cover our sin but it doesn’t work. That’s why we need the divine Savior to forgive us and pour His love into our hearts.
Jesus can forgive sin because He’s God and because He died on the cross and rose again to restore us. That restoration cost His life so that He could give to us for our salvation.
Jesus is for women and all who are sinners like this woman. Make God help us to be for sinners too.
Alright, let’s all stand and prepare to respond. We believe here that through the preaching of God’s Word, Jesus leads us, teaches and changes us. So we respond each week where we come to these tables and take a piece of bread as His perfect life and we dip it in the wine or the juice as His blood which covers and forgives all of our sin.