fresh bread: challenging the status quo

Jesus traveled through the cities and villages, preaching and proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom. The Twelve were with him, along with some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses. Among them were Mary Magdalene (from whom seven demons had been thrown out), Joanna (the wife of Herod’s servant Chuza), Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3 CEB)

Understand the significance of these few words.

“… Judaism in Jesus’ time … had a very low opinion of women … [they were] chiefly valued for fecundity, kept as far as possible shut away fromthe outer world, submissive to the power of her father or her husband,, and … inferior to men from a religious point of view.

Only against the background of that time can we fully appreciate Jesus’s attitude to women. