During a time when women were not treated equal to men, Jesus Christ showed not just great respect for women, He championed their rights. He defied the norms and elevated their status. He set an example for all men in the way He interacted with women in the following accounts from the New Testament.
He respects women, regardless of their nationality and religious beliefs
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ was publicly criticized for mingling with those whom society considered “low class.” He called fishermen as his apostles, ate with publicans, and interacted with the sinners. He treated all those He met with respect, including women. Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman in John 4 proved that He really was no respecter of persons.
On one occasion, Jesus passed through Samaria on His way to Galilee. Feeling fatigued because of His long journey, He sat by Jacob’s well where He met a woman of Samaria who came “to draw water.” Jesus struck up a conversation with her and even asked her for a drink. This seemingly casual conversation caught the woman by surprise. For in those days, “the Jews ha[d] no dealings with the Samaritans (John 4:9)” because the Jews considered the Samaritans “more unclean than a Gentile of any other nationality.”1
Imagine what the woman may have felt when Jesus initiated a conversation with her and deemed her worthy enough to talk to. At first, she must have felt apprehension that soon enough turned into awe and finally to joy when Jesus introduced Himself to her as the Christ.
By talking with the Samaritan woman, Jesus Christ defied the norms of His time. When the disciples came back from getting meat and found Jesus talking with the woman, John wrote that they “marvelled.” However, Jesus Christ really didn’t care much about what His disciples thought – much less what the world thought of His actions. He cared more about the woman and what she was feeling and what He could do to help her. Jesus Christ did not look at the woman in terms of the world’s standard, based on her gender, nationality, or religious background. He saw her as a daughter of Heavenly Father and as His own sister. This shows that Jesus Christ has great respect for women, especially for His mother Mary.
He takes care of women
Jesus Christ’s relationship with His mother, Mary, also shows how He takes care of women. On two occasions, He was concerned for Mary’s welfare and acted to help her.
The first instance happened at a wedding feast recorded in John 2 where Mary was one of the people in charge. At some point, the supply of wine ran out, leaving the guests unsatisfied. So, she sought the help of her son, Jesus Christ, and the Savior performed His first public miracle – He turned water into wine. This miraculous wine impressed the governor of the feast so much that he asked the bridegroom why they had “kept the good wine until now (John 2:10).”
The second instance was when Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross at Calvary. Even though He was suffering, He still thought of His mother who He would be leaving behind. Seeing His disciple John standing beside her, He told His mother, “Woman, behold thy son (John 19:26).” Then to John, He said, “Behold thy mother (John 19:27).” Because of Jesus’ words, from then on, John took care of Mary. What a display of love and respect in the highest form! Even the excruciating task of atoning for our sins did not prevent Jesus from being concerned for the welfare of His beloved mother. His concern was not limited only to His own mother but also extended to other mothers as well, such as the widow of Nain.
He comforts women
The widow of Nain was facing emotional and financial ruin when Jesus Christ went out of His way to help her. During Jesus’ time, women were uneducated and all their rights to property were connected to the men in their lives – their father, husband, or sons.
In the case of the widow of Nain, because her husband had already died, she was completely dependent on her son for her means of living. However, with her son also gone, all of her possessions would be under the jurisdiction of her nearest male relative. Because the widow of Nain was in this dangerous situation, possibly of life and death, it is no wonder that Jesus Christ immediately stepped in to help.
According to Brigham Young University (BYU) Associate Professor Keith J. Wilson, the travel from Capernaum to Nain was a long, difficult uphill climb that “would have taken at least one or two days.” The reason being Capernaum’s location which is 600 feet (183 m) below sea level and Nain’s location which is 700 feet (213 m) above sea level and 30 miles (48 km) southwest of Capernaum. This long journey implies a certain amount of sacrifice by Jesus Christ and His disciples, including rising very early in the morning and traveling through the night until it wasn’t possible to walk anymore. However, Jesus arrived in Nain just in time to intercept the burial procession and raise the widow’s son from death. He was able to comfort the mother and give her hope that all was well, and that God had not forgotten her.
He forgives women
Another great example of Jesus Christ’s high regard for women occurred when the Pharisees and the Sadducees brought to Him a woman whom they said was “caught in the very act [of adultery] (John 8:4).” In an attempt to provoke the Romans, challenge His authority and His knowledge of the Law of Moses, they asked Him whether the woman should be stoned to death or not. He neither reply with a yes or a no but simply said: “He that is without a sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her (John 8:7).” Convicted by their conscience, everyone left Jesus and the woman alone. When Jesus Christ lifted Himself up and saw no one, He asked the woman the whereabouts of her accusers. The woman answered and said that they were now gone. Then Jesus said some of His most famous words of reassurance and counsel to the woman, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more (John 8:11).”
Out of all the people there that day, Jesus Christ had a perfect knowledge of the woman’s sin, but He chose not to condemn her. Instead, He forgave her. To show his sincerity, Jesus Christ even stooped down to the woman’s level on the ground. His act of forgiveness included lifting the woman up from where she was at that time and helping her toward the right path – the one free from sin and filled with happiness.
During His lifetime, Jesus Christ showed by His words and deeds just how much He revered women – He respects, He cares, He comforts, and forgives them, just as much as He does for men. Now, as our Resurrected Lord I feel that He is doing the same for all women out there. I testify that He understands perfectly the pressure, discrimination, and persecution we experienced due to our gender. He extends to us His arms to lift us up and guide us home to our Father in Heaven where we will be the happiest. I hope and pray that we will grab His arms and hold on tight, never letting go. For truly, He is the Champion of women.
1James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 172.