Some Christians believe only men can represent Jesus because Jesus is a man. More especially, they believe church leaders somehow represent Jesus to their congregation, and, because Jesus is male, women cannot be church leaders. This article looks at some of the flaws in these beliefs, and it answers the question, Is it only men who can represent Jesus?

Jesus Christ as a Human Being

Jesus left heaven and came to earth as a human being, a male human being; however, Jesus’ maleness or masculinity is not emphasised in the New Testament.[1] Jesus is rarely referred to in the Greek New Testament as an anēr (adult male); he is most commonly referred to as an anthrōpos (human being). Most verses which speak about Jesus’ salvation ministry emphasise his humanity without referring to his gender. This emphasis on Jesus’ humanity is lost in English translations which translate anthrōpos into the English word “man” instead of “human being” or “person”. Romans 5:15; 1 Corinthians 15:47; Philippians 2:7-8, and 1 Timothy 2:5 are just a few of many verses about Jesus where anthrōpos has been traditionally translated into English as “man” instead of “person”.

Is it only men who can represent Jesus?The message of the New Testament is that Jesus became the Saviour of humanity because he became human and died for our sins; not because he became a male human.[2] Jesus is just as much the Saviour and Redeemer of women as he is of men.[3]

Jesus’ Gender-inclusive Teaching

Jesus is also just as much the Teacher of women as he is of men. When Jesus taught the crowds, he did not give certain instructions to men and other, different instructions to women, nor did he teach about so-called “gender roles”. Nowhere in the New Testament does it state that some of Jesus’ teachings and virtues are more appropriate for men than for women. Nor is the example of Jesus’ life and ministry somehow more applicable to men just because Jesus was male.

Both men and women are called to follow Jesus and attain to the “fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). As a Christian woman, my greatest desire is to follow Jesus closely and have Christ fully formed in me (Gal. 4:19). Jesus is my Lord, my Saviour, my Teacher, and he is my role model.

The Presence and Representation of Jesus Christ during Communion 

Some Christian denominations teach that the person officiating at a Communion service represents Jesus Christ, and, because Jesus was male, the person officiating must also be male. These churches believe that Communion is a kind of re-enactment of the Last Supper,[4] and the person officiating at Communion is taking the part, or place, of Jesus.[5]

Jesus organised, and spoke a few words at, the Last Supper; however, I cannot see that a person officiating at subsequent Communion meals needs to represent him. The notion that a church leader represents Jesus is especially problematic for denominations, such as Roman Catholicism, which teach that the emblems of the body and blood of Jesus turn into the actual body and blood of Jesus. Why have a person represent Jesus when his actual body and blood are thought to be present?

Other denominations believe that Jesus is present during Communion in a spiritual way. If Jesus is truly present at Communion why do we need someone else to represent him? This doesn’t make sense. Moreover, as someone who has a relationship with the real Jesus, why do I need anybody else to represent him to me?

Christians who know the real Jesus, the ultimate High Priest and mediator, do not need someone else to play the part of a priestly mediator. It is not Christians who need someone to represent Jesus to them, it is non-believers.[6] Christian men and women are called to be ambassadors and representatives of Jesus Christ to non-believers, and help bring them to God (2 Cor. 5:19-20a).

Conclusion

Being “Christ-like” has nothing to do with gender. All Christians should be demonstrating the virtues of Jesus and emulating his qualities.[7] Both men and women should be imitators of Christ, endeavouring to live according to his teachings while encouraging others to do the same by example. As Christians, we do not need another person to represent Jesus to us or act as some sort of priestly, mediatory figure. We do not need someone acting the part of Jesus when we already know and have the real Jesus.


Endnotes

[1] Masculinity covers a wide spectrum of personalities, attitudes, values and behaviours. While it is difficult to define what comprises masculinity, some hierarchical complementarians state that the main masculine qualities are courage, honour, and duty. Perhaps men are generally more concerned with honour than women. Jesus, on the hand, was not concerned about his personal honour (Phil. 2:7). Furthermore, many women have proven that courage and duty are not tied to masculinity.

[2] I have suggested reasons why Jesus came to earth as a male towards the end of my article entitled, “Is God Male or Masculine?” here.

[3] For example: The salvation of women is obscure in the King James Version of 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature . . .”  This masculine bias is unwarranted as 2 Corinthians 5:17 is completely gender neutral (or gender-inclusive) in the Greek.  [More about gender-inclusive translations here.]

[4] The Last Supper is recorded in  Luke 22:7-20; cf. Matthew 26:17, 26-29; Mark 14:22-25.

[5] See also 1 Corinthians 10:16-17; 11:20-34.Christian denominations who regard their clergy as priests, believe they act “in persona Christ” during Communion or the Eucharist. Paul Jewett writes:

“. . . if the priest acts ‘in persona Christi,’ not ‘in masculinitate Christi,’ then ‘NATURAL resemblance’ between Christ and the priest, it would seem, does not entail PHYSICAL, that is SEXUAL resemblance, but a resemblance which is natural to the SPIRITUAL order with which the worshiping congregation has to do. And in this order there is neither male nor female, even as there is neither Jew nor Greek. We would, therefore, conclude that since the Word was made flesh, as the apostle John has declared him (John 1:14), we rightly heed those who, in the flesh, symbolize his presence as they speak and act in his name. But we see no reason to add to what the apostle said by insisting that the Word was made MALE flesh, for both male and female are equally bearers of the divine image. And since God created humankind in his image, male AND female, we can only conclude that women as well as men should be ordained to the priesthood, because femaleness, like maleness, is a fitting symbol (sacramental sign) of Deity.”
The Ordination of Women: An Essay on the Office of Christian Ministry (Jewett’s use of caps.)

[6] I am aware that I represent Jesus in certain situations. For instance, when I go into public schools (where only a few students and teachers have a saving faith in Jesus Christ and a genuine knowledge of Christianity) I know that how non-believers regard me may have a bearing on how they regard the church and its leader, Jesus Christ.

[7] It is beyond the scope of this article to define or list Christ-like qualities; however, any list of Christ-like qualities would include the qualities, or the fruit, of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22).


Related Articles

Is God Male or Masculine?
The Twelve Apostles were All Male
Jesus’ Teaching on Leadership and Community in Matthew’s Gospel
The Covenant Meal
Old Testament Priests and New Testament Ministers
Son of Man