Excerpt from Heralds of the Resurrection by Nikolai Ghe (1867)
Tretyakov Gallery (Wikimedia)
The Gospel-writer John records a few encounters that Jesus had with various women. In these encounters, Jesus taught and demonstrated his theology, a life-giving and vital theology. And he responded to the women’s theological questions in ways that answered their deepest needs.
Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
In John 4:7–26, John relates a long conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. It is the longest conversation of Jesus recorded in the Gospels. In response to her questions and statements, Jesus tells the woman about his gift of “living water” and about true worship.
Jesus said to her:
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13–14).
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23–24).
During the course of the conversation, the Samaritan woman began to realise who Jesus was, and she brings up the subject of the coming Messiah. She said, “I know that Messiah (called ‘Christ’])is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Jesus said to her:
“I, the one speaking to you, I am he” (John 4:25–26).
The Samaritan woman then goes and tells others about Jesus.
More about the Samaritan woman here.
Jesus and Martha of Bethany
In Luke’s Gospel, we read that Jesus taught Mary of Bethany (Luke 10:39–25). In John’s Gospel, we read that he also taught Mary’s sister Martha. Jesus took the opportunity to tell Martha about the resurrection when she brought up the subject after the death of her brother Lazarus. This conversation is recorded in John 11:20–28.
Jesus said to her:
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26).
As well as teaching Martha about eternal life, Jesus had revealed that he was the Messiah (cf. Matt. 16:16–17; John 6:68). She told Jesus, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27).
Martha recognised Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and she recognised him as the Teacher (didaskalos). She goes and tells her sister, “The Teacher is here and is calling you” (John 11:28).
More about Martha of Bethany here.
Jesus and Mary Magdalene
John records the first meeting between Mary Magdalene and Jesus after Jesus’ death and resurrection (John 20:14–18). Jesus begins the conversation with two questions.
Jesus said to her:
“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” (John 20:15).
Mary did not recognise him until Jesus said to her:
“Mary” (John 20:16).
Mary Magdalene had probably heard Jesus call her by name many times, and she now recognised the familiar voice of her master. Mary responds with “Rabboni” which means “my master-teacher”. By calling Jesus “Rabboni”, Mary indicates that Jesus had been her teacher. Jesus would have taught her theology, but now she had first-hand knowledge of the theology of Jesus’ resurrection.
Following Jesus’ instructions, Mary goes and tells the other disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18).
Jesus, Women, and Theology
Jesus was interested in the lives of women. He engaged them in conversations. He asked them questions. He called them by name. Moreover, he assumed women were interested in theology, and that they needed to know theology for themselves.
Jesus had many female disciples and he entrusted his teaching to them. Jesus was their Lord, Messiah, and Teacher. And after their encounters with him, these women were equipped to go and talk about theology to others. Jesus is still equipping women, as well as men, through his Spirit and his Word, to speak up and talk about theology.
The Lord gives the word, and a great army of women proclaim the good news. Psalm 68:11
 There are several times in John’s Gospel where Jesus is recorded as speaking directly to a woman and calling her “woman.” In English, it is disrespectful to address a woman “woman,” but Jesus was not being disrespectful. Rather, he says “woman” to get their attention and signal that he is about to say something both personal and weighty.
Here is every instance where Jesus says “woman” (gynai) in direct address.
John 2:4: To his mother Mary
And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.”
John 4:21: To the Samaritan Woman
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”
John 8:10: To the woman caught in adultery
Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
John 19: 26: While on the cross
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, look, here is your son!”
John 20:15: To Mary Magdalene
Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who is it you are looking for?”
Angels also use the word “woman” to Mary Magdalene (John 20:13).
Furthermore, Jesus is also recorded using the word “woman” in direct address in Matthew 15:28 to the Canaanite woman: Then Jesus replied to her, “O woman, your faith is great. Let it be done for you as you want.”
And in Luke 13:12 to a woman disabled by a spirit for 18 years: “When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” More about this encounter here.
© Margaret Mowczko 2016
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