The study of the nature and person of Jesus Christ is called “Christology.” Let’s be honest. It can be quite heady and abstract. But if we can peel away the complicated theological words (words like homoousios and perichoresis), as important as they are, perhaps we can see that who Jesus is matters in our everyday lives, because our very salvation depends on Him.
We believe that Jesus is both fully God and fully human and participates fully in the Trinity, and that He can truly empathize with our humanity. Only He can save and redeem all of us who trust in Him: “Neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for [we] are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). In other words, we are all equal at the foot of the cross, and we who are many are made one there. Of course, this does not take our differences away completely. In another sense, then, it is legitimate to ask this question: How do women, in particular, find their identity in the identity of Jesus?
We recognize that Jesus treats women with love and respect in the Gospels. The Gospels tell us that women were the rst witnesses and testi ers of Jesus’ resurrection. Before this, we saw Jesus’ interaction with many women, including the woman at the well, the bleeding woman, the woman caught in the act of adultery, and the woman He forgave after she anointed His feet. There were also women who ministered along with Him and even to Him. There is evidence that women supported Jesus financially and that He loved many women with a deep friendship (phileo in Greek). We know how important the mother of Jesus was to His ministry, as well as Mary Magdalene and Mary and Martha. The Book of Luke especially highlights how Jesus saw women as fully human and as worthy of His attention. He treated women with dignity.
Following the Example of Jesus
It is in no small part because of this biblical witness of Jesus’ disposition toward women that people in the Church of the Nazarene and other denominations have always seen women as important to the life of the church. The fact that we have ordained women to all offices of the church from the very beginning is symbolic of our view of women. Unlike some other evangelical denominations that believe God ordained women to be subordinate in society, church, and home, the holiness movement a rms their full equality, because it holds to a theology that says the effects of Pentecost reverse the effects of the Fall in Genesis 3. If you were a holiness person in the 19th century, you were an abolitionist, you advocated for the poor and downtrodden, and you supported the rights of women.
How do these biblical and historic truths affect women today? We know that women have often been mistreated. Women have not been exempted from suffering in the modern tragedies of history, from slavery to Aushwitz to Vietnam. Even daily social media brings us news of abuse that women endure, from rape and poverty to domestic violence. Women of every age group and economic background can tell stories of abuse and neglect. Historically, women have experienced delays in voting rights and in receiving equal pay for equal work. Does Jesus have anything to say to women who have experienced these injustices?
Jesus, High Priest for All
One of the most powerful images of Jesus is the image of the high priest found in the Book of Hebrews. Jesus is a mediator, a perfect high priest who is fully able to identify with God to reveal God to us. He is also a perfect high priest who fully identifies with us as human and is able to represent us to God.
As such, what does our high priest do? He is our healer. To all of those who experience abuse, neglect, and unfair treatment, including women, Jesus brings both empathy and healing. Jesus allowed himself to enter fully into human suffering, to be despised and rejected, to be abandoned and broken, and to be wounded and pierced. He allowed himself to be victimized in order to empathize with and embrace the victim.
Jesus was also resurrected, and offers to all of us, including women, resurrection life and power. Jesus calls us to rise and find our identity in Him. Jesus calls us to live in His kind of freedom, accept His life-giving touch on our hearts, and take in His liberating presence. Jesus calls us to be renewed in the image of God, to be filled with the Spirit, and to walk in newness of life. Jesus calls us to know Him as our redeemer, our deliverer, and our strength. Jesus dignifies and humanizes women today, just as He did long ago. May the whole church, unified in mission and purpose, continue Christ’s priestly work of healing and empowerment for all, and live into His vision of true unity within his body.