Imagine walking the dusty roads of Galilee with Jesus. You’re braving the jostling crowds just to touch the edge of His cloak and hear Him say, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.”
In today’s 4:13 Podcast episode, biblical culturalist Kristi McLelland transports you back to Jesus’ world. She shares how those comforting words spoken thousands of years ago and recorded in three of the four gospels are meant for you too.
Kristi is a speaker, teacher, and professor at Williamson College who teaches the Bible through a Middle Eastern lens. Since completing her Masters in Christian Education at Dallas Theological Seminary, she has dedicated her life to teaching people how to study the Bible for themselves.
Sister, you’re going to get so much from this conversation! You’ll follow in the footsteps of the women who came face-to-face with the Living God and learn how Jesus generously restores dignity to women in the first century and now. Plus, you’ll gain a fresh perspective of Jesus and women as you view the Bible through a first-century Middle Eastern lens.
Jennifer’s Highlights and Take-Aways
- The lens of the Middle East. Kristi grew up in a world where women weren’t supposed to teach the Bible, which was painful for her because she felt compelled to study and teach. “How do I burn for something I could never have?” she asked. But God brought her to a place where she began to understand her role as a woman through her study of Scripture in Egypt and Israel.
Through her travel and study, she learned that the Living God is better than she ever knew, and she thought He was awesome when she went. She described that being in Israel was like getting to go home with Jesus. In Jesus’ world, everything was about clean and unclean. And, the Middle East is an honor-shame culture.
- How Jesus lifts up women. While she was in Israel, one thing that stuck out to Kristi was Jesus’ attitude toward, posture with, and ministry to women. Women had lost their sense of honor in Jesus’ day, but Jesus lifted them from their shame.
In every interaction between Jesus and a woman, He met her in her shame, generously lifted her out of it, restored her dignity, and sent her forth in shalom. “In Jesus’ everyday interactions,” Kristi shares, “He is treating the feminine in the way that the Living God sees her.”
“Jesus is the One who came to bring the restoration and renewal of all things,” Kristi says. She explains the significance of two Hebrew words that in English are “justice” and “righteousness.” Psalm 89:14 is a great example of the companionship of these two words. The foundation of God’s throne is justice and righteousness.
In every interaction with a woman, Jesus brings justice and righteousness to her life. Kristi shares, “He leverages His own life, His own honor, His own esteem as a rabbi of Israel on her behalf and for her sake.” She says that if Jesus would do it for the first-century woman, He will do it for us. So, the question isn’t: Jesus, are You really that good? But rather: Am I ready to live and walk with You, and see myself the way You see me?
- We can’t lift ourselves on our own behalf. So, when you are low, discouraged, or mired in shame, listen for the voice of the Shepherd. He speaks words we can’t speak to ourselves. When Kristi is devastated, on the floor in tears, she has learned to be like a sheep and to hunker down and wait to be found. She conjures that image in her mind and asks, “God, come find me and bring me home.”
- Liberty for the strivers. There is a difference between reading the Bible and thinking we have to find God versus God coming to look for us. Kristi describes how the Bible is for everyone. She says, “The Living God has put the Bible on the bottom shelf.” The story of the Bible is that the Living God is relentless in His looking for us.
Kristi shares that the familiar verses, Matthew 11:28-30, are often misunderstood as we read with our Western lens. She explains it in the context of the Middle Eastern lens. The yoke is Jesus’ teaching. Every rabbi has a yoke—it is His teaching or His understanding of who God is and of the Scriptures. It is the body of teaching a rabbi gives to his disciples. So when we take Jesus’ yoke upon us, we hear Jesus say, “Let me be the one to tell you what God is like, and when you do, you will get rest for your soul.”
Sister, when we get a clear view of how Jesus sees women, we also understand our own wholeness! So, remember, whatever you face, however you feel, you can do all things through Christ, who gives you strength.
Books & Bible Studies by Jennifer Rothschild
- Invisible: How You Feel Is Not Who You Are
- Invisible for Young Women: How You Feel Is Not Who You Are
- Hosea: Unfailing Love Changes Everything Bible Study
- Psalm 23: The Shepherd With Me Bible Study
More from Kristi McLelland
- Visit Kristi’s website
- Jesus and Women: In the First Century and Now Bible Study
- Follow Kristi on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
Links Mentioned in This Episode
- Don’t miss an episode! Subscribe to the 4:13 Podcast here.
- Were you encouraged by this podcast? Reviews help the 4:13 Podcast reach more women with the “I can” message. Click here to leave a review on iTunes.
