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September 12, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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I often ask myself the question, “What does the Lord think of me?” As the social structure for women continues to fluctuate, it’s a question I continually come back to, needing to realign my heart with what’s true so that I can walk with confidence toward His purpose for me.
So often, there’s the insecurity and temptation to believe that I, as a woman, am lesser than, weak, or fragile. The feminist in me says, “No! I’m never weak! I’m always strong!” But, that’s just not true of anyone—female or male. Coming to terms with being a fragile, mortal human means admitting weakness, and although it’s embarrassing to admit, it’s required of us if we want to grow.
Sometimes I do feel weak and fragile—and admitting that makes me want to run and hide. Does it mean that the so called “weak” side of me doesn’t have a powerful purpose? Of course not. I just have to remember when I start to feel this way to realign myself with what’s true—with what Jesus says—or I’ll lose my mind with frustration and anger.
Three of the most significant exchanges between Jesus and mankind were with women: the woman at the well, the woman spared from being stoned, and the woman (and first person ever) who first saw the risen Lord. Through these exchanges, we’ll discover why we can look to these women to understand our identity in Christ and what it means for us today.
Although the Lord personally vouched for women throughout the Old Testament*, making it clear the gifts and talents of women spanned wide—equally as wide as many men—we need to keep in mind that the stature of women eventually fell to a depressing low before Jesus appeared to them.
The Woman at the Well (John 4:1-26)
As Jesus journeyed to Nazareth, He chose to go through Samaria, but why? By a Jewish Pharisee’s standards, He should have gone right around Samaria to avoid contact with people of opposite religious beliefs. But John 4:4 distinctly says he had to. Why? Because Jesus wanted to speak with a woman, the woman at the well, so He could share the inclusion of heaven with her. Any other Jewish man would have looked down on, disregarded, and thrown her to the wayside, but time and time again Jesus shattered the religious social structures, making known His true will for mankind.
This story sings a song of inclusion. For starters, Jesus is intentional with us. We are not forgotten, we are not lesser than, and we are not outcasts in His eyes. When we know Him and are known by Him, we are empowered and capable of using our gifts and talents in ways we never before thought possible. When our worth is validated by our Creator, the One who loved us first, something inside of us shifts—and that goes for both women and men!
The Woman Spared from Being Stoned (John 8:1-12)
In this story, we have a woman who was caught in adultery and dragged into the city so her sin could be officially on display for the entire crowd—possibly the entire city—to see. Imagine the thoughts that must have run through this woman’s mind who had just been ripped from her lover’s arms and thrown onto the rocky, dusty earth of the city, putting her deepest secrets on display. Does she cry out? Does she ask for mercy? Or does she cover her head and prepare for her death, knowing that her words would never say enough?
How often have we ourselves been the sinful woman hanging our head in shame at the feet of Jesus?
When Jesus pardoned her, he pardoned all of us. John 8:7 (NLT) says, “They kept demanding an answer” wanting to hear Jesus say, “Stone her!” But the words never came.
As the entire crowd walked away one by one, Jesus remained. He didn’t let her go off on her own, wondering how she would make it out alive. Instead, He talked with her. He didn’t turn on her, just like He doesn’t turn on us now. He stays. He desires a relationship with us. He desires to see us rise up in righteousness and live wholesomely, with purpose. He deems us worthy of a stronger, better life.
Knowing this makes us able to stand tall, shake the dust of shame and fear off ourselves, and confront our Savior face to face. We don’t need to fight or defend our honor, glory, or strength, because as He did then, He will do today.** It’s in our weakest moments that He is made strong, able to rescue us from the most hopeless situations (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). It’s up to us to surrender those moments of weakness to Him with open, trusting hands.
The Woman Who First Saw the Risen Lord (John 20:1-18)
This story makes me weepy with gratefulness. Mary Magdalene (not Mary, the mother of Jesus) stood outside Jesus’ tomb mourning for His stolen body. She peered into the tomb and saw angels who asked her why she’s crying (as though this was nothing out of the ordinary). Mary casually responded with obvious frustration, confusion, and disheartened countenance. Not a moment passed before Jesus was behind her. She turned to see Him.
She did not know who He is.
Our kind Savior revealed Himself to her, after having been brutally beaten, murdered, and raised by the power of God back to life, and she couldn’t even recognize Him. Did her tears blur her vision? Or was it her pure disbelief, her lack of understanding, or her inability to see? He held nothing back, not even His resurrected self in the flesh, and yet she could not see Him.
“Mary.” That is all He said . . . and then she got it.
Jesus shattered all social, political, and religious standards as He boldly approached Mary, a woman, to reveal His God-hood to her. The first person to encounter the resurrected Christ was a woman. Ladies, she is me. She is you. She is all of us. This beautiful picture shows us that He is faithful when He promises that those who seek Him will find Him. There is power in our God-given ability to feel, to mourn, to be vulnerable, to weep, and to meekly seek the Lord in places that others may deem as hopeless.
What can we learn from all of this? 1. When we seek Him, He shows up—every time. 2. There is power in our ability to show weakness. Things change when we are desperate for the presence of God. Fighting to be strong in a situation like this would have been the worst thing for Mary. But by being vulnerable, she found God and her strength. 3. Because He showed up to a woman first, we can trust that the Lord does not exclude those who are considered socially lesser than. Because she was given authority to run and tell the rest of the disciples—men and women—the glorious message of His resurrection, we too are given the same authority to welcome others to Christ—the HIGHEST honor.
So, what does the Lord think of you? After reading these stories, do you feel empowered to walk in the identity He’s given to you; one where you know who you are because of God’s desire to rescue, comfort, empower, and strengthen you? Do you believe that you have a role to play in the kingdom of heaven? If you haven’t gotten it yet, you are deeply valued by Him, you do not fall short in His eyes, you have all that you need by having Him, and your gender simply doesn’t play a role in the capability of carrying, fulfilling, and making known the love of Christ.
* In the Old Testament, women were actually very highly regarded. The Book of Judges mentions several women who were judges and prophetesses all ordained by God (Judges 2:16). Leading all of Israel (Judges 4:4), Deborah was the equivalent to a modern-day president exercising complete religious, political, judicial, and militaristic authority over the people. If this doesn’t say enough about God’s trust and lack of reservation toward the social, political, and spiritual position of women, then I don’t know what does.
**Note: I do believe the Lord is faithful to us if/when we DO fight and we DO defend ourselves; however, our words and actions must always be in alignment with His Word, with respect, honor, and love for others.