After two thousand years give or take, it would seem that the status of women in ministry has only grown at a nominal rate. Albeit, ministry opportunities have grown, but it has not grown nor improved much since the inception of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. If anything, the first century church probably saw more women ministers on average for its size. Although, there have been women ordained into ministry throughout these last two thousand years, it has been only a small percentage that has achieved the status of ordination.
Twentieth century Christian churches began opening up ordination status for women far more than in any other century except for the first when the original twelve apostles still lived. During the first century of the Christian church, there were multiple opportunities for women to serve as they had never had before. Religious activities for Jewish women during these times were completely void of opportunity. The Lord Jesus Christ made it clear by His examples, that He was lifting up women to their proper places, i.e. right next to the men with full equality.
The first and most prominent example is that of Mary, the sister of Lazarus and we find her account in Luke 10:38-42. When her sister Martha was busy in the kitchen (doing women’s work, or so deemed in that day), where was Mary? She was sitting at the Lord Jesus’ feet in the posture of a disciple. When a Rabbi taught, his disciples sat at his feet indicating that they were on a lower status than he was and that they were prepared to learn. Also, it should be noted that this was probably not her first time of being so bold. While it is not there in the text, perhaps at another teaching, Mary had inched ever closer, straining to hear the Lord Jesus’ teaching around some campfire. Perhaps He had beckoned to her and invited her to join and to sit down with the men to hear. During this time, no properly raised Jewish woman would have so boldly sat down with the men while the Scriptures were being taught. Thus when Martha came out of the kitchen to complain to the Lord Jesus that He should instruct her sister to come into the kitchen to help her, the Lord Jesus did not rebuke or reject Mary from being one of His disciples, but succinctly told Martha that Mary had chosen the better portion and He would not take it from her.
Another fine example of how the Lord Jesus dealt with women is the account of the woman caught in adultery in John 8:2-11. As the story is related, this woman was caught in the very “act” of adultery. To be so caught was to be found breaking the seventh commandment of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments), and the punishment for this was to be taken outside the gates of the city and stoned to death. Before we proceed any further, if the woman was caught in the very “act”, then may we ask, “Where was the man?” Was he not also caught in the same act? It would be rather hard to be caught in the act of adultery when you are alone. So how does the Lord Jesus respond to all of this? He utters one sentence, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” He then stoops down on the ground and begins to write words in the sand. Then one by one, beginning with the oldest present until the youngest was left, they all left the Lord’s presence. During this historic period, men continually broke the seventh commandment and all manner of excuses were made for them, however, if a woman broke this commandment her fate was already sealed. Again, we note that the Lord Jesus does not reprove, condemn nor reject this woman, but He simply asks her, “Where are your accusers? Has no man condemned you?” She answers “No man, my Lord.” He tenderly tells her, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”
Stay tuned for Part 2 for more exciting news of the Lord Jesus Christ.