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Jesus and Women: Kristi McLelland

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine
The Truth Network Radio
May 25, 2023 5:15 am

Jesus and Women: Kristi McLelland

Family Life Today / Dave & Ann Wilson, Bob Lepine

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May 25, 2023 5:15 am

What did Jesus think of women? Through the eyes Jewish culture, Kristi McLelland reveals how Jesus was radically empowering and compassionate toward women.

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All right, so I'm going to ask you a question.

I already know your answer, and... Maybe I'm going to change it. Yeah, I just know. Okay. There's no option for you with this question.

Okay. You've been all around the country. You've been all around several different countries in the world. What's your favorite country?

No doubt. Favorite place to visit? Why am I even asking you this? Israel.

I don't know. Welcome to Family Life Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I'm Ann Wilson. And I'm Dave Wilson, and you can find us at or on our Family Life app.

This is Family Life Today. We have traveled all around the world. It sounds like, oh, we're so special. I was going to add, and it's not that we're these rich people vacationing. We're really doing mission work all around the world, which has been even better to me because we're really living in the midst of people around the world.

But there's something about Israel. You're getting teary just talking about it. Isn't that crazy? It's so weird. When I go there, I feel like I'm home. It's the weirdest thing I felt like the first time I went. And I've only been four times. Only four times. I've been there once. What's wrong with that picture? How do you get to go four when I've been there once?

I'm taking women over more. Yeah, that's true. Yeah. Yeah.

But why? Because it's where Jesus walked, and there's something about—I do get teary—there's something about reading the Scriptures there, and you know this is where it happened, that it comes alive, like the Scriptures came alive. And when you're at the place where Jesus did the Sermon on the Mount, you're thinking, it really happened. Or when you're on the Sea of Galilee, you're imagining Peter walking on the water and Jesus walking on the water. And so, it really did make Scripture come alive in a way that I've never experienced.

Did you feel that when you went? No, I mean, it was life-changing for all the same reasons, but we're done talking about us because we have—I don't know how to explain. I'm so excited. I know you are as well because we have an expert scholar, guide, Christian McClellan with us who's going to bring this to life. What we've experienced in Israel is really because of people like you that know the history, know the culture, and can just give insight into stories we've read our whole lives.

And obviously, standing there is one thing, but to understand things we just can't understand just by reading it. So, we're excited to have you here. Christy, first of all, welcome to Family Life Today. Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to be here.

We're excited, too. You're a speaker, you're a teacher, you're a college professor. And so, you've made several trips to Israel. How many times have you been there? I've been taking teams to Israel for 14 years, multiple times a year. And is it one of your favorite places? It is my absolute most favorite place in all the earth.

I always tell my students, the Bible is not only the best story that's ever been told, it's also the truest. These things happened. Yeah. And you can actually go there. But not only is it that, but you've met the people there.

And why has that changed you? You know, when you're walking down the street at Yerushalayim, which we call Jerusalem. Oh, did you hear that? Wait, wait, wait.

Say that again. Yerushalayim. I think I could do that. Yerushalayim. No, I can't do it.

You do it. The city, the city where God's name dwells, the epicenter of the earth for the Jewish people. And when you're walking down the road in Jerusalem and you're looking at the Jewish people and I always have this thought, you know, I'll see a Jewish man and I'm like, you could be related to Nehemiah or see a woman. You could be related to Esther. Like, you are the lineage. The Bible is actually your heritage, your story given to the world.

The way that God is blessing the nations through Abraham and through his descendants. And why is it important to you? Like, what's your story?

Why do you go over there so many times? It's not just because you love it, but you have more of a heart and a passion for what? In 2007, the Lord opened up the door for me to go study the Bible in Egypt and Israel. And I was already teaching Bible at the college where I've now been for 16 years and I love an adventure.

I never say no to an adventure. And I went really in a spirit of professional development. I'm a college professor, I teach Bible for a living. So going to Israel and Egypt and studying the Bible there seemed like a really beneficial thing. And I had no idea that the living God was going to fundamentally change my life. I remember being on the plane flying home and just knowing I will never teach the Bible the same way again. My whole life's about to look different.

