Here’s a look back at what Jesus said about women in the Bible.
In the canonical New Testament, Jesus has a number of interactions with women. Women are present at every stage of Jesus’ life and he speaks about them positively. While the New Testament has many examples of Jesus speaking about women, there are three prominent tropes: women as disciples, women as witnesses and women who anointed Jesus.
Women as disciples
The opening of Luke 8 reads, “Soon afterward he went on through one town and village after another, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who ministered to them out of their own resources.”
Here, Jesus identifies Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and many others as his followers who ministered to people with him.
Jesus identified women as disciples in other places. In Matthew 12:49, the text reads, “And pointing to his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’”
Jesus’ message about discipleship was that everyone can follow him.
Women who anointed Jesus
The gospels include two stories of women anointing Jesus.
The anointing by a repentant woman
This episode only occurs in the gospel of Luke. The gospel author wrote, “And a woman in the city who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.”
The women then anoints Jesus’ feet and Jesus tells a parable to Simon. After forgiving the woman’s sins, he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
The anointing by the women at Bethany
A woman at Bethany anoints Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John.
In the gospel of John, Martha served dinner while “Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them, with her hair.” After she anointed him, Judas Iscariot asked why the perfume wasn’t sold to give to the poor.
Jesus responded, “Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”
Women as witnesses
Women were the first witnesses to the resurrected Christ.
A messenger from God told Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” to “not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead.’” Then, while the women rush out of the tomb, they meet Jesus, who tells them to “tell my brothers and sisters to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
The gospel of Luke contains a similar episode.
Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary mother of Jacob/James and other women with them saw “two men in dazzling clothes.” These messengers communicated that the Son of Man has risen from the dead and they rushed to the eleven apostles to tell them this. “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” Peter went to the tomb to confirm this.
Biblical scholar Barbara Reid wrote, “Narratively, the women at the cross, burial, and empty tomb are the crucial link to the crucified and buried Jesus, whose tomb is empty. The women are also the connection back to Galilee, providing the necessary link for remembering what Jesus told the disciples there.”