Who is this Man? How Jesus Shaped the World’s view of Women and Marriage

June 2, 2013

Who is This Man?  3
If I was to ask you about the longest recorded conversation
that Jesus had in the four gospels who would you say it involved?  His best friend, Peter?  John the Baptist?  The High Priests when they were interrogating
him or Pilate during this trial?  Wrong
on each account.  The longest
conversation that Jesus is recorded as having in any of the four Gospels is
found in the passage that was read for us earlier and took place at a well on
the side of the road.  And while it might
not seem all that important to us it was world changing in its context.
This is week three of our “Who
is this Man?” series.  And it seems a
little familiar in spots it was actually birthed out of a message I did over
the Christmas Season entitled “A Wonderful Life”. 
I finished that message by
referencing John’s words in John 21:25 Jesus
also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole
world could not contain the books that would be written. And I promised
that I would be coming back to re-visit and expand upon the thoughts of “How
Jesus shaped our world.”  If it doesn’t
seem a little familiar to you I’m crushed that you didn’t remember, but I’ll
get over it. 
So on Good Friday and Easter Sunday we looked at what
various people on those days would have said about who Jesus was.  And then I left if for a few weeks and came
back  after Mother’s day to delve back
into the theme again.  And some of you
are thinking, “Oh Yeah, that sounds familiar”. 
And others are thinking “He’s preached on this before?”
So two weeks ago we looked at Who is this Man from our
perspective and read from Cornerstone’s statement of faith that you can find on
our website.  And part of that says: our
beliefs are in line with historic Christianity. 
And then we looked at what that meant in our beliefs about Jesus.  That he is the Son of God, that he was
conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, that his death on the cross
was in atonement for our sins and that on the third day he rose from the
dead.  This we believe.  
And so last week we looked at the greatest gift that Jesus
left the world, and that wasn’t his teachings, or his example, it was his
church.  Jesus promised the world in Luke 6:47 I will show you what it’s like
when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it.
And it was because of these people who came to Jesus, and
listened to Jesus’ teachings and then followed those teachings that the world
has been changed.  Last week we looked at
How:
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of the Poor 
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of the Sick
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Slaves
Jesus Shaped How We
Think of Children
So back to the question: 
If I was to ask you about the longest recorded conversation that Jesus
had in the four gospels who would you say it involved?  The answer of course is found in the
scripture that was read for us earlier, the longest recorded conversation that
Jesus had with anyone was with the Samaritan woman that he met at the well, as
recorded in John 4.  And you might be
asking ‘Why is that so important?”  The
answer is found further along in the story. 
So to bring you up to speed. 
If we  bring up one of
our friendly maps, we are told that Jesus was travelling from Judea, which is
here in the south and was going to 
Galilee which is here.  Now
obvsioulsy the quickest route was a straight line but because of bad blood
between the Jews and the Samaratians most people made a circulous route to get
from point “a” to point “b”.  
Instead we see Jesus and his apostle cut straight through
the centre and as the arrive at “Jacob’s Well” 
which would have been a landmark that those reading the story would have
recognized the apostles head into town to buy food and leave Jesus to his own
devices.  Just as a little aside, in the
culture of that day it would be very difficult to believe that before they met
Jesus that any of these guys would have been in Samaria, let alone would have
thought of buying and eating food prepared by Samaritans, already the barriers
are coming down. 
So Jesus is sitting on the edge
of the well, he’s been walking for probably five or six hours and teaching his
apostles as they walked so he’s a little tuckered out, so let’s pick up the
story at that point.  John
4:7-8
Soon a Samaritan woman came to draw
water, and Jesus said to her, “Please give me a drink.” He was alone at the
time because his disciples had gone into the village to buy some food.  Sounds fairly innocent and you are
probably wondering what this has to do with how Jesus shaped the world we live
in today.  First of all let’s go to the
woman’s response.  John
4:9
The woman was surprised, for Jews refuse
to have anything to do with Samaritans. She said to Jesus, “You are a Jew, and
I am a Samaritan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?”   And now let’s skip ahead through all
the conversation between Jesus and this woman, which is material for a dozen
sermons, to the point the disciples return. 
John 4:27 Just then his disciples came back. They
were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to
ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?”
Sometimes the church has been
seen as anti-women, but Jesus Shaped how
we Think of Women. 
 In the time that Jesus was born historians
tell us that for every 100 women there were 140 men.  Why? 
Because boy children were worth more than female children and so often
when a girl child was born she was set outside and allowed to die.  And that imbalance continues in Countries
like China and India today.
