A woman beds her father-in-law and then blackmails him when she becomes pregnant.
A prostitute conspires with two Israeli spies to ambush her town.
A widowed woman dolls herself up to catch a man, her disenfranchised mother-in-law’s idea to stay solvent.
A woman commits adultery with a king while her husband is deployed in the king’s war.
A small town’s finest church-going teenager mysteriously gets pregnant out of wedlock and no one knows who the father is.
The subjects of an HBO documentary? Guests on the Jerry Springer show? Plot lines for the next primetime soap opera? The lost Shakespearean plays?
No. These are the only women listed in Jesus’ family tree: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary (Mt 1.3-16). The women in Jesus’ lineage are more Hester Prynne than Amy Carmichael. More Lady Macbeth than Mother Teresa.
Amid the thousands of women with better reputations, Jesus wants us to know he comes from these five in particular.
Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men” (Phil 2.7). That means more than Jesus became a human being or even male. It means he took on all the shame and guilt that plagues mankind. In order to redeem sinners he must be made like them (Heb 2.14).
He was born in a backwater town to a teenage girl everyone knew had a juicy secret. A secret that followed Jesus all his life (see Jn 8.41). The Bastard.
Unlike the first Adam, the Second Adam didn’t come to hide sin. He came immersed in it, taking on the guilt and shame of his mother and great-whatever grandmothers. He did not come to save the all-together. He came to save the torn-apart. He befriended those who were more talked about than talked to. He was Everyman for every woman.
He would not lounge in the country club pool with those above their sin, trying to cover up their shame with pomp and prim. He was baptized in the Jordan River where the people’s sin flowed over him. He would not keep those we whisper about at church and gossip about on Facebook at arm’s length. He would put his arm around them assuming to himself the sorted details of their tawdry lives. He would enter their story so they could be part of his.
So he was born in a long line of adulterous and crafty women, shamed and scorned women. He would redeem what went wrong with Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary. He would redeem womanhood and all its intended dignity. He would swallow up their sin and shame. Their Son would become the Husband they always wanted and needed. Jesus would cleanse them.
It is no wonder the same sort of women from whom Jesus had been born found themselves drawn to his compassionate care (Mk 5.21-43; Lk 7.36-50; 8.2; Jn 12.1-8).
If classic feminism is the effort to restore equality, rights and dignity to women, then Jesus is the true feminist. Abortion on demand, RU386, no fault divorce, Title IX, gender-blending do not elevate women. They denigrate women. They do not redeem what has gone wrong with womanhood. They dehumanize women altogether.
We cannot redeem womanhood by masculinizing women or feminizing men. Making women socially and sexually equal with men in all respects (or vice versa) is only to make them another sort of sinner. We do not need liberation from our genders but liberation of our genders from sin.
The hope of womanhood is not making women more like men or men like women. The hope is to see both men and women made like Jesus (cf. Gal 3.28). Redemption, not reassignment. Resurrection, not reconstruction.
Modern feminism is a fool’s errand. The answer to the sin, shame and exploitation of women is the gospel. No one championed the cause of women like Jesus. We must find ourselves wrapped up in his story. God with us.
We may be ashamed of ourselves and one another but Jesus was not.
“For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren. Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb 2.11, 14-15).
Jesus is no Superman. He did not air-drop in from another planet. He was born just like the rest of us. The Son of Man. A son of adultery, murder, prostitution. He was born in a closet full of skeletons.
Only he did not live to keep them hidden. He died to publicly bear their shame on a Roman cross (Rom 3.21-26). He wore our Scarlet Letter and gave us his Righteous Robe (2 Cor 5.21; Eph 5.27; Rev 19.7-8).
As oft with worn and weary feet,
We tread earth’s rugged valley o’er,
The thought how comforting and sweet,
Christ trod this very path before!
Our wants and weaknesses He knows,
From life’s first dawning to its close.
(As Oft, With Worn and Weary Feet, James Edmeston)