“Mom, I think Jesus was anti-woman.” I was 22, and everyone knew Mom was a Bible Scholar, deeply immersed in the Bethel Series http://www.bethelseries.com/home.aspx which was an honor in itself. A handful of students had been carefully selected by the pastor of our church. It was a two-year commitment, and at the end, these ten hand-selected people would be certified to teach the series to anyone who wanted to attend.
“Why do you say that?” she asked, surprised by my statement, but not threatened.
“Well, he had twelve disciples, and every single one was a MAN.” I gazed into the face of my mom, expecting her to say I never thought of that! but what she actually said was, “True, but why do you think that was?”
“Because he was anti-woman, and if he despised them then, he probably doesn’t care about them now.”
She nodded, thinking of what she should say to this bit of blasphemy. I did not flinch. I waited.
Finally she said, “Tell you what, why don’t you do a Bible study on the life of Jesus as regarding women, and only women, and see what you find.”
I felt a little naked, because I was no Bible scholar. I was flippant, self-satisfied, and careless regarding things of the faith. I had been coasting on her coat tails, using her wisdom and knowledge as a convenience during the tough questions of life.
But I heartily accepted her challenge, narcissistically thinking if I could prove Jesus was anti female, I could debunk the rationale for following him. (It was the early seventies, and most young women had burned their bras by then. I was probably not wearing my own during this conversation.)
She kind of chuckled and said, “Remember one thing: It was the men who fell away when he needed them most. It was the women who stayed by his side.”
I left the house, and went back to my apartment, anxious to delve into my Bible study, determined to uncover examples of females being second class citizens. Did it not say in the Bible story of his birth, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth good will to men on whom his favor rests.”? In the shallow waters of my biblical knowledge, I had openly challenged the Bible in its entirety with a Sunday school understanding of the Christmas story, the Easter story and the saga of the Jews roaming around the desert for forty years, until the ten commandments had been written on stone a couple of times. Such was the naiivete of my approach!
Mom laughed as I went, unfazed by her wayward daughter, which made me even more resolute. I am not proud of this history, but I will be forever grateful my mother did not “teach” me in that moment. She invited me to teach my SELF, and I had no idea what I was about to discover.
The first story to occur to me was the story of his birth. It made sense to me to begin at his beginning, and follow his life chronologically as he went along, underlining in RED, the many places where he would favor men over women. What can I SAY? It made sense to me at the time.
I found out Jesus (in utero) was a human child fathered by the Holy Spirit of God. I had always accepted this, but it had never occured to me the human, flesh, natural part of him was no man, but issued from a woman, female, and God could have done it any other way, but selected a woman, and not one of any stature, but a young and “ordinary” woman. The biological DNA of Jesus was female in origin. God paired with a female to bring about the Son of Man!
At the time, I found this truth astounding. I closed the Bible, looked out the window and sat there alone, contemplating the meaning of this news, realizing it changed everything I had previously believed. It wasn’t I had never heard it. I was schooled in it from birth, but I had never realized it. From that moment I wondered what ELSE I had heard, but failed to understand.
There is a lineage of four women listed as progenitors of Jesus. They were Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba, not one of them “pure” even by modern standards! Rahab, for example is labeled as a prostitute. She is the woman who played an absolutely pivotal role in the story of the Israelites who were preparing to overtake the city where she was “working”. Laughing…some versions call her an “innkeeper”!
Anyway, somehow two spies were sent into the city to see what they would be up against if they attacked the great city of Jericho. She took them in, and told them the entire city and all its men were terrified, and emotionally unprepared to resist these special people of God, which was critical information. When soldiers from the city came looking for the spies, Rahab hid them under stalks of flax on her roof. She told the soldiers the spies had left, but she did not know which direction they had taken. The soldiers left the city to hunt them down. When it was safe, the Israeli spies came down and thanked her. But she wanted something in return: She brokered a deal with them to allow her and her family safety when her city of Jericho was attacked. They would not be killed.
Rahab and the Emissaries of Joshua (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
They agreed she would hang a scarlet cord out her window, and she and her family would be spared during the battle of Jericho. The grateful spies returned to camp and told the Israeli army about the scarlet cord signal ahead of time. As the story goes, she and her family were the only survivors who walked away. The battle left neither man nor woman, nor child, nor animal after the walls fell down. Only Rahab and her mother and brothers walked away.
She joined the victors and lived as part of them thereafter. An ordinary woman played an extraordinary role in one of the most famous battles ever recorded! Her life was spared as a reward. It all seemed so random at the time. She probably blended in after that.
“God uses the foolish things of this world to confound those things that are wise.” Rahab was one of the foolish, a street person, and one of female gender. Even now, a woman of the streets is almost invisible as far as influence in society. Back then it was more so.
She had no idea it had been anything more than a “deal” even while living out the remainder of her days. She was a woman of desperation who chose to trust the enemy instead of taking her chances on the streets of Jericho. She knew the meanness of those streets and the people who walked on them. She took a chance, and lived to tell the story of how she saved her family with a scarlet cord hung out the window.
She had no idea she would eventually be mentioned in the lineage of Jesus, no awareness he would share her DNA when he was born. But this is exactly what happened.
No life is random.