4:13 Podcast: Can I Get a Clear View of How God Sees Women? With Kristi McLelland [Episode 139]
Jennifer Rothschild: Imagine walking the dusty roads of Galilee with Jesus. Braving the jostling crowds just to touch the edge of His cloak and hear Him say, "Daughter, your faith has made you whole." Those words once meant to comfort a hurting heart of a woman thousands of years ago, are also meant for you right now. And when you get a clear view of how Jesus sees women, then you too will understand your own wholeness. So today, oh, it's going to be so good. Biblical culturalist Kristi McLelland will walk you down those same dusty roads of Jesus' world. You're going to follow in the footsteps of the women who came face-to-face with the living God. And you're going to learn how Jesus generously restores dignity to women in the first century and now. And you're going to get a fresh perspective of Jesus and women as you see the Bible through a first-century Middle Eastern lens. Oh, sisters and brothers, this is going to be so good and I cannot wait for you to meet Kristi. So, K.C., let's do this thing.
K.C. Wright: Let's do it. Hey, welcome to the 4:13 Podcast where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life because you can do all things through Christ, who strengthens you. Now, welcome your host, a woman who just color-coded her closet and we're not even kidding.
Jennifer Rothschild: No.
K.C. Wright: Jennifer Rothschild.
Jennifer Rothschild: Because these things matter. Hey, everybody, I'm Jennifer. I'm here to help you be and do more than you even feel capable of as you live this "I Can" life of Philippians 4:13. Yes and I do feel like my soul has been decluttered, K.C., because I just did, I color-coded my closet. Now, let me just pause here for our people.
K.C. Wright: Please explain.
Jennifer Rothschild: Because I call K.C. my seeing-eye guy and if you're new to us, the reason is I'm blind. So he helps so much with all the reading of Scripture and just making this podcast happen. But that also means that I have a little issue with my closet sometimes.
K.C. Wright: Mhm.
Jennifer Rothschild: So I have this little thing it's called a color detector. In fact, I will put a link to it on the show notes. But it's, I call him Buford. I don't know why, but I animate things. Anyway, so I call him Buford, my color detector. And so what I do, K.C., you know, you've seen it. I put it up against my fabric and it tells me what color it is.
K.C. Wright: Brown.
Jennifer Rothschild: Exactly. Just like that.
K.C. Wright: Beige.
Jennifer Rothschild: This lovely British accent.
K.C. Wright: Green.
Jennifer Rothschild: Exactly. K.C., why do I need Buford when I have you? Could you just come over every morning and just go through my closet?
K.C. Wright: Does it ever say: don't wear this.
Jennifer Rothschild: Ugly.
K.C. Wright: Donate this.
Jennifer Rothschild: It should. There are some things it should. Okay, but here's the point.
K.C. Wright: Yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: So even with Buford's help, it still can get a little bit of a pain. Right. So I decided after all these years, I'm going to color code. So I used to put things with their people, like with their buddies. Right. So like all the yoga pants were together, all the things I would wear to speak were together. Not anymore. So I got yoga pants next to a jacket I might wear on stage if they're the same color.
K.C. Wright: Oh, okay.
Jennifer Rothschild: So colors. Right.
K.C. Wright: I like it.
Jennifer Rothschild: Thank you.
K.C. Wright: Yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: But you know what I learned about myself by doing it.
K.C. Wright: What?
Jennifer Rothschild: The majority of my clothes are black, gray, and beige. My littlest sections were orange and red.
K.C. Wright: You need some color in your life.
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, you know what it is. I think I go to the practical like, you know, my couches are brown and then I change my pillows every season and put the splash of color. So I think that's it. I just stick with the staples and do a splash.
K.C. Wright: Hey, I do want to brag on you because you are one of the most stylish gals I know.
Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, well.
K.C. Wright: So whatever you're doing up there in your closet, you're throwing it together very well.
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, thank you.
K.C. Wright: You always look very sassy and classy at the same time.
Jennifer Rothschild: You're so sweet K.C.
K.C. Wright: It's true. When I come to record the podcast, Jennifer's always dressed for television. Me? Ball cap and a hoodie. That's how we live our days.
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, okay, let me tell you one thing that I love to wear that I never wear in front of you.
K.C. Wright: Okay.
Jennifer Rothschild: Because I reserve it for travel. It's my travel vest. Okay, now the reason I'm telling you that is, I will put this on the show notes too for my fellow geeky travelers, travel vests are the coolest thing. Like inside it there's like thirty pockets. It's like the MacGyver version. Right. And you can put your passport in it, your phone. Even like, my phone's even up there, like near your collar.
