There’s a story in the bible where Jesus is talking to a crowd of people and a woman yells out to him. She shouts: Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you. This was meant to be a compliment as Jesus was obviously quite profound, and the woman wanted to give a shout out to the lady who birthed such a genius. But Jesus corrects her, saying, Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it. What’s up with that? Why such a response from Jesus?
In John Ortberg’s audio series, Who Is This Man?, Ortberg notes just how radical Jesus’ response was – to those with ears to hear. Let’s set the scene. In Roman culture a woman’s primary function and worth was to give birth to male babies. This was what defined a woman in Roman society. Male child – good mom. Raise a good male child – all the better.
It was not women’s intelligence, or their compassion, or their incredible wisdom, courage, and strength that identified them as worthy. It certainly wasn’t that they were created in the image of God. A woman’s value came from producing male children. In fact, women were categorized as children. They weren’t even full citizens. Their testimony was rarely valid, and they lived under the rule of their father or husband.
Ortberg goes on to describe the classic story of Mary and Martha. Martha is all upset because she’s doing all the chores and hosting duties while Jesus is hanging out at their place. Meanwhile, Mary is at the feet of Jesus. Ortberg describes how Martha was doing what Roman culture expected of her – serve the men, keep the house clean, cook the food, take care of the babies – does this sound familiar? But Mary was at the feet of Jesus. Who else was at Jesus’ feet? Who were the other students? They were men.
Jesus said, Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.
When Jesus calls your name twice, one should take notice, Ortberg notes. He was telling Martha, as well as the woman who yelled out in the crowd that they are all equal in the eyes of God. Jesus was saying to women that you live your life under Roman culture. You define yourself by Roman culture and expectations. This culture, this “empire,” will pass away. Follow me. Build your life on me – an everlasting foundation.
Jesus was saying, and it’s still applicable today, don’t follow the ways of this world, follow God. Seek God first. Only then will your perspective be correct.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson