Jesus on Women – Part 3

October 18, 2012

References to Women in Family Roles

This week we will take a look at Jesus’ references to women in the variety of roles we play in our families—mothers, daughters, wives, and sisters. 

Not surprisingly, Jesus reaffirmed the Old Testament commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” He specifically quoted this command along with several others in his discussion with the rich young ruler:

…As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 
(Mark 10:17-19; also in Matthew 19:18-19 and Luke 18:20)

Jesus had referred to this commandment and a related one in an earlier discussion with some Pharisees and teachers of the law:

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.
(Matthew 15:3-6; also Mark 7:9-13)

How about that? We don’t get to use God as an excuse to escape family obligations.

Jesus expected followers to honor both their father and their mother, but in another setting he expanded his meaning of mother. Clearly, a number of women were in the crowd listening to him, since he refers to both mothers and sisters. 

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
(Mark 3:31-35; also Luke 8:18-21 and Matthew 12:46-50)

In another set of passages, Jesus explained that discipleship will disrupt some family relationships, and in some cases his followers will be called to leave their family members. These passages can be somewhat disturbing in a church culture where we place so much priority on the ties of physical families.

“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’”
(Matthew 10:34-37; see also Luke 12:49-53)

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
(Matthew 10:38-39)

Jesus says nearly the same thing in different ways in Luke and Mark:

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
(Luke 14:26-27)

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.”
(Mark 10:29-30; also in Luke 18:29-30)

We learn that sometimes women, as well as men, will be left behind by the radical discipleship of their family members. Only the Gospel of Luke has Jesus including wives in the lists, both in 14:26 and 18:29, but in the interest of intellectual honesty, I’ll point out that both passages conspicuously omit husbands. 

Some of the Jewish rabbis of the first century excused women from saying the daily Shema prayer because their husbands or fathers controlled their time. Jesus, however, expected women to be fully engaged and ready to take up the cross right along with the men. Sometimes, because of their deep commitment to Jesus, they would be betrayed by the other women in their lives—their mothers, daughters, mothers-in-law, or daughters-in-law. 

Other than the two Luke passages, the Gospels don’t record Jesus saying anything else about wives in relation to their husbands, except for addressing the issue of divorce, which I’ll cover in a couple of weeks.

To sum up what we read today: 

1. God still expects us to honor our mothers as well as our fathers.

2. In Christ, however, our mother and sister relationships extend beyond blood ties to a greater spiritual family of people who do God’s will.

3. Women are just as much in the spiritual battle as men are, and as they stand for their faith they will suffer equally from the betrayals of worldly people, including close family members.

4. Both women and men, regardless of their position in the family, are to play second fiddle to Christ in a disciple’s allegiances.

I’ll post Part 4 of the series next Thursday! Subscribe here so you don’t miss a thing.

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