K.C. Wright: Oh nice.
Jennifer Rothschild: You just open it like your in the Secret Service and you can talk into. Okay, the reason I mention that is because this lady we're about to talk to, she and I were talking and our favorite article of clothing in our closet, hers is her travel pants and mine is my travel vest. I mean, like, I love her, so I can't wait for you to meet her. I actually had this conversation with Kristi McLelland. We were in the Green Room at a LifeWay Women Live event, and I want you to know that when we were in this room the air conditioning started rattling, and then the band decided to get a soundcheck. So you can hear this ambient noise around us, but quite honestly, I was so caught up in the conversation with Kristi that I barely noticed it. And so I know that's going to happen to you also. So I just want you to have a heads up that you might hear it. And so if you hear it, overlook it or like do the audio equivalent of overlooking it, because you're going to love this conversation.
K.C. Wright: Well, let me introduce you to Kristi. Kristi McLelland is a speaker, teacher, and professor at Williamson College. Since completing her Masters in Christian Education at the Dallas Theological Seminary, she has dedicated her life to teaching people how to study the Bible for themselves. She teaches the Bible through a Middle Eastern lens. And you are going to flat out love this conversation. So settle in and let's do a little eavesdropping on Kristi and Jennifer.
Jennifer Rothschild: Kristi, it's an interesting time we're living in where women have been given more opportunity, become more empowered, yet at the same time felt unseen. It's this weird mixed bag of all things women. And so you come out with this great study about Jesus and women. And I got to say, I'm a fan and I love the way that you help us understand a woman's identity and where our true affirmation comes from. So before we get into Jesus and women, I want to know about kind of Jesus and Kristi. And so why'd you choose to write about Jesus and women? Did you have a thing in your life that made you like need to understand your identity as a woman?
Kristi McLelland: Well, there's a personal answer to that and sort of just a God-adventure answer to that.
Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, give me the personal first and then let's move to the God adventure.
Kristi McLelland: The personal would be I accepted Christ when I was nine years old and grew up in a world where girls could not teach the Bible. And all I wanted to do pretty much was teach the Bible. I'm a nerd. I tell people all the time, I've never been cool a day in my life. While everybody else was leading fun, meaningful lives, I was in a corner somewhere reading. So there was just deep pain located and how do I burn for something that I can never have?
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Kristi McLelland: And the Living God just took me by the hand and started walking me into a world, His world, I would say, where women can and I would even say should teach the Bible. The Bible is for everyone. The Living God has put it on the bottom shelf. He intends it for all. It's not so much something that we're meant to read. It's something we're meant to eat. And so that's kind of the personal story for me. But in 2007, the Lord opened up the door for me to go study the Bible in Egypt and Israel. And I tell people all the time I went to Israel and learned that the Living God is better than I ever knew. And I thought He was awesome when I went and being in Israel, it felt like I was getting to go home with Jesus to His Jewish world.
Jennifer Rothschild: Oh, wow.
Kristi McLelland: You know, you think about when you started dating your husband, and there came that time when you went home with him for the first time to meet his family. And there's something about being with him in his place of origin, being around his people. And you're looking at him and you're going, you make that same face that your dad makes or whatever that was. Just an intimacy and a getting to know him. And that's what studying in Israel did for me. And while I was there in 2007, as I was getting to know Jesus in His first-century Jewish world, one of the things that just stuck out so immediately, directly, and personally to me was the unique ministry that Jesus had, His attitude toward, His posture with, in his ministry to women 2,000 years ago in His first-century Jewish world. And I just got all fired up because if Jesus would do it for her, He's seeking to do it for us. And the question really becomes, it's not: Jesus, are You that good? It's: Am I ready to live and walk with You and to see myself the way You see me?
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and Jesus was radical.
Kristi McLelland: Yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: My understanding of the way He related to women in first-century was radical.
Kristi McLelland: Absolutely.
Jennifer Rothschild: So give us a picture of what life was like. So if some girls right now listen and think they got it hard.
Kristi McLelland: Yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: Let's take it back to first century. What was life like for women? Let's go with single, widowed, and married. Like, give us a gamut.