One historian records a
chilling letter from a pagan husband to his wife: “Know that I am still in
Alexandria…. I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon
as I received payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered (before I
come home), if it is a boy keep it, if a girl, discard it.”
Under Roman law fathers were
required to raise all healthy male children but were only required to keep
their first daughter, any others were disposable.  Women had no rights, they were considered
mere property of their husbands.  A man
could have his wife killed for committing adultery but the only time a man was
punished was when he committed adultery with another man’s wife and the other
man demanded punishment.
And yet here we have the
longest personal conversation that we have a record of Jesus having is with a
woman, in John chapter four.   And he
talked to her as an equal, which wasn’t the norm of the day but seemed to be
the norm for Jesus because he never hesitated to talk to women and defend
women.  And it’s interesting that Jesus didn’t define the woman at the well by
her Marital Status. 
In that day and
age the proper thing for Jesus to do would have been to have the conversation with
her husband but he wanted to hear what she was thinking.
If we look across the story of
Jesus we discover that he had no problem interacting with women.  And he sees them as equals and treats them as
equals. 
In the John chapter eight we
read the account of the woman who was accused of adultery.  It’s the entire “Cast the first stone”
story.  It’s interesting that although we
are told that she was caught in the act of adultery there is no man who is
brought forward.  And that’s because in
that time and culture that was seen as the man’s prerogative but when a woman
cheated it was all about the fact that she disgraced her husband.  When the religious leaders brought the woman
to Jesus to be judged they were assuming that it was a slam dunk, that Jesus
like most men would side with them. 
Instead he challenged them to examine themselves and to judge her the
way they would judge themselves.  He was
simply asking that she be judged as a man.   
He refused to define the woman
caught in Adultery based on her past
and refused to judge her on the
hypocritical system of the day. 
Now that was not to say that he
excused her behaviour.  Listen to how the
story finishes John 8:10-11 Then
Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t
even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither
do I. Go and sin no more.”   He
acknowledged that what she had done was wrong and challenged her to do better
when he said “Go and sin no more.”
There is an interesting Jesus
story in Luke, Jesus is visiting the home of his friends Lazarus, Mary and
Martha.  And in that story we are told
that Martha is hustling around doing her best to be the hostess with the
mostest and the expectation is that her sister would be helping her.
Not really all that unusual
from a party or BBQ today, the guys are gathered in one part of the house and
the girls are gathered in another spot. 
Depends on the weather, if it’s a BBQ you know the guys will be out
around the grill.
And that’s what happened that
day, except Mary’s not with the girls she’s at the grill with the guys.    But
the guys aren’t talking sports or cars, as hard as that might be to
believe.  Instead if we pick up the story
we read, Luke 10:39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet,
listening to what he taught.  And
that wasn’t expected, what was expected was that men would sit at the feet of a
Rabbi and that women would be seen and not heard as they did what society
expected them to do.  Which was to cook
and clean and make babies.  But Jesus didn’t define Mary by Society’s expectations. 
And when Martha complained that
she was doing all the work, which probably wasn’t what she was complaining
about, she was upset that Mary was doing what wasn’t expected of her.  Martha was complaining that Mary was presuming
that she could learn like a man.  And
listen to how Jesus responds to Martha’s criticism, Luke 10:41-42 But
the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these
details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has
discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”   What was it that Mary had
discovered?  Some would say that it was
that it was better to be involved in the things of God then the things of the
world, or that we should take time to slow down, the eternal things were more
important than the temporal. 
But what Mary discovered was
that it was all right for her to be his disciple, even when society said that
as a woman she couldn’t be.
And it wasn’t just Mary who
discovered that.  Listen to this
account:  Luke 8:1-3 Soon
afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and
announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples
with him, along with some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out
evil spirits. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven
demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many
others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his
disciples.
And you might ask, “Why weren’t
any of the twelve women?”  I would
suspect that it had a lot to do with the practical aspect.  From the gospel accounts it would appear that
Jesus was with the twelve all the time, they travelled together, ate together,
bunked together.  And it was just simpler
and less scandalous that those 12 who were closest to him were all men.  But throughout the gospels there are women,
listening to him, talking to him and touching him and he consistently treats
them with respect and compassion.  
And there are those who would
say that apparently Jesus’ views on woman weren’t accepted by the early
church.  They most certainly were, when
the early followers of Christ gathered together in groups called churches many
of those identified as being in position of leadership were women.  And time and time again Paul addresses his
letters and sends greetings not only to men but to women in the early
church.  For example, Romans
16:3
says Give my greetings to Priscilla and
Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. Not Aquila and
the wife, or Mr. and Mrs. Aquila but instead he refers to my co-workers in the
ministry,  Priscilla and Aquila. 
