Jesus cared deeply for His mother. At death He still made sure His mother was provided for.
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).*
We live in times when the front pages of daily papers and news outlets are full of seemingly unending reports of sexual harassment, abuse, and neglect of women. This is not a new phenomenon. If Jesus lived among us today, most probably He would stand in a public place and read aloud from the same scriptures: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18).
A foundational expression of God’s respect for humanity can be traced to the very beginning, when God resolved to create humanity in His own image. Women, like men, bear that same image of God even though sin has marred it in all humanity. Although Adam was created first, he viewed Eve as an equal the moment he first saw her (cf. Gen. 2:23). Taking a rib from Adam to create Eve engendered love and respect between man and woman.
Paul alludes to this by stating, “He who loves his wife loves himself” (Eph. 5:28). God loves and respects both men and women. He expects all humanity to do the same, including women respecting themselves. Even after sin, men and women became recipients of God’s grace.
Jesus’ regard and respect for women was very evident in His life and ministry; it was actually revolutionary. Graeco-Roman and contemporary Jewish cultures prevalent during His time on earth considered women inferior to men. He demonstrated an attitude and relationship to women that was very different from the traditional practices of His time. Many examples in the Bible demonstrate this; we can refer only to a few here.
Respect and Loving Care
It is often said that if you want to know how a young man will treat his wife, see first how he relates to his mother and sisters. The Bible does not record much about the relationship between Jesus and His mother. But three recorded incidents give us glimpses of a cordial and respectful relationship.
When Jesus was left behind by His parents at the Temple, they found Him engaged in discussions with teachers of the Temple. His mother inquired as to why He had treated them like that. Jesus responded, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49). This was not a rude, disrespectful response. It was meant to educate the parents. Mary was not offended by the response but rather “treasured all these things in her heart” (verse 51). After this short respectful exchange, Luke records that Jesus went to Nazareth “with them and was obedient to them” (verse 51).
At the wedding in Cana, Mary, Jesus’ mother, came and reported to her Son that there was no more wine for the visitors. Even though His time had not come, Jesus proceeded to provide wine. Mary’s act of bringing this request to her adult Son indicates that a trusting and respectful relationship existed between them. Jesus’ act at the wedding affirmed heaven’s attitudes toward women.
As Jesus hung dying on the cross, He looked at His mother and said, “Woman, here is your son.” Then, looking to John the beloved disciple, Jesus said, “Here is your mother” (John 19:25-27). Jesus cared deeply for His mother. At death He still made sure His mother was provided for. It is God’s will that children should honor their parents and Jesus did. To Jesus Mary was more than just a mother; she was a daughter of God, whom God loved and Jesus respected.
Crossing Cultural Divides
Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well is yet another countercultural demonstration of how Jesus treated women. He broke down cultural barriers of prejudice by sitting at the well in broad daylight and respectfully asking the woman for a drink. The woman was shocked: “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9).
Jesus did not look at women through the lenses of traditions and culture; He viewed them as God, who had created them, would view them. Recognizing the demons in the life of the woman, Jesus offered her the best gift—the water of life. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water” (verse 10). Jesus did not abuse or harass her; He sought to elevate and restore her worth.
When Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, Judas proposed that the money spent for the perfume should have been donated for the cause of the poor. Jesus immediately came to Mary’s defense. “‘Leave her alone,’ Jesus replied. ’It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial’” (John 12:7). When a group of Jewish women brought their children to Jesus for a blessing, an act that was very much countercultural, the disciples held them back. Jesus took notice, interrupted His teaching, and ordered, “Let the little children come to me, do not hinder them”(Matt. 19:14). Jesus affirmed the value of both children and women across cultures in all generations.
The Ultimate Love
A woman caught in adultery was brought to Jesus by the teachers of the law and Pharisees. Conveniently, they had forgotten to bring the man with whom she had committed adultery. Jesus bade the woman’s accusers to stone her if they were sinless, but none did and they all left. Turning to the woman, He said: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” When the woman replied that no one had, Jesus replied, “Then neither do I condemn you” and “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:10, 11). Without condoning adultery Jesus rebuked the unjust treatment the accusers had sought to bring upon the woman. Jesus esteemed women and defended them against belittling cultural practices.
Christ’s ultimate expression of equal love and respect for men and women can be seen plainly on the cross. He gave His life for all. Cultural practices that underrate, vilify, harass, or abuse women work against the spirit of Jesus. Rather, His currency is love and mutual respect, freely given to all who are in need of truly amazing grace.
1 All Scripture quotations have been taken from the New International Version.