Kristi McLelland: Well in general, and I break this down in the Jesus and Women study, but the Middle East as a culture, they are what we call an honor-shame culture. And in the world of Judaism, the world that Jesus knew, everything was about clean and unclean. Who's clean, who's unclean. And you do everything you can to not do something to make you unclean because then you get separated and set aside or anchored in shame. So Jesus was born into a world 2,000 years ago where woman had lost her sense of honor in that culture. She was anchored in shame and she was desperately needing to be lifted out of her shame to have her honor restored, the imago day inside of her, and to be sent forth in her life, anchored in God Shalom. And in every interaction that we have with Jesus and a woman in the four Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John -- that incarnational space, every time Jesus interacted with a woman, He met her in her place of shame. He generously lifted her out of it, restored her honor, and sent her forward in Shalom. And this is a world where typically rabbis would not even speak with females. When you look at ancient Jewish literature, like the Mishnah and the Talmud, because, again, clean and unclean, you're doing everything you can to stay clean. Table fellowship, for example, Jesus is known as a man who ate with tax collectors and sinners.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Kristi McLelland: We could interject women in that as well. Think Mary, Martha.
Jennifer Rothschild: Right.
Kristi McLelland: In the home of Lazarus. And so in Jesus's everyday rhythms and practices of life, He is treating the feminine in the way that the Living God sees her. And regardless of what culture has told her or how culture has located her in a place of shame. Jesus is the one who comes to bring the restoration and the renewal of all things. And one of the most striking ways that we see it in his incarnational life in the earth is when it comes to women.
Jennifer Rothschild: Well, and I know there are some women listening right now. And my prayers is that penetrated, Kristi, because that is powerful, because the same Jesus whose feet were dusty walking through Galilee is the same Jesus that walks right into our story today and lifts us from our shame.
Kristi McLelland: That's right.
Jennifer Rothschild: And so thank you. Thank you, Jesus, for such a powerful radical love. And so one of the things you talk about in your Jesus in Women Bible study, there are two Hebrew words that you use consistently.
Kristi McLelland: Yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: That I'm not going to try to pronounce because I will mispronounce them. But I want you to tell us what those two Hebrew words are, what they mean, and why they matter.
Kristi McLelland: So these two Hebrew words, they are very important throughout the narrative of the Bible. We find them for the first time in Genesis Chapter 18, and it's almost like they're married and they travel together through Scripture and Psalm 89:14. The Bible says that God has a throne and the foundation of God's throne. How much more important can you get than foundation of God's throne?
Jennifer Rothschild: Right. The bottomline. Yeah.
Kristi McLelland: It's made up of two things. And I'll often ask women, you know, what two things do you think it is? And they'll say truth and grace.
Jennifer Rothschild: Love.
Kristi McLelland: You know, love and mercy. But the Bible says that the foundation of God's throne is made up of justice and righteousness and the Hebrew word for justice. It's the word mishpat.
Jennifer Rothschild: Mishpat.
Kristi McLelland: And the Hebrew word for righteousness is the word tsedaqah.
Jennifer Rothschild: Tsedaqah.
Kristi McLelland: Tsedaqah. And the first time we see this marriage, this coupling oftentimes in the Bible, if you see justice, you will see righteousness. Oftentimes in the Bible, if you see righteousness, you will also see justice. And the first time we see it is in Genesis 18, when the Living God says to Abraham, "Abraham, I am calling you and you and your descendants will live out the way of the Lord, the way that is justice and righteousness for the nations." And so fast forward to Jesus's time when woman has lost her sense of honor and she's anchored in shame. In every interaction, Jesus is bringing these two things to her, mishpat and tsedaqah, justice and righteousness. He's not just lifting her. He is generously lifting her. He is leveraging His own life, His own honor, His own esteem as a Rabbi of Israel on her behalf and for her sake. And so when we talk about who Jesus is and what He's like and what it is to walk with Him even as modern day women, whoever's listening to this right now, think about the hardest thing going on in your life right now. I'm talking the thing that steals your sleep, the things that makes you anxious or fearful, the things that raise up doubt in your heart, the things that you just are honestly wondering if you're going to make it to the other side of this. To understand who Jesus is, He is the one who enters into that most difficult place. He is not afraid of the hard and he will enter in. He is the one who will take you by the hand and he will bring mishpat and tsedaqah, justice and righteousness to you.
Jennifer Rothschild: What does that look like? So right now, that woman you're speaking to, she's weeping because she's felt that low place where she lives and she's stuck.
Kristi McLelland: Yeah.
Jennifer Rothschild: What does it look like when justice and righteousness enter into her life?
