Have you ever wondered if Jesus really sees you?
Mary Magdalene, as a woman, did something extraordinary. In Luke 8:1–3 it states that she and some other women traveled with Jesus and the apostles. This was extraordinary because women were not permitted to sit at the feet of a rabbi to learn.
Rabbinic literature of the time placed women as inferior to men both socially and religiously. Here are a few of the restrictions Barbara J. MacHaffie highlights in Her Story: Women in Christian Tradition. Women were:
- Not spoken to by men in public.
- Seen as seducers of men, a temptation to be avoided.
- Not permitted to testify in a court of law.
- Not counted in the quorum for forming a synagogue or congregation.
- Not allowed past the outer court in the temple in Jerusalem.
- Seated separately in the synagogues.
- Not permitted to read aloud or take on a public position.
- Not permitted to study the Scriptures.
This same attitude is seen in Mark 16:9–11, when Magdalene rushes to the disciples to tell them she has seen the risen Christ. Verse 11 says, “But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it.”
Jesus’s entire ministry involved challenging the status quo. He flipped tables, challenged religious leaders, and spent his time with sinners. He once walked through a field with the disciples, plucking heads of grain to eat, and even healed a man on the Sabbath, much to the dismay of the Pharisees (Mark 2:23–3:6).
In Luke 8:1–3 the women in the story are alongside the twelve Jesus teaches regularly. They travel with and provide for their material needs. Not only were they invited to the table with Jesus, they were financially making it possible for the men to be there as well. If the text here is not clear enough that women were permitted to sit at Jesus’s feet and learn, then another text shows this clearly.
In Luke 10:38–42 we find Jesus in the home of Martha and Mary. As we studied in week two, these women are the sisters of Lazarus. This Mary was revered for turning from her traditional role of service in the home and plopping herself down at the feet of the visiting rabbi to drink in all he has to teach. Be reminded of the words of Jesus to Martha, who argued that Mary’s place is in the kitchen: “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (v. 42). Martha did nothing wrong, but Mary didn’t either.
Jesus welcomed and encouraged women to sit at his feet and learn in a culture that told them they did not belong there. He did not value one sex over the other. He saw male and female as they were created, in God’s image (Genesis 1:27). He welcomed everyone to follow him. Just as he still does.