Jesus cherished women! In a time when females were considered inferior to men and treated as property, Christ counted them among His most valued disciples and friends. I want you to look at four of “His Women,” healed by His mercy and grace, and learn how He cherishes YOU. I want you to intimately know Jesus, the real Jesus…not the Sunday School one, or the painted sissy Christ with a pasty face and girlish hair (they make him look like a shampoo ad!) This spectacular Savior is the One who looked at a woman and made her feel like a million dollars, like she could do anything. These desperate, lonely women looked into Jesus’ eyes and knew that nothing else in the world mattered because He loved them completely and unconditionally. We will look at three wounded women in the New Testament, all from John’s gospel, and see how Jesus re-shaped their views of God when He touched their lives. The fourth, Mary of Bethany, loved her Savior at first sight and understood His passion for people and mission to save mankind.
1. THE ADULTEROUS WOMAN
In John 8, Jesus is in deep water. The plotting Pharisees tried to trap Him, by asking an accusing question—“Who’s your Daddy?” And they didn’t mean Joseph! Mary’s dubious pre-wedding pregnancy still caused skeptics to believe He was an unwanted child. So they tried to place Him in a no-win situation. They accosted Jesus teaching in the temple, and threw an adulterous woman at Jesus’ feet. My question is, “How did they catch this woman ‘in the act’?” Did they hire a Private eye? Did they find a Peeping Tom? Women had no civil rights in the Mediterranean world. They were not considered to be citizens, they could not vote, and they could not seek or gain justice in the court system.
According to Jewish law, both adulterous parties were to be stoned, but the man somehow conveniently eluded their grasp. The trembling, disheveled woman was left to the whims of her accusers – with no protection or recourse. These treacherous hypocrites hurled the harlot at Jesus feet and asked Him what to do with her. The Catch 22 was if Jesus told them to carry out the letter of the Jewish law (her stoning) he would break the Roman law. The Romans did not permit Jews to execute anyone. If Jesus let her off scot-free, He would be breaking Jewish law, and they would call him a liberal and a heretic. Sneaky!
Notice Jesus’ focus. He ignores the Pharisees; he is deaf to the clamor of the mob. Instead of looking at those who had the power to take His life, He knelt in the sand next to the woman. What must she be feeling? Humiliation, terror, shame….What drove her to such desperation that she would risk her life to be with a man in an illicit affair? Was her husband abusive? Did she feel trapped? Was she desperately unhappy? Was she depressed—did she really want to be found out to end her miserable existence?
What did Jesus see in those tear-stained eyes? Fear, condemnation, shame?
No Biblical scholar can verify exactly what Jesus wrote in the sand…was it the sins of her accusers? Was it the name of some prostitute in town all the men in the mob knew a little too well? Was it a scripture verse from the Torah? From the oldest to the youngest…they walked away. We just know one thing for sure. Jesus was on the ground because SHE was on the ground. He looked into her eyes, and said three things.
“Woman, where are your accusers?” Those who had the power to harm her were gone. Her tear-stained eyes met His in utter relief and gratefulness.
“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said. “Go and sin no more.”
Jesus’ face told her so much! “Forget the people, forget your reputation, forget the shame of the past…all the wake of your stupid choices. It’s about you and me.” Christ saw her through the lens of unconditional love. She was pure and clean in His eyes – the only eyes that mattered. Jesus related to this broken adulteress with love, compassion, and forgiveness, countering the view of God as disappointed and CONDEMNING.
Disappointment…unmet expectations…dashed hopes. And many times these expectations are unrealistic….the result of self-deception.
If you had a disappointed Daddy, if you feel you blew your chance at life, you may believe all hope of change is gone. You are a lost cause. Meet the Christ who knelt in the sand…the Jesus of second chances….the Jesus who exchanges approval for shame, and hope for hopelessness.
