If you are breathing today, then you have probably been bombarded by the latest hype surrounding Dan Brown’s best-selling book, The Da Vinci Code. I read the book a few years ago when it first came out because a friend who was wrestling with the claims of Christ “dared” me to. Because I’m extremely competitive, I didn’t pass up the challenge.
My friend and I dialogued often about the book, and I even wrote a paper in seminary about Jesus’ marital status based on Brown’s claims of Jesus’ more-than-platonic relationship with Mary Magdalene. Now that the movie starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou is set to premier in May, the controversy has surfaced once again.
Granted, the Gospel writers do often include women in their writings about Jesus’ life. In the Jewish culture during the time of Christ, women were regarded as second-class citizens and had few, if any, rights. However, Jesus crossed the cultural barriers of His day and befriended these “outcasts.”
Luke described the ministry of these women in 8:1-3:
“And it came about soon afterwards, that He began going about from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God; and the twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing their support out of their private means.”
All of the Gospel writers included Jesus’ interactions with women, but Luke included events not recorded by Matthew, Mark and John. Readers, and especially women, can clearly see from Scripture that Jesus loved women and regarded them as precious and important, even in the work of His ministry. Jesus talked to a Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-26); healed Peter’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39); raised a widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17); allowed a sinful woman to anoint His feet (Luke 7:36-50); forgave a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11); traveled with women (Luke 8:1-3); healed a diseased woman (Luke 8:43-48); visited Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42); healed a crippled woman (Luke 13:10-17); healed the daughter of a Gentile woman (Mark 7:24-30); and appeared to women after His resurrection (Matt 28:8-10). There is no doubt that Jesus regarded women as equal, created in the image of God for His glory.
Just as some are doing today with Mary Magdalene, people in Jesus’ day tried to exalt the status of women like Jesus’ mother. Following His instruction on a divided household in Luke 11, a woman raised her voice and said to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts at which You nursed” (vs. 27). Clearly, this woman thought that Mary ought to be lauded because of the impact of Christ’s life. However, Jesus responded to the woman with these words: “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it” (vs. 28). Jesus was more concerned with a woman’s sanctification, not her status.
I have always had an insatiable thirst for knowledge and learning. I was the kid who hated summer and always looked forward to going back to school in August; I still love school to this day. As a seminary student, one passage of Scripture in the New Testament grabbed me unlike any other. While studying the Pastoral Epistles, I came to 2 Timothy 3:6-7 and stopped dead in my tracks.
“For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
That last phrase echoed in my ears for many days, and it still does each time I approach the Word of God. The New American Standard Bible translates the Greek word, gunaikarion, as “weak women.” Other translations use the words “gullible,” “idle” and even “silly.” The word literally describes a foolish woman who lacks maturity and dignity. Because of their foolishness, these women are led away by any false doctrine that tickles their ears.
Unfortunately, Paul’s words aptly describe many women in our churches today. We’re the first to sign up for the latest Beth Moore Bible study. In fact, some of us have been known to juggle two or three at a time. We’ll grab the girls and load up the church van for the next Women of Faith conference. We’ll read every book out there on parenting and marriage. We have journals full of sermon and conference notes. We’re always learning, always learning…and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
It seems we have it all backwards. We try to do what we think a woman of God should be doing before we try to be the woman of God He has called us to be. We are, as Paul says, “weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses.” The woman in Luke 11 was led on by the impulse of status…”Let’s exalt Mary because look how her son has turned out!” However, Jesus knew that the women who would be blessed were those who “hear the word of God, and observe it.”
We don’t have to be characterized as silly women who live from Bible study to women’s conference. Proverbs 31:26 says a worthy woman “opens her mouth in wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. She looks well to the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.” Scripture holds vast storehouses of wisdom and riches for our personal exploration. The Lord has clear directives for your life through His Word. May it be said of your life: “She was always learning, and her life was grounded in His truth.”
Stephanie Thompson, © 2006