Christianity is the most pro-woman religion in the world. Don’t believe me? Take it from the women who encountered Jesus Christ during his life on earth. Rebecca McLaughlin’s new book, Jesus through the Eyes of Women: How the First Female Disciples Help Us Know and Love the Lord (Crossway/TGC), illumines Christ’s character from the vantage point of his earliest female followers. Here are 20 quotes that caught my attention.
The four New Testament Gospels tell multiple stories of Jesus relating to women. Poor women. Rich women. Sick women. Grieving women. Old women. Young girls. Jewish women. Gentile women. Women known for their sinfulness. Women known for their virtue. Virgins and widows. Prostitutes and prophetesses. Looking through their eyes, we see a man who valued women of all kinds— especially those vilified by others. Indeed, the way that Jesus treated women tore up the belief that women are innately inferior to men: a belief that was pervasive in the ancient world. We should not be surprised, therefore, that women have been flocking to Jesus ever since. (11)
Far from being antithetical to women’s rights, Christianity is their firm and best foundation. (13)
As we meet Jesus in the Gospels, we’ll encounter a man who welcomes sexually notorious women while standing up to sexually self-righteous men. We find a man born into sexual scandal, who further scandalized his fellow Jews by loving women known for sexual sin. We find a man who never had a sexual relationship, but who loved women so well that they’d leave everything to follow him. We find a man who turned his back on the religiously powerful men of his day and had his longest recorded private conversation with a religiously despised woman. (17)
[Mary] carried in her womb the one through whom all wombs were made. She nursed the one who generated life on earth. She reared the one who formed the stars. But as we look at Jesus through his mother’s eyes, we see how God grabs ordinary folk to be his chosen agents in this world. When you and I let Jesus in, our humdrum lives become the buzzing center of a miracle—however little it may feel that way at times. (31)
Chronologically, [Elizabeth’s declaration represents] the first prophetic words spoken by a human and recorded in the Bible since the prophet Malachi four centuries earlier. (36)
Anna is not the first person to prophesy over Jesus. But if we think chronologically, she is the first person in the Bible officially called a prophet since the death of the last Old Testament prophet, Malachi, some four centuries before. (44)
As I look through Mary’s eyes in this moment, I see my own inadequacy. Mary is the first to receive the wonderful news about Jesus. And yet she cannot grasp who Jesus really is, and how much more he would be than all she can imagine. I know that Jesus is the Son of God. But much of the time, I go about my life as if this truth need not disrupt my every moment. I live as if my plans can prosper without Jesus at the heart of them. But Jesus cannot fit around our lives, brought in when he’s convenient. He’s either Lord of everything we have, and are, and ever will become—or he is not. (48)
Martha thinks she’s serving Jesus by giving him a meal. But Jesus clarifies that he’s the one serving the real food—and Mary is right to sit at his table. (62)
Jesus’s longest recorded private conversation with anyone in the Gospels is with a woman Jewish men would have avoided at all costs. This woman is the first person in John’s Gospel to whom Jesus explicitly reveals himself as the Christ, and she is the last person with whom a respectable rabbi should have been spending time alone. (84)
Maybe Jesus functions in your life like an ethereal Santa: someone to whom you can submit your wishlist, and who brings a tinge of magic to the fringes of your day-to-day life. But while Jesus is the source of every good thing we have, and loves to hear our prayers, if we knew the gift of God, and who we were talking to, we’d ask him, first and foremost, to give us himself. (87)
In Jesus’s kingdom, serving isn’t women’s work. It’s everybody’s work. (106)
So often in our modern life, we see service and freedom as opposites. But Peter’s mother-in-law, 2,000 years ago, knew what modern psychologists have only recently discovered. We humans thrive when serving with a grateful heart, while endlessly self-realizing “freedom” makes us miserable. (107)
Strikingly, this woman is the only individual in all the Gospels whom Jesus calls “daughter” (Matt. 9:22; Mark 5:34; Luke 8:48). The woman who dared not come to him directly, but touched his clothing secretly, is recognized by Jesus intimately. She’s his daughter. Of course she has the right to touch him. (116)
Through these healed women’s eyes, we see Jesus as the one who can make us whole if we just touch the hem of his garment, but whose garments were divided up by lot and given to the soldiers who crucified him (Luke 23:34; Matt. 27:35). We see him as the one who came to bear our griefs and carry our sicknesses, the one who bled for us more painfully than the menstruating woman bled, the one who died for us more absolutely than the 12-year-old girl died, the one whose back was bent under the weight of a cruel cross so our backs could be straightened up one day, when he calls us from our graves and welcomes us as sons and daughters of Abraham. (122)
How do we see Jesus through the eyes of these repentant prostitutes? We see him as the only man who welcomes them not for what he can get but for what he can give. We see him as the one who does not count their history against them, but who knows each detail of their past and welcomes them into his stunning future. We see him as a magnet for those who feel like scraps of human metal on life’s junk heap, picking up the broken and abused and drawing them into his kingdom of love. (130–31)
According to Jesus, sexual sin is more serious than a heart attack. (143)
In the 21st-century West, we tend to see guilt as an unhealthy feeling to be shed, and forgiving ourselves as more important than seeking forgiveness from others. But Jesus does not minimize our guilt. He takes it from us. We talk today about forgiving ourselves and learning to love ourselves. But if that’s our focus, we risk missing out on the forgiveness and the love that Jesus offers us. (144)
This weeping woman, Mary Magdalene, is the disciple to whom the resurrected Jesus first reveals himself. . . . Strikingly, [she] is the first person in John’s Gospel to call Jesus “the Lord.” (164, 165)
If we worked through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and cut out all the scenes that were not witnessed by women, we’d only lose a small proportion of the texts. But even if we limited our scope still further and only kept the parts of Jesus’s life that were witnessed by women named Mary, we’d lose very little! Indeed, we could legitimately call the Bible’s four accounts of Jesus’s life the Gospels of the Marys, as they’ve preserved for us the testimony of at least five—Jesus’s mother, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph—whose knowledge of Jesus stretched from his conception to his resurrection. The Gospels in our Bibles are the Gospels of the women Jesus loved. (173–74)
Mary of Nazareth was the first to hear about Jesus, before he was ever born from her womb. Mary of Magdalene was the first to see him after he was reborn from the tomb. (176)
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