Kristi McLelland: You know, there's a difference if we read the Bible and think that we have to go find God versus God comes looking for us. And the story of the Bible is that the Living God is relentless in His looking for us. And so the first thing I would say is we can't lift ourselves. We can't generously do that work so often on our own behalf.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Kristi McLelland: We are listening for that voice, the voice of the Shepherd, the one that when we hear His voice it's a word that we cannot speak to ourselves. And it's to allow Him to find us in our hardest places, our most difficult moments, the hardest relationships, the things that are fundamentally upside down. And to know that Jesus didn't come to turn things upside down. He came to turn things right side up. And so when I am devastated, when I am in the floor crying, and I don't know what to do, something that I learned in Israel is when sheep are lost, they actually don't cry out. They hunker down and they wait to be found. And so I get that image in my own heart, in my own life, in my tough places, I just hunker down and I say, "Living God, Jesus, come find me and bring me home."
Jennifer Rothschild: And He does.
Kristi McLelland: And He does.
Jennifer Rothschild: He does every time.
Kristi McLelland: He is faithful.
Jennifer Rothschild: And He will.
Kristi McLelland: He will.
Jennifer Rothschild: Kristi, one of the things too, because I love geeking out personally.
Kristi McLelland: Yes.
Jennifer Rothschild: You're my kind of girl. So one of the things you talk about in the Bible study, Jesus in Women, is that you give a right understanding based on the Middle Eastern context of what a yoke is. And I would love you to share that with our 4:13'ers, because I think this will bring a lot of liberty for a lot of strivers.
Kristi McLelland: Yes!
Jennifer Rothschild: Okay, so talk to us about that.
Kristi McLelland: So as a Christian people, there are certain passages of Scripture, right. We not only know them, we have them crocheted, we have artwork on our walls.
Jennifer Rothschild: They are on our coffee mugs.
Kristi McLelland: They are on our T-shirts.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.
Kristi McLelland: And one of those passages is Matthew 11:28-30. Words in red, Jesus is talking. And it's that great moment where He says, "Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest." And then He says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls." And I love actually getting to teach on this here in the West because when we talk about what is this yoke that Jesus is talking about, it is a perfect example of how sometimes we define terms in our own day in time in a way that's very different from how the biblical characters or the authors were defining terms. So the question becomes, Jesus says that when we take on His yoke, we will find rest for our souls. Well, I don't know about you, I'm from rural Mississippi, and when I hear yolk, I envision two oxen.
Jennifer Rothschild: Yes.
Kristi McLelland: Plowing a field.
Jennifer Rothschild: Lumbering.
Kristi McLelland: With a yoke on them. And I'm like, Jesus, this is not restful.
Jennifer Rothschild: No.
Kristi McLelland: This is not, this can't be what you're saying. And so when I was studying with some of the rabbis in Israel back in 2007, I learned that both in Jesus world and still today, for rabbis, every rabbi has a yoke. Well, what is it? A yoke is a Rabbi's teachings. It's his understanding of the Scriptures, of who God is, of what he's like, what it is to walk with them. So if you think about it, if you gave a Presbyterian pastor, a Baptist pastor, and a Catholic priest a passage of Scripture, they would all share from it from their own denominational.
Jennifer Rothschild: Right.
Kristi McLelland: Sort of paradigm.
Jennifer Rothschild: Sure.
Kristi McLelland: And that's their yoke. That is their body of teachings that they give to their disciples, to their congregants. And now we begin to understand what Jesus is saying. Because let's go back to the passage. Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me." So what is the invitation? Jesus is saying, take My yoke, take My teachings. Let Me be the one to tell you who God is, what He's like, what it is to walk with Him. And when you take on these teachings, they will give you rest for your souls because it's not about striving and straining. It's about posturing ourselves to receive the ministry that the Living God has for us in our lives. So trust me, you want to be under Jesus's yoke, His teachings, His perspective, His interpretation of all things.
Jennifer Rothschild: I don't know about you guys, but this was one of my favorite conversations ever, and it's based on a great Bible study that I highly recommend. So we will have the link to the Jesus and Women Bible study on the show notes also. Plus links to all things Kristi, because she also leads trips to Israel. And just from what you've heard, wouldn't that be really neat to travel with her? And of course, I will have my travel vest on there. So if you go to Israel, you can wear it. Okay, so the show notes are at 413podcast.com/139.
K.C. Wright: Jennifer, this conversation made me just fall in love with Jesus even more. I mean, Jesus, He lifts all of us out of whatever pit we are in, you know, and it made me think of Psalms 40. So I just want to read part of it over you as we finish out this podcast today. Here's Psalms 40, "I waited patiently for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him."
Jennifer Rothschild: And to that I say, Amen. Okay. So our people, whatever you face or however you feel, don't ever forget that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.
K.C. Wright: I can.
Jennifer Rothschild: And you can. Hey, K.C.
K.C. Wright: That was good.
Jennifer Rothschild: That was good.
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