Throughout history, women overwhelmingly have been silenced when they’ve had a truth to tell, so much so that it felt detrimental to speak up. A waste of words. Yet Jesus, who came to make all things right, who came to overthrow power structures that demean and oppress, gave women a voice when others didn’t. He dignified their experiences by his actions and attention and invited women to take their place as beloved daughters.
For the bleeding woman who was plagued by her condition for twelve years, he stopped a crowd to acknowledge her faith and healing (Luke 8:43–48). After Jesus asked who touched the hem of his garment, she courageously spoke up to tell what had happened, even though her actions—an unclean woman grasping on to a man, a rabbi no less—broke the law and could have led to grave consequences for this already suffering woman. Jesus called her, a woman ostracized by her community due to her condition, a “daughter.” She was not the dirty, unclean woman. She was a daughter. For the woman quite literally bleeding to death, he stopped the bleeding and honored her faith. He made space for her voice and her experience. He welcomed the interruption to engage a woman in need, and he still does.
For the woman at the well, a Samaritan woman who sat alone at Jacob’s well at perhaps the hottest hour of the day, Jesus dismissed the practices of the day (Jews not associating with Samaritans, men engaging women only if their husbands were present), recognized her losses, and offered what a husband could not (John 4:1–42). In a time when a husband represented a voice, a place, security, means, and protection, she had none. Yet after her encounter with Jesus, she dropped her bucket and raised her voice to all who would listen to tell of the man “who told me everything I ever did” (4:39). Because of Jesus, this woman spoke up to the very people she was likely trying to avoid.
Not only did Jesus give women a voice, he protected them— their bodies and their reputations. For the woman caught in adultery, he first and foremost chose to protect her (John 7:53–8:11). He did not wait until he got to the bottom of the issue, finding out exactly what she had done, if she had been seduced, if there was a power imbalance, or if she started it. Ensuring her safety came first. After he wrote in the sand and dared others to cast the first stone, he spoke to her compassionately. He was not another man who would take advantage of her. Although Jesus told her to “Go and sin no more,” he did not condemn her. He was the man who protected her.
Instead of doubting women and listening only to men in power report the narrative, Jesus models for us all a response to a woman with a truth to tell who has been hurt by another and harmed by her community. He doesn’t ask the woman caught in adultery if she asked for it, what she wore, or if she led on the man she slept with. He doesn’t accuse the woman at the well of internal brokenness that invited desertion by men who would care for her. He doesn’t dismiss the bleeding woman because of her social standing. To all these women and more, he dignifies their experiences, offers compassion, and displays to onlookers the care and respect she is worthy of. We can do the same.
We are told by those bent on hiding misconduct and by fear in our minds that silence in the midst of misconduct appears to be the smartest and arguably the most spiritual response, but Jesus makes it clear by his actions, words, and care for women that silence is not spiritual; it’s destructive, isolating, and anti-gospel.
Content taken from Prey Tell by Tiffany Bluhm, ©2021. Used by permission of Baker Publishing www.bakerpublishinggroup.com.