One of the strongest arguments against the ordination of women for ministerial offices in the church may in fact be an argument from silence, or better, an argument from absence. During the course of Jesus’ ministry, He did not shy away from breaking various social taboos. He knew that healing on the Sabbath would put Him in direct conflict with the religious leaders, and He did it anyway. He knew there was was widespread fleshly pride in the Jewish family, and so He often denounced idolatry of the family and warned against those not willing to follow Him and lose everything. Jesus never showed the slightest limitation by social customs or traditions. He didn’t keep the traditions of the Jews, particularly cleanliness laws. This was partly because Jesus couldn’t become unclean (witness the woman with the flow of blood), and this was partly because Jesus was in the process of changing the system (He is the new temple). He was willing to be thought a revolutionary, and He openly prophesied the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. It’s not like Jesus was trying to fend off an early death. He taught openly, and He went to Jerusalem planning to pick a fight with the religious and political leaders that would end in His execution for the salvation of the world. Jesus had absolutely nothing to protect, nothing to shy away from, and He was not timid about proclaiming unpopular opinions.
Add to this the fact that part of Jesus’ own scandalous ministry was His friendship with many women who supported His ministry. He healed and forgave many women. He was not ashamed for a woman to show up at a party and wipe His feet with her tears. She was forgiven much, He said, defending her great love, despite the social pressures to distance Himself from her. One time, Jesus defended a woman caught in the act of adultery, not because her sin was excusable, but because of the hypocrisy of her male accusers. If women were meant to be leaders in the church, a move that would signal a significant shift from the norms of the Old Covenant, Jesus could have done it. And there’s an enormous pile of evidence that indicates that He would have done it if He wanted to. He certainly honored many women, His own mother not least. He dignified women with respect, care, compassion, and friendship, certainly affirming their equal standing as image bearers and disciples in the Kingdom, even appearing first to women in the garden after His resurrection, granting them the honor of being the first two witnesses. This was scandalous in its own way.
But Jesus chose twelve men to lead the church, and when Paul is passing along instructions to the Corinthians, he feels free to explain that women should not be teachers in the church. Likewise with Timothy, Paul instructs him to find men.
There would have been absolutely nothing stopping Jesus from appointing female apostles. And with Jesus’ own mother and Mary Magdalene gathering with the disciples after the ascension, they were obviously there in the upper room with the apostles as the foundations of the New Israel were laid. We have every reason to believe that these women were thought of highly. They certainly were not overlooked. And it was not cultural norms preventing the apostles from obeying the Lord’s command. They were in the process of toppling countless cultural and traditional norms. The first Christians were not known for being shy about that. Christians were persecuted from city to city, arrested, imprisoned, and executed for overturning cultural, traditional norms. To suggest that the apostles were simply not ready to stand up to centuries of different practice is to suggest that they were cowards which is absolutely irrational because everything else about being a Christian took massive amounts of courage.
No, the reason no women were chosen to lead the church is because men have always been called to lead the way into death, lead the way into battle, lead the way into danger. Thus it has always been, and thus it still is that the Church needs men to lead her, to show us how to lose our lives, how to take up our cross, how to be expendable. Because after all, that’s what men are.