I don't exactly know how. And for the past 14 years, it's really taken on kind of that hybrid teaching at the college, starting to teach in churches, and taking teams multiple times a year. You know, there's a difference in reading saints and beholding saints. And we've read the Bible, but when you go to the land, you're beholding the story. And it's a different thing.

And it's a rich thing. And I love just serving as a bridge between the Western church and the worlds and lands of the Bible. You know, people can't see you, but you're pretty young to be a professor and you've been doing this quite a while. Was that your dream? Like, oh, I'm going to be a Bible professor someday.

You know, that's a great question. I grew up in rural Mississippi and I accepted Christ when I was nine years old and my parents were people of faith. And I'm one of those kids that came out of the womb singing Amazing Grace, all 91 verses of it because they took me to church. And my love of the word comes from my parents. And when I accepted Christ at age nine, the Spirit of God just gave me a curiosity for the Bible.

I love story. I'm a nerd. I like to read.

And so I was reading the Bible and driving my pastor crazy with questions and things like that. As a young woman. As a child. Oh.

Yeah. As a child, starting at nine, my parents will talk about, they saw a change in me. And now I understand it was just part of my calling that I feel like the Bible is an adhesive. It binds me to the living God. It binds the living God to me. And so I didn't really know, I'd never seen a female Bible professor before.

I didn't know that could be a thing. So I had to live and journey my way into that. And you went to Dallas Theological Seminary. DTS. Yes.

Phenomenal experience. Hmm. So you teach the Bible, Old Testament, New Testament.

The Old and New and intertestamental period. But your video series and your workbook study guide is Jesus and Women. So walk us through that journey.

How did that become something so passionate? You said, I've got to get this on video really to help men and women understand Jesus. You know, one of the things that I really came home with in 2007 was getting to know Jesus in his Jewish world. Eating the foods he would have eaten, looking up and seeing the stars in the sky that he would have known. Like you mentioned the Sea of Galilee. I will never forget the first time I ever saw the Sea of Galilee, I just started crying because that's Jesus's world.

He is all around and on that lake during his earthly ministry. And one of the things I really learned as I was studying there was just how different Jesus was in his world 2,000 years ago when it came to his posture toward his attitude about in his ministry to women. It really set him apart.

It made him very distinctive from the other rabbis, sages, Pharisees, teachers of the law of the day. And being a female myself, it just lit me on fire. I tell people all the time, I went to Israel and learned that God is better than I ever knew.

And I thought he was awesome when I went. And so getting to know Jesus and Jesus and women, I came home and I really just wrote it sort of as a Bible study, just the overflow of my heart. I felt pregnant with it. I just needed to get it out and get it on paper. And I started teaching it around my city at different churches.

And the next thing I knew, LifeWay called and said, we would really love for women well outside of the city to be able to access this teaching and to get to know Jesus and his posture with women. And so we took that adventure. Well, walk us into some of that because, I mean, it's obviously gold that you, like you said, you felt like I have to get this out. And you talk about a cultural shift happening. So walk us through that as well.

Yes. It's important to understand what Jesus is doing when it comes to women 2,000 years ago. He's actually repairing something.

He's restoring something. Something good had been marred and he was bringing it back to good. Women in Judaism have a very good history and a very good beginning.

I know you guys are a family and marriage show. You know, the first man and woman in the story of the Bible, Adamah, which literally means land, dirt, soil. He's the dirt man, the dust man, and Eve, Chava, and her name means life.

And when you're reading the Bible through that Hebraic lens, the story goes like the living God created a dust man and brought life to him. You know, woman has a very good story. Do you hear that, honey? I like that. I'm a dust man. And I brought Valentine's Day stuff right there. It is Valentine's Day. Just don't ever call me dust man, but I will call you life woman.

