5 important women in the Gospels
by Amy Ekeh
We’re all familiar with Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene; and Mary and Martha of Bethany, who spent considerable time with Jesus and were part of his inner circle. In this issue, let’s look beyond these wonderful women and learn about some of the other important women of the Gospels. What does each one have to teach us?
1.The Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:4-42)
Jesus’ conversation with the curious and talkative Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob is the occasion of so many amazing things! Thefrank tone of the back-and-forth between this woman and Jesus indicates that Jesus is not a grand, intimidating figure. She certainly seems to have no qualms in firing questions at Jesus and speaking her mind!
In turn, Jesus is quite direct with her. As the two of them talk in the light of the afternoon sun, the Samaritan woman gradually comes to understand who Jesus is. She calls him a “prophet,” and he reveals himself as “the Messiah.” She then becomes an instant evangelist, returning to the city and telling everyone about Jesus. This interesting woman symbolizes the natural process of coming to understand Jesus and the way we should all “testify” to his true identity.
2. The woman with a hemorrhage (Mark 5:25-34)
The story about the woman who had suffered from hemorrhages for 12 years is a tale of simple faith. This woman had “suffered greatly at the hands of many doctors” and had “spent all that she had” (Mark 5:26). But her condition had only worsened. She heard that Jesus was coming, and she said to herself, “If I but touch his clothes, I shall be cured” (Mark 5:28).
What fantastic faith! And her faith was rewarded. She touched Jesus’ cloak, the power flowed from him, and she was healed of her ailment. The woman fell down before Jesus in an outpouring of emotion, and he called her “daughter” and wished her “peace.” We, too, can reach out to Jesus, if only to touch his cloak. Sometimes just the fringe of his garment is enough.
3.The woman who anointed Jesus (Mark 14:3-9)
Here is a true prophet! Throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus repeatedly tells people (and evil spirits) not to reveal his identity as the Messiah. Why does Jesus want to keep this a secret? One reason is that Jesus is not the kind of messiah people are expecting. He is not a glorious, triumphant military figure who will restore Israel’s glory.
Instead Jesus is a messiah who will suffer and die. Although Jesus tries to tell his disciples this (three times, in fact), they do not want to accept it. But this woman approaches Jesus at a gathering and anoints him with expensive ointment, and Jesus interprets her act as anointing his body for burial. Finally, someone has acknowledged that Jesus will die. And as Jesus said: “What she has done will be told in memory of her” (Mark 14:9).
4.The woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11)
In this story, the scribes and Pharisees bring a woman to Jesus, who is teaching in front of the temple. They tell him she was “caught in the very act of committing adultery” (John 8:4), and they make her “stand in the middle” of the crowd. Obviously their intention is to shame and punish her by stoning.
We know the rest of the story —the men question Jesus as to what should be done with the woman. And Jesus, in one of the most curious details in the Gospels, bends down and writes in the dirt with his finger, seemingly thinking it over. Then Jesus stands up and tells the woman’s accusers that whoever is without sin should be the first to punish her. They all walk away.
We are all sinners. And how relieved we are to know that when we feel shame —when wefeel judged —Jesus is in control and that even in a crowd, he sees us. He loves us: “Neither do I condemn you” (John 8:11).
5.The poor widow (Luke 21:1-4)
In this beautiful little story, the ever-observant Jesus watches as various people put monetary contributions into the temple treasury. Wealthy people toss in large amounts of money. But one woman —who is identified as “a poor widow” —puts in two small coins.
In a paradoxically insightful statement, Jesus points out that she has “put in more thanall the rest” (Luke 21:3). Why? Because she gave not from her excess, but from her need. Jesus literally says that she gave “her whole livelihood” (Luke 21:4). To give from one’s poverty, to give from one’s emptiness —to give until it hurts —this is the Good News. This is the Gospel. The way of this woman is the way of Jesus: to give and not count the cost.