It doesn’t make sense, to me, that we are still talking about women in roles of leadership. And it boggles my mind that it is still a controversy to have women leaders in the church.  

Yes, I understand there are a few verses that the early church leader, Paul, talks about women being quiet or he doesn’t allow them to teach. I also understand that those passages are incredibly bound to context and culture.  

What I really don’t understand is how the verses are elevated to all-encompassing in light of how Jesus lived and what he taught. If we follow Jesus, then everything must align with what he said or how he lived not the other way around. If we read Paul contradicting Jesus, then we are reading it wrong.  

Paul doesn’t inform Jesus.  

Jesus informs Paul.  

You might be saying, “Joe. Jesus never had women teach. His disciples were all men.”  

Hmmmmm…so close. But no cigar.  

In Luke’s account of Jesus’ life, we see two of Jesus close friends, Mary and Martha, hosting everyone at their home for dinner. I imagine Jesus and those following him being greeted with a warm hug and the smell of food. It would have been most welcome after the walk from the town of Jericho.  

The preparation for the meal is not quite done and Martha is busying herself with the final details. She looks for Mary and sees her sitting at the feet of Jesus. Martha becomes frustrated with her sister. After all, Martha is trying to get everything finished so their guests can be honored with the meal and what is Mary doing?  

Nothing, as far as Martha is concerned. She looks to Jesus and says, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”  

I picture Jesus looking at her with a slight smile, that probably aggravated Martha, and after waiting a moment 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.” (Luke 10:38-41) 

I’ve read this story a million times. Maybe you have too. I always read the main point having to do with being doing things for Jesus that we miss Jesus all together. And there’s probably a lot of truth in that. I have a tendency to do that. I’m sure I’m not alone.  

But that’s not what Jesus is saying. We read right over the most important sentence of that story and the reason Paul’s words must conform to Jesus. Verse 39 says “She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.”  

She sat at the Lord’s feet.  

I read that and think, “She’s just sitting and listening. She’s on the floor b/c she didn’t have enough chairs. Weird detail but whatever.” If we do that then we miss what is being said here. To sit at the feet of a rabbi, as Jesus was, was to be a disciple of that rabbi. We know this from external writing but also Scripture. Paul describes himself as learning at the feet of rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22: 3). Jesus said that Mary had chosen what is better and it wouldn’t be taken from her.  

Mary was a disciple of Jesus. Full stop.  

Jesus entrusted Mary and the other women disciples so much that they delivered the first Easter message (Luke 24).  

Women were church planters, pastors, preachers, prophets, Judges, disciples, etc. in scripture and in the early church. Traditions of the organized church diminished the roles of women to our own detriment. We would do well to follow the example of Jesus and stop restraining the power that Christ has given women, not only in the church but in the world.  

Today, let us celebrate all the wonderful things women do in the church and in the greater world. To all of our sisters here and abroad we are thankful for all you do, seen and unseen. We are thankful for your love and guidance and fierce friendship. We are grateful for when you choose to lead and when you choose to follow. We recognize your irreplaceable roles in all of our lives and know that we are better for it.  

On behalf of Shift Church, Happy International Women’s Day.  

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