Jesus came to seek and save the lost, without regard to who the lost were, what they had done or what had been done to them. He came as one born into a Jewish family, and brought up with all the prejudices that would have been normal for the time and place. He would have gone to the Synagogue regularly to learn the Torah and to hear the Psalms and the prophets. He would have learned that Israel was God’s chosen people and that Gentiles were excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. He would have learned that Samaritans were excluded because they were a mixed race and had rejected parts of the Old Testament, even setting up their own place of worship on Mt. Gerazim. He would have learned that men were above the women and that her place was more of a servant. He would have learned that someone who was born in a mixed marriage with a Jewish mother or father and a Gentile as the other parent would be rejected for circumcision and unaccepted for a place of service in the Synagogue or temple. He would have learned that one who was a eunuch was not allowed as part of the accepted group for worship or service in the temple.
So, when we think of a child growing up in a home where prejudice was a model for thinking, Jesus would fit the model perfectly. He, by his actions and teachings demonstrated that no matter what one learns in growing up, they can change and have different ways of looking at things as an adult. Now, I understand that he was God all along and that His teachings didn’t come from what he learned in the home in Nazareth. But he was also human and would have heard and seen prejudice as the norm for those thirty years of growth. As Jesus moved further into his ministry on earth he began to do and say things that indicated he wouldn’t be held to the walls he had learned. It was pretty early in his ministry when he left Judea to go to Galilee and had to go through Samaria. He and the twelve came to a Samaritan village and he was tired from the trip. He sat down outside the city beside the well to rest, while the twelve went into town to purchase food for the group. As he sat there a Samaritan women who had lived a very immoral life came to draw water. He broke protocol immediately by asking her for a drink. She was shocked that a Jewish man would ask a Samaritan woman for a drink. He told her that if she knew who he was she would ask him for a drink which aroused her curiosity. “Where is your bucket? Where will you get this living water you offer?” Jesus explained the difference between the water she drew from the well and the water he offered. You drink from the well and are soon thirsty again but if you have the living water you don’t get thirsty again. It become a spring inside that constantly flows and refreshes. She wanted the water and Jesus used the lesson to lead her to salvation.
When the twelve returned and found him talking to her they were shocked and when he preached to the whole city that she had invited to come hear him they were even more surprised that he taught them and stayed there two days to reach many of them with the gospel. Walls were beginning to crumble.
Jesus healed the servant of a Centurion, a Roman soldier and declared he hadn’t seen such great faith as his, not even in Israel. Walls were crumbling.
He cast demons from Mary Madelene and she followed him along with other women and even supported his ministry. When he was in the home of a Pharisee and an immoral woman came and anointed his feet with oil and wiped them with her hair, instead of sending her away he accepted it and her. He forgave her sins and shocked the Pharisee. Walls were crumbling. When the preparation was being made for the beginning of the church in Acts 1 among the 120 disciples were women who were devoted to Jesus. Among them were the women who went to the tomb to anoint his body for burial and witnessed the resurrection.
Later after the church was well under way, Paul would write to the Ephesians that when Jesus died on the cross it was to break down the middle wall between Jews and Gentiles so as to make in himself one new man, so making peace and that he would reconcile both to God on one body by the cross. (Ephesians 2:14-16) When he wrote to the Romans he explained that now there is no difference between the Jew and Greek but all come to God in the same way through faith (Romans 10:9-17). He carried the point to its full conclusion in Galatians 3:26-29. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
When it comes to God’s redemptive plan every person in the world has the same open door of opportunity. They may not have the same advantages of hearing the gospel as others. But the message once received gives everyone an equal opportunity for salvation. The walls aren’t just crumbling, they have fallen down and there is no room for prejudice in the kingdom of God since Jesus tasted death for all people (Hebrews 2:9) and His grace has appeared to all for salvation (Titus 2:11). The commission of Jesus to the church is to go into the entire world and preach the gospel to every creature. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved.
Does that mean that every person in the kingdom is called to do the same thing or all be just alike? No, we have different gifts, opportunities and callings from God. Our challenge is to use the gifts and opportunities God has given us to the full. Notice that the change of not being slave or free any longer didn’t mean that all the slaves were free or that they should mistreat the masters. Paul would warn against such behavior and teach them instead to respect and obey the masters (I Timothy 6:1-5). The fact that there is neither male or female doesn’t mean that he calls us to do away with the distinctions. God still calls a woman to be a woman and a man to be a man but they have equal opportunity for his blessings. God gives some differences between the jobs he calls a wife and mother to do from what he calls a husband and father to do but both are blessings from God to serve him. In the same way there are some things in the church that God calls men to do that he doesn’t call women to do. While he does refer to both male and female deacons, he doesn’t call for both male and female elders. Part of the quality to look for in a person considered for the eldership was how he manages his own family. If he doesn’t know how to manage his own family how can he manage the church of God? (I Timothy 3:4-5). He doesn’t call women to serve as preachers in the church (I Timothy 2:9-16). The fact the preacher is called to reprove and rebuke with all authority would make it difficult for a woman to do and maintain the spirit of quietness and gentleness God wants from the woman (I Peter 3:1-7). The fact that the preacher must at times rebuke those who serve as elders if they go astray would be hard for a woman to carry out (I Timothy 5:17-20).
We have equality in salvation, redemption and blessings from God. But there are differences and sometimes there is a difference in what God calls a person to do in the church. But it doesn’t make one person or sex greater or more important than the other. It simply means God has a different calling for some than others.