Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and I was busy reflecting on a post that had nothing to do with women’s rights. Frankly, I didn’t feel very compelled to write about how awesome women are on International Women’s Day — the world pretty much had that covered. I would prefer to write about the strength, dignity, and fortitude of half our population everyday; so I am deeming today, March 9th, “Another Women’s Day.”
Perspectives on the relationship between the male and female gender have become so polarized, particularly in the current American cultural climate, that I find it difficult to talk across the gender spectrum about objective realities impacting women today. Biological women make up 52% of our country, yet our representation continues to remain sorely lacking on international and national bases. And frankly, just look around you: every person that you see came from the womb of a woman. Not that men don’t play their part, but the life force that keeps this operation running starts and ends with a woman’s womb. So today, on “Another Women’s Day,” I think we should honor the unnamed women.
BibleGateway recently compiled this list of Unnamed Women in the Bible. Take a look at the length of the list — it really is telling of how many women made the biblical narrative move forward, yet never received credit for their work. I wish I had the space to tell the stories of every unnamed woman in the text (and perhaps I will in a future series), but today I at least want to lift up one of them. She shows up in Matthew 26 (if you really want to follow along, you should pull up the entire chapter).
At the start of Matthew 26 the chief priests and elders plot to kill Jesus — we start off with a group of men trying to destroy him (v. 1-5). And then enters the unnamed woman. Jesus is visiting with Simon in his home, when a woman enters with an alabaster jar of really pricey perfume, and she pours it on his head while he’s dining. The disciples gripe about her, saying that they could have gotten a lot of money for that perfume and given it to the poor (v. 6-9). Jesus then defends her, saying, “Why do you make trouble for the woman? She’s done a good thing for me. 11 You always have the poor with you, but you won’t always have me. 12 By pouring this perfume over my body she’s prepared me to be buried. 13 I tell you the truth that wherever in the whole world this good news is announced, what she’s done will also be told in memory of her” (v. 10-13). Jesus essentially creates a legacy for her, honoring the good and sacrificial work that she’s done, and notes that, in the face of the disciples’ inability to understand his impending sacrifice, this one unnamed woman gets it.
After Jesus makes the proclamation about the unnamed woman, the rest of Matthew 26 goes on to contrast the weaknesses of the men who surrounded Jesus with the faithfulness of that unnamed woman. We have Judas betraying Jesus in v. 14-16, then Jesus calling Judas out on his betrayal in v. 17-25, predictions of Peter denying Jesus in v. 26-35, the disciples falling asleep while Jesus prays in Gethsemane in v. 36-46, Jesus’ arrest led by Judas in v. 46-56, doubt and false judgment by the chief priests and council in v. 57-67, and finally, Peter’s denial in v. 69-75.
The only person who acted honorably and faithfully (apart from Jesus himself), and who seemed to “get” what Jesus was doing in this chapter, was the unnamed woman. The rest of them either remained passive characters in the text or actively betrayed, denied, slandered, and/or harmed Jesus.
I’m not in the business of denigrating men to better the image of women; I am in the business of honest accountability. If that ends with women looking great and men looking less so, that’s on them. More importantly, though, we ought to give credit where credit is due. And in this situation, the unnamed woman deserves so much admiration for her intellect, her tenacity, and her faithfulness. May we all strive to live with the boldness and clarity of this powerful and faithful woman.