Occasionally, in conversations about God and gender, someone will attempt to conclude the matter by noting that Jesus was a man, as though the incarnation proves something about the gender of God or the ultimate superiority of maleness over femaleness.
I’ve never really known how to respond to that, but lately, as I’ve been nursing a five-month-old baby boy, I’ve been thinking: Yes, in Jesus, God was once a man. But also? In Jesus, God was once a baby—a baby who nestled in a woman’s womb, a baby whose life depended on a woman for nourishment, a baby who fell asleep on a woman’s chest, a baby whose first word could very well have been, “mama.”
Think about that. God kicking through a woman’s pregnant belly, God nursing from a woman’s breasts, God furrowing his brow and concentrating with all his might to form the word “mama,” God releasing a cute baby belly laugh, God wailing late into the night.
The miracle of the incarnation isn’t that God became a man; it’s that God became human—with all of a human’s weaknesses, dependencies, and interconnectedness. If anything, the incarnation reminds us just how much we belong to one another and need one another, how our shared humanity means no one is more important by virtue of gender or status.
Sure, when God became flesh, God became a man. But that man was once a baby who needed his mama. And that baby grew into a man who surrounded himself with women who were his students, his ministry partners, and his friends. And when that man was crucified and buried and abandoned by men, it was the women who came with the spices, the women who got the first glimpse of resurrection.
Like it or not, God needs women—for food, for friendship, for the work of redemption.
Sojourner Truth put it far more bluntly when she (reportedly) said: “Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.”