And because of how Jesus
treated women one of his followers wrote Galatians
3:26-28
For you are all children of God
through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in
baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There
is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all
one in Christ Jesus.  That was
radical. 
And Jesus never commanded that
woman should cover themselves from head to toe and hide away from men, instead
he told men to respect them and not look on them as objects.  Jesus didn’t say that if men had lustful
thoughts it was because of women instead he said it was the men’s
responsibility to control their thoughts.
And yes scriptures have been misused
and the church hasn’t always been what it should have been but it was the
church at the forefront of the woman’s rights movement, including as I’ve referenced
the First Women’s Rights Convention happened in the US in 1848 in Seneca Falls
NY and was held in the Wesleyan Church, why? 
Because Jesus followers remembered that Jesus treated women as equals
and the early church said “There is no longer male and female.  For you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And it’s why the first English
book published by a woman was written by a Jesus Follower by the name of Julian
of Norwich in 1393, and why the abolitionist movement could have Jesus
followers like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Beecher Stowe and the prison reform
movement would be championed by a Jesus follower named Elizabeth Fry and a girl
name Joan, who loved Jesus, could lead a country into battle.  And a nurse named Florence could
revolutionize nursing because of her Christian faith.  
Dorothy L. Sayers was one of
the first women to receive a degree from Oxford and she wrote “”(The
women in the gospels) had never known a man like Jesus—there never has been
such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered
or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated
them either as ‘The women, God help us!’ or ‘The ladies, God bless them!’; who
rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their
questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them,
never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no
axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found
them.”
There is another interesting
part of this story that leads to our next point.  Jesus has offered the woman at the well
living water and she accepts that offer and we pick up the story in John
4:16-18
“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told
her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied. Jesus said, “You’re right!
You don’t have a husband— for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even
married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”
Sometimes in conversations with
couples who are living Common Law, they will say “what difference does a piece
of paper make?” or “We are married in the eyes of God.”  I don’t know what liturgy or ceremony that
this woman had gone through the first five times but apparently Jesus
recognized that it hadn’t happened for number six.     Jesus Shaped How we Think of Marriage
Sometimes the church comes
across as a little old fashion about marriage and sex, but 2000 years ago it
was a radical departure from the culture. 
In the world that Jesus lived marriage wasn’t sacred and sex wasn’t
special. 
It was the Greek philosopher Demosthenes who
said “We
have mistresses for pleasure, concubines to care for our daily body’s needs and
wives to bear us legitimate children.”   And
Roman temple worship involved prostitutes of both genders.
And so it would have been a
shock to most when Jesus reminded them in Matthew 19:5-6 And
he said, ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to
his wife, and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but
one, let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
Jesus is declaring that
marriage and sex are no longer simply physical things that you do but a
spiritual union as well as a physical union. When two become one. 
And at that time a Jewish man
could divorce his wife simply by saying “I divorce you”  and one historian commented “From the
beginning of ancient law in Rome men have always had the possibility of
divorcing their wives. Although this custom was usually reserved for serious
marital faults, such as adultery, making copies of the household keys,
consuming wine, or infertility, it could be employed by a husband at any time”
But Jesus and his church
decreed that men could no longer simply divorce their wives for just any reason
but only for the ultimate betrayal, adultery. 
And to this Jesus says Matthew 19:9 “And
I tell you this, whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits
adultery—unless his wife has been unfaithful.”   Again now that sounds old fashion but
for many who heard Jesus it was new and radical. 
As we discussed  earlier, often women were seen as little more
than property and along comes a church that teaches such radical things as  Ephesians 5:25 For
husbands, this means love your wives, just as Christ loved the church. He gave
up his life for her.  And
admonitions like 1 Peter 3:7 In
the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with
understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is
your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your
prayers will not be hindered.   And
speaking of partnership, 2000 years ago a little TMI in the church 1
Corinthians 7:3
The husband should fulfill his wife’s
sexual needs, and the wife should fulfill her husband’s needs.
As the world once again moves
away from the principles taught by Jesus about how we are to treat each other
and the one we say we love more than life itself, do you think it’s a better place
or a worse place to live?

But the bottom line is that Jesus
shaped the world by first shaping those who would follow him.  And the question that has to be answered is “How
has he shaped you?”