2. THE WOMAN AT THE WELL
Let’s look at another lady Jesus loved. In John 4, Jesus felt compelled by His Father to travel through Samaria. Christ’s “road trip” was not an evangelistic crusade, or a big “red carpet” synagogue appearance. God sent Him to meet a woman in need. Now just for the record, Samaria was not the garden spot of the Holy Land, it was the armpit of the Middle East. The story began at noon beneath a scorching, blistering sun. The disciples were hungry and headed for McDonald’s. They left a parched Jesus sitting at a well in the town square without lemonade or Diet Coke. Enter a Samaritan woman of dubious reputation. This “scarlet” woman and this holy man were from two different worlds. Jesus was a Jewish rabbi. Normally, rabbis were snobs. In Luke 10, we read that an indifferent rabbi encountered a wounded man. He rudely ignored him and crossed to the other side of the street.
Jews didn’t talk to half-breed Samaritans from the other side of the tracks. Jewish men didn’t talk to strange women…they were not even supposed to make eye-contact. And this woman was the ultimate outcast—she had no husband, no visible means of support. Shunned by society, our nameless woman couldn’t draw water in the evening with the rest of her neighbors. She had to come in the middle of the day. Here’s the real shocker, the twist to the story. Jesus, the rabbi, asked her for help. The Creator of the Universe, who made the waters and the seas, who turned water into wine, asked a low-life half-breed for a Thirstbuster. Does it get any better than that? She was so stunned she asked him why he was even talking to her! And then, she did what we often do when we encounter true grace—we try to prove that we deserve it. This woman of ill-repute asked Jesus where to go to church. Shocker! “We Samaritans worship here, you Jews go to Jerusalem…where should I go to church?”
Isn’t it just like us to turn the grace of God into a brownie point system?
We often do the same when we become Christians. We receive the free gift of salvation and self-righteous pride causes us to leave grace behind and create a works system to earn favor with God. We baptize people and then teach them to be Pharisees and legalists. We give them just enough truth to make them miserable.
The woman at the well tried to impress this Rabbi with her church attendance. But Jesus told her worship was not about measuring up, it was about receiving. It was about relationship. The Hebrew word for worship is indicative of a dog licking a master’s hand — spontaneous, ebullient affection, unabashed enthusiasm. It doesn’t get more personal than dog slobber.
Jesus then asked the woman to call her husband…” He might as well have opened her chest and ripped her heart out. Her life was a series of broken affairs. “You’ve had five husbands and the man you’re living with now is not your husband,” Jesus said. Now Christ went to the core of her heart of hearts and dealt with the grief and despair she felt over lost love. He saw her, warts and all, and offered her unconditional, sloppy, gorgeous grace. He gave her life-giving acceptance that filled the empty places where pain used to be.
You may, as a woman, struggle with rejection issues, with the constant fear that if someone really knew you, you would be hated and avoided. An inspecting view of God is countered by Jesus’ actions with the Samaritan woman.
3. THE WOMAN WITH THE ISSUE OF BLOOD
Some of you ladies are living in pain because Jesus seems far away. He feels like a Cosmic force disinterested in your tiny life. Maybe you see God as distant because Daddy wasn’t there. Maybe he left when you were too little to understand why he and Mommy couldn’t get along. Maybe Daddy just worked too much and didn’t have time to go to your recitals, or play with you on Saturdays. Maybe he beat you when he was drunk. Maybe he touched you where he shouldn’t have. You pray and feel like your words bounce off the ceiling. “Where was God when I needed Him?” you cry.
MARK 5:25-32 describes the miraculous healing of the woman with the issue of blood. This anonymous woman suffered with a twelve-year hemorrhage. What was her illness?? Fibroid tumors, endocrine gland disturbance, a polyp, or tear in the cervix? Today she could probably be cured with a ten-minute DNC. She was at wit’s end after a dozen years of isolation….no houseguests, no potlucks, no hugs, no husband, or children or family. She was exhausted from constant cleaning—everything she touched, everywhere she sat was contaminated. If others touched her, they were considered unclean until sundown. Jewish women were ceremonially impure during their menstrual cycle. The basic Jewish interpretation of the law was that a woman was pure when she was pregnant, and her only value lay in bearing children. Our poor victim was tired of quack doctors and their foul remedies. Bleeding was treated by garden crocuses dissolved in wine, by sawdust from a lotus tree mixed with the curdled milk of a hare or ashes from an ostrich egg worn around the neck in a linen bag.
