The Women of Passover

As Easter approaches, I’m thinking about how this year I’ve been learning how the Bible presents the importance of women to God’s Kingdom.

You probably know that in the Old Testament, God established a practice of anointing a new king by pouring oil on them. Did you know that Jesus was anointed not by men, but twice by women, and each time in the week before a Passover? Each time the Lord selected women to anoint Jesus as king.

In 1 Samuel 10, “Samuel took a small jar of oil and poured it over Saul’s head and kissed him. ‘The Lord hereby anoints you leader of his people Israel,’ Samuel said.

In 1 Samuel 16, “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him right there in front of his brothers. The Lord’s spirit came over David from that point forward.

In the New Testament, on two different occasions women anoint Jesus.

In John 12, “Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair.” The same story is related in Luke 7.

In Matthew 26, two days before a different Passover, “Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table.” The same story is related in Mark 14.

It’s also worth noting that the Lord frequently chose women to be the ones to share the news about Jesus.

  • The angel first proclaims the news to Mary.
  • Mary and Elizabeth both prophesy over Jesus in the womb.
  • Nine months later, Anna the prophetess bears witness to Jesus’ birth and proclaimed the good news “to all who were looking.”
  • On the day of His resurrection, Jesus chose women to first hear the news from the angels at the empty tomb.
  • Jesus first appears physically to a woman.
  • She then runs to proclaim the news to His disciples.

It seems clear to me from these and other Biblical examples that the Lord, through angelic messengers, prophetic activity, and Jesus Himself, was explicitly challenging cultural expectations about the role of women in Hebrew life. I think it’s worth observing that even today, the current fight for complementarianism in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), the ESV Bible translation, and other conservative denominations doesn’t give much agency to women speaking or teaching or prophesying. However, the Gospels and Jesus Himself seem to go to great lengths to honor women in exactly these roles.

Although I haven’t touched on them here, there are numerous examples where Jesus went against the grain of His culture in His interactions with, and honor for, women around Him. Here are some articles you may find interesting:

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