In many of Jesus' illustrations, women are presented as positive role models of faith, which men should follow. For example:
- The Queen of the south, who was wiser than the first-century Jews (Matt 12:42)
- The woman mixing yeast into dough (Matt. 13:33), who is presented as an illustration of the way that the kingdom of God works
- Women working when Christ returns, some of who are ready and others are not (Matt. 24:41)
- Ten virgins, of whom five were prepared and five were not (Matt 25:1-13)
- The widow of Zarephath, whom Jesus used as an example of a Gentile that God favored (Luke 4:26)
- The woman who found the coin she had lost (Luke 15:8-10). In this parable the woman plays the role of God, just as the shepherd did in the preceding parable and the father does in the following parable.
- A persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8), a model for disciples to imitate in prayer
- A widow who gave everything she had (Luke 21:1-4).
In Luke 11, an anonymous woman called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you" (v. 27). Jesus did not deny that his own mother was blessed, but he said that the real blessing is given to "those who hear the word of God and obey it" (v. 28). A woman's spiritual worth is based on her response to God, not in performing biological functions. Women are saved by faith, not by bearing children.
Jesus did two important things for this woman, He gave her His undivided attention by listening to her comment, and He mildly corrected her and pointed her toward further spiritual understanding. Jesus does not deny His mother's place of importance, but goes beyond it to a wider spiritual truth.
Conservative and liberal commentators are generally agreed on this: Jesus treated women well—despite the male-dominated culture in which he lived. He treated them respectfully, was sensitive to their needs, used them as good examples of faith, and included them in his ministry in several important ways.
And if you read the Gospels that were cut out of the Bible, you get a startling view of his love and admiration for his most enlightened disciple, Mary. There are even indications that he considered Mary more spiritually advanced than he was. To explore this further, consider reading The Gospel of Mary.