If you are chronically ill, were your hopes ever dashed when you visited a new specialist only to find nothing really helped? Where is this God who is supposed to care? This despised woman could not even go into the temple to ask God to heal her. The people around her probably called her demon-possessed, just like the man born blind in John 9. Demons were called unclean spirits. You can imagine what folks whispered about her behind her back!
This pitiful creature made the arduous two-day journey-thirty miles on foot from Caeserea to Capernaum-without Nikes. The woman couldn’t sleep in an inn. She was cold, anemic, probably half-starved. But she courageously came for the cure.
She was desperate for a touch from this Galilean prophet. Trying to reach Jesus in a crowd pressing around him to the point of suffocation was probably like trying to get an audience with the President surrounded by the press and secret service. We know Jesus was almost inaccessible because the disciples laughed when Jesus said… “Who touched me?” Jesus and His disciples were packed like sardines in the midst of the mob, and nobody used Right Guard or flossed in those days. But Jesus felt the power (energy, dunamis) of God released from Him.
This weary woman’s only thread of hope was her faith. Somehow this God who had looked away for twelve years, this God who lived among men, this miraculous Messiah took time to touch her, and she would never be the same.
The real God is not afraid to touch the untouchable, or love the unlovable. He doesn’t care where you’ve been, only that you come to Him.
4. MARY OF BETHANY
One remarkable woman in John truly knew Christ’s heart, not because she was someone special, but because she discovered the value of being loved by Jesus. Mary of Bethany did the unthinkable. In a day when women were never able to attend synagogue, when they were prevented from going into the Temple except the outer courts, Mary sat at the feet of Rabbi Jesus. In Jesus’ day women were seen as inferior or defective. Men were the thinkers, capable of being educated. Jewish men believed women couldn’t be educated because they were fragile, emotional, irrational, inferior and ignorant. Jesus broke down these barriers by teaching and treating men and women equally. He never patronized Mary, but taught her as an equal with Peter, James and John. He allowed her to sit at His feet. Martha, her busybody sister, was furious. Mary’s stubborn sibling believed that a woman’s place was in the kitchen, barefoot and bearing babies. They served the men. Females had no business expressing interest in spiritual matters. Jesus rebuked Martha, told her to get out of the kitchen and join her sister. He encouraged her to do the better thing–to be like Mary, sitting at his feet and hearing His heart.
How close were Jesus and Mary? When Mary’s life was torn apart by her brother’s death, Jesus responded in a way she could not possibly have understood. He waited. He didn’t come to heal Lazarus, His dearest friend. Lazarus was dead and her Savior could have been there. He healed everybody else. Why wasn’t Jesus there for the family He loved so dearly? In spite of her grief, Mary threw herself at her Master’s feet when Jesus arrived. She took all of her anger, all of her questions, all of her pain and mourned before Him. And what did her Lord do? He wept with her. He wasn’t weeping for Lazarus. He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus shared in Mary’s pain at the deepest level. In those moments, Christ truly showed us His heart. He is a God who weeps with us.
Jesus’ clueless disciples ran around trying to make Jesus King. Only Mary knew what Jesus came to do. She knelt at his feet in the dining room where women were not allowed, she poured out her life’s savings in perfume on his dusty feet, and she worshipped him lavishly. It was a daring, unconventional thing to do—a million-dollar pedicure in public for this itinerant preacher. What a terrible waste! She mortgaged her future to comfort her Savior. And Jesus smelled the perfume as He hung on His cross. For all eternity, Mary will be the one who truly knew her Savior’s heart.
The real Jesus loves you completely, freely, fully! Kneel before Him today. Give Him your heart.