I will from time to time look at a few of the wonderful Scriptures that overwhelmingly convince me that status by gender is not something the Gospel entertains. Of course as always how we read Scripture is an issue for we can read it to almost defend whatever view we wish. Maybe if I get round to it I will also look at that. But for an opener there are two verses that record for us an interchange between Jesus and a woman that are simply mind-blowing (Luke 11: 27, 28). They follow on from some pretty hot teaching and activity by Jesus, demonstrating wisdom, understanding and the delivering power of God in a way that had not been seen before. In that context the woman says:
As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
Jesus responds immediately. He does not need to wait to consider what she said. We read
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”
In this very short exchange comes an amazing contrast of world views. A world view that was common to the day and the starkly contrasting world view of Jesus as far as the status of women was concerned. The woman holds to the dominant world view of her day concerning the gender difference, and she articulates, without realising it, what the culture has taught her about as far as significance was concerned. She is so impacted by what she sees, hears and experiences when encountering Jesus directly that from deep inside something spills out.
It spills out, almost involuntarily, because the very act of speaking (shouting?) out as she did in public was not something that her world view supported. The impact of Jesus provoked her in that moment to act beyond what she believed was even appropriate. Her speech even confronted her own views!
Her world told her that her gender had a status that could increase with every break she might get in life:
She would start as the daughter of, growing up her status might increase if she was not single. So singleness was the base level. If however she could be married – be the wife of someone – she would go to the next level. Married but childless? That was not something she could live with easily. So to bear a child was the next level… and if the child was a male an even higher status was hers. That was as high as anyone could ever hope for, but on this day when she encountered Jesus she realised there was one higher step: imagine giving birth to a rabbi who lived, taught and behaved as Jesus did.
Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.
The contrasting view is the one Jesus came back at her with and in a few words turned her world upside down. Status is not based on gender, it is the same for women and for men. It is simply becoming who we were meant to be. There is no higher blessing, perhaps I might even suggest no higher glory.
Pause for a moment. Being the mother of Jesus is not the highest calling for a woman. Mary is blessed, but…
The Gospel is crazy. It does not put us down but pulls us all up. Unless of course we take a superior attitude then it seriously does pull us down. There are not many attitudes that God actively opposes but pride, arrogance, superiority? The Gospel has always been good news for the marginalised. And it will not appear as good news to those who do not make way for others to discover who they are and express who they are. Freedom to discover and to express rather than restrictions and blockages will always be the bias of the good news that Jesus brought.