Absolutely. And when you look at even things like Sabbath for the Jewish people, Shabbat sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night, they light two Shabbat candles to welcome the Sabbath into their home like a bride is what the rabbinic say. And interestingly enough, in a patriarchal world where men lead and rule, there's only one member of the family that's allowed to light the Shabbat candles, and it's the mother. That honor goes to the mater, to the matriarch. And if the mother's not home, it's a grandmother, it's a sister, it's an auntie, it's a niece, it's a daughter, but it has to be a girl. It's always a woman.

It's always a woman that lights the Shabbat candles. I think my most memorable time in Israel was we were at a Shabbat dinner. And so.

At a family's home. Yeah. And I was astounded at the value of family. And the scripture talks about that and we hear that, but to see it and the honoring of the mother, of the father, even then going through part of Proverbs 31 and honoring her and then kissing the children, I was in tears. And speaking life to the children.

Children, yes. It was powerful. I mean, it's one of those things as an American, you know, in the church where you haven't captured what they have understood and live, and you come back thinking, we have to capture that.

Yeah. You know, again, it's what you spent your life understanding, but talk to us a little bit about that. As I watched the patriarch of this family, and again, it's a family we didn't know. We're just fighting into their home for Shabbat and just watched him honor his wife. The wife light the candles and begin the Shabbat.

That was just so beautiful. I'm guessing it was a sense of what Jesus has done to elevate the view of women. But this patriarch had that and it modeled for us, like, I don't think I treat my wife that good. Well, and what a difference in going to the American church where we sit in pews. We don't talk to one another.

We're just listening to one man. This is the entire families involved, and I think it shows God's love for the family. That's right. And so you fast forward from Adam and Eve to Jesus's world 2,000 years ago, and woman had lost that sense of honor in the culture. I always say the Middle East is an honor shame society. They're an honor shame culture.

So being honorable is everything, being shamed or shameful is everything. So Jesus is born into a world where woman has been located and lowered into shame. And so what I talk about throughout the Jesus and women series is that in every interaction we have in all four gospels of Jesus and a woman, he's bringing two things into her life. He is adamant, persistent, and consistent to bring two things into her life. It doesn't matter if it's the Samaritan woman, the Syrophoenician woman, Mary, it doesn't matter. He's bringing justice and righteousness to her, Mishpat and Zedekah in Hebrew.

And so we think in what way is he bringing justice and righteousness? And what happened? Like why that fall?

What happened? I traced that in week two of the series, but we see it really begin to happen in the intertestamental period, the 400 years between Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, and Matthew, the first book of the New Testament. That little white page in our Bibles that's blank, a whole lot went down. Silence for 400 years.

A whole lot happened during that 400 years. And there were various teachers that came on the scene that started teaching things like women aren't safe, don't really trust women. If you give her money, you better count all of it before she goes to market because she may not bring the right change back. You have rabbis saying things like, don't talk a lot to a woman, even your own wife. That's not really good for marriages and things like that.

I remember reading one- That would be the opposite of the truth. Yeah. And I remember reading one Hebrew scholar said that there was a time that they doubted that a woman had a soul. And I was like, what?

Absolutely. When you look at Adam and Eve and think, how could you think that? We were both made in God's image. And one distinction in the way we understand the biblical terms here in the West versus in the Middle East is when we think of justice, we think lady justice and we think the scales and we usually think of justice in terms of equality, but biblical justice is vertical.

It's not horizontal. And biblical justice happens when the honorable reaches down to the shameful, lifts them out of their shame, restores their honor and sends them forward in shame. This is Jesus. And this is Jesus in women. Just that image.

Yeah. When you said Jesus brings two things, one of them justice. Now you explain justice, this vertical thing as a man and as a husband and as a father, that hits me right in the face.

Like, wait, wait, wait. So, so if I'm going to love and like Christ loved the church, Ephesians five, that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to lift up my wife. I'm going to lift up my daughters. Actually, any woman in our church, you name it, should have a sense that me as a Christian man does the same thing Jesus does. That she feels honored.

She feels lifted up. We would probably never use the word justice because that's not how we think of it in this term, but that's what real justice is. That's what I'm called to do as a husband, as a dad, right? Absolutely. Well said. This is a great interview, isn't it? I'm having fun. Yeah, me too. That's all on you, hun. I mean, again, we haven't even, we just barely touched the surface, but I'm thinking, have you felt that with me? Yeah, of course I do. Oh, good.

Because I was thinking you're going to say, not very often. No, I totally do. I feel like you're always cheering me on. You're always pushing me forward. You're always speaking life into me. I feel like you're very much like what Jesus would say. Like you can do this, Ann, and I see you.

And I think that's what women are longing. Like, God, do you see me? Do you see what I'm going through? God, do you believe in me?

Do you think I have what it takes to live out the call that you've put on my life? Like I look at you, Christy, and I think, oh, Jesus put that in you, that desire for His Word, for truth. You're a teacher.

You're a scholar. And look what you're living. Like He's brought that. And now you're spreading that all around the world. And so I love hearing that. Well, it's interesting. I don't know half of what you're going to tell us. I mean, I know a little bit, but I haven't studied it like you have, but I've studied it enough to know that Jesus really did change.

He was radical in the way He approached and elevated women in that culture. And I remember seminary days. I don't know if you were born yet, but this was early 80s. And there was a show on TV, and we lived in LA, and it was called LA Law. Do you remember that?

Oh, yeah. I don't remember the actress, but she was very famous and did a great job. And I remember reading a quote by her who I sort of, you know, recognized like, oh, she's on LA Law.

She's a, you know, known actress. And she said, I'll never become a member of a church because of what Jesus did to women. That was her quote. And I may get an exactly, but the second half is exactly what she said, because of what Jesus did to women. I remember if I had five minutes, I would go, you may make other choices why you don't want to become a Christ follower, but there's no way that is true. You don't understand what you're saying because you would want to follow Him if you understood what He, and I'm not saying the church has represented that or we as men have represented that well, but you're helping us understand, man, just what He did vertically for justice to raise the shameful in that culture up to honors, man, that's what Jesus did, right? So let's go back to that. We have these 400 years where all of a sudden the culture shifted and women are being dishonored.

They're not being seen. And now Jesus comes onto the scene. And it's so important just to begin with the fact that Jesus was never okay with women being anchored in shame. And so part of why He came was to do something about it. That from the very beginning, from the very Genesis, you know, we envisioned Jesus growing up with Mary lighting the Shabbat candles in His home.

He's growing up in that sense of the honor of woman, ohava of Eve. And you start to see that justice and righteousness, we've kind of unpacked justice a little bit in this vertical world, but zedekah, the Hebrew word for righteousness. And we often think righteousness means clean or pure or something like that. So we want to hold that, but Hebrew words, they're rich. Hebrew words like a suitcase full of meanings.

You can just pull out a lot of different meanings. And zedekah also carries the meaning of generosity, of being generous. So a person of zedekah in the Middle East to this day means they are a generous person. So Jesus is not only bringing justice to women, He's bringing generous justice to women. Jesus is not okay just to lift woman a little bit out of her shame. He is adamant, persistent, and consistent to lift her all the way out of her shame.

Restore her honor and send her forth in shalom. Think of the stories, the Samaritan woman, and by the way, Jacob's well is still there in Israel. It's 180 feet deep. It has never run dry and you can still pull up water from it.

It's phenomenal. When we take teams there, we have the women surround the well and we read John 4 out loud and every woman gets to read a verse, a part of that story where it happened. So we have this Samaritan woman and we understand historically and culturally, the Jews and the Samaritans didn't get along. There's a 700-year rift between them when Jesus comes on the scene.

The beef is already 700 years growing. And we see Jesus and this Samaritan woman in the heat of the day and she's alone. And the Middle East is, they're not an individualistic culture.

They're a communal culture. So the very fact that as a woman, that she's coming to the well alone, bells and whistles are going off for us in this story. Where are her friends? Where's her community? So you're already getting the tinge of shame that she's coming alone. No one will come with her to the well. So Jesus begins to interact with her and one of the first things he asked her for is for a drink.

And it's interesting. He's already there. He's already there, the disciples have gone to get food and he's alone, almost waiting for her.

I think absolutely waiting for her. And even in rabbinic literature, the spittle of a Samaritan woman is unclean. That is in rabbinic literature. So when Jesus is a holy rabbi of Israel, looks at her as a Samaritan woman and says, give me a drink, what he's saying is, I'll drink after you. Meaning he'll be unclean now. I'll drink after you.

Absolutely. And for Jesus in that world of clean and unclean, in Judaism, you're just trying not to touch something to make you unclean. And Jesus comes on the scene and radically reverses that because he who is clean is never afraid to touch unclean because when he touches unclean, unclean becomes clean. It's the exact opposite of everything they had known and experienced in the way that they were relating to God through the laws and commandments. And so we have this holy rabbi of Israel offering to drink after a Samaritan woman.

That's unheard of. A holy rabbi of Israel talking to a woman alone at a public well in the heat of the day, that's unheard of. And we don't have time to just unpack the whole story, but he begins discussing theology with her. She starts talking about, you guys say we have to worship in Jerusalem.

We worship up on this mountain, Mount Gerizim. And rabbis in that day, they weren't really talking with women. They definitely weren't talking theology with women.

Ever. Because women, they didn't have that right. They didn't even think they had it in them to have that discussion. That's right. And then we have this huge moment, this watershed, if it's a movie, the da-da-da comes in when Jesus looks at her and he says, go call your husband. And she says, I don't have a husband. And he says, you are right.

What you say is right. You've had five husbands and the man you're now living with is not your husband. And one of the things that I like to unpack as we understand Jesus and his historical cultural world in this moment is at that time, divorce was the exclusive right of the male. Only men could divorce their wives.

Women could not even legally, that just wasn't even a thing. So we've often thought of her as having five husbands, it means that she's a man eater, she's a perpetual cheater or something like this. She's loose. Bad morals. But there's absolutely no way that's what the text is saying because she would be dead. They stone adulteresses in that world.

We have a story in John chapter eight that tells us that. So she's not lascivious. So she's had five husbands, what's going on? And I always say, Jesus was not naming her sin in that moment. He was naming her shame because she had been left five times. Five men had married and left her. And it's different. So she felt like, what is wrong with me that all these men would leave me? I must be broken. That's her shame.

Yeah. That's her shame. And so Jesus grabs her back to our definition of justice from the moment he says that to her.

Go read the narrative. He starts lifting her out of it. And in the Gospel of John, she is the first person, the first person that he ever explicitly admits that he is the Messiah.

You can only do a thing for the first time, one time. For all of human history from Genesis one till the end of it all, she will forever always be the one that holds the right that she was the first one that he told that he was the Messiah. I always joke, we're going to recognize her in heaven because she's going to be wearing a pink t-shirt that says, I was the first, we're going to know her. And so just to even give her that honor and you know the rest of the story, she comes to the well alone in shame. Jesus is the shame killer.

He is the honor restorer and he's the shalom bringer. And so she goes back. She tells her village, come meet a man that told me everything I ever did.

That's pretty incredible. And by the end of the story, she's the missiologist for her village. She's the evangelist. Her village meets him.

Yes, the first evangelist is a woman. Incredible. And you have to just know they're all looking at her saying, thank you. We would have missed him if it weren't for you.

We wouldn't know him if it wasn't for you. And the text doesn't say it. So this is a Christi-ism as I like to say. The Bible does not say this, but Jesus is a Galilean rabbi. So he's coming through Samaria down to Jerusalem for the feast and the festivals. And I just imagine as they're making those treks up and down after that moment and after that trip, what if they stopped off at that town every time? What if he made friends in that village?

Just what time beyond even that moment would he have spent with them? And so we don't know. We may get to heaven and find out she started out this woman by herself at a well and by the end of it, once a year, Jesus and the disciples came through and spent four days with them. And I mean, can you just even imagine that? And I just love Jesus.

I mean, I tell us back to the lady you're talking about from the LA law show. It's like, if you understand Jesus and his historical cultural world, that he's not okay with a woman going to a well alone in the heat of the day and he knows he can bring change. He knows he can bring transformation. He can change a life. He can change a village through a life.

I want to talk to women. I get teary thinking about it because, I mean, my story is I have abuse. I have done a lot of things that I regret and a lot of things have been done to me that have brought so much shame and condemnation. And yet Jesus, this same Jesus has lifted me up. He's freed me from those bondages of sin, of shame, of regret. And I'm amazed that he uses me like in all my brokenness and he has the same thing for you.

I don't know where you are or what's happened or where you come from, but I do know this. Jesus wants to meet you right where you are. If it's at the well, if it's in the carpool line, if it's in your shower, on the floor as you're crying, Jesus is right there and he wants to bring you hope. He wants to bring you healing and he wants to lift you up and bring you to that place of, you're my daughter.

I see you. I love you and I will make all things new. You know, Anne is a woman of such character, vulnerability and compassion. Her heart always shines through so beautifully on Family Life Today and I appreciate her caring and thoughtful words as she and Dave have been talking today with Christy McClelland. Hi, I'm Shelby Abbott and you've been listening to Christy and the Wilsons on Family Life Today as she talks about Jesus and women, exploring how our Lord generously restores dignity and honor to women in both the first century and now.

Christy has written a book called Jesus and Women. It's a Bible study book that you can pick up by going online to or giving us a call at 800-358-6329. You know, in this unique month, God has done something really special here at Family Life and we want you to be a part of how he's moving here in this ministry as well. The president of Family Life, David Robbins, wants to peel back the curtain and give you a glimpse of what God is doing here at Family Life. If you were moved and have been helped by the program you're listening to today or any over these past weeks and months, as a donor-supported ministry, we want you to know it's been made possible by generous listeners just like you. Our Family Life partners who partner with us monthly help provide all the resources we share here every day and they are a vital part of our mission. Did you know that as a monthly Family Life partner, if you join with us, you'll not only get a gift card to attend one of our 80 Weekend to Remember Marriage Getaways, but you also get special invitations to live behind the scenes online events with some of our very gifted team of voices like David and Anne, Ron Deal, and our very own Shelby Abbott. And I love joining in with this team that we have and connecting with our Family Life partners. We're also offering our monthly partners exclusive access to our brand new curated library of resources. We've taken some of the most prominent topics that come from listeners and compiled amazing resources from across the whole ministry to help you keep growing with topics that you need and also help you be able to have a library that you can help others as different topics come up.

Becoming a Family Life partner now in the month of May is even more impactful as some generous people have come alongside this vision and mission and set up a matching gift to double your commitment for a year. So thank you for listening. Thank you for engaging with us.

Thank you for your comments. Our team cherishes those and thank you for partnering with us and seeing every home become a Godly home. Yeah, you could go online again to or you could give us a call with your donation at 800-358-6329. Now that can be a one time gift or a recurring monthly gift that you'll have doubled dollar for dollar. Again, the number is 800, F as in family, L as in life, and then the word today. And feel free to drop us something in the mail too.

Our address is Family Life 100 Lakehart Drive, Orlando, Florida 32832. Now tomorrow, David and Wilson are going to talk again with Christy McClelland about a dinner party Jesus was attending where a woman disrupted the party and began anointing Jesus's feet with her tears. We'll hear that story and hear more about the value and dignity of women in the eyes of Jesus. I hope you can tune in for that tomorrow. On behalf of David and Wilson, I'm Shelby Abbott. We'll see you back next time for another edition of Family Life Today. Family Life Today is a donor supported production of Family Life, a crew ministry helping you pursue the relationships that matter most.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-25 07:38:11 / 2023-05-25 07:51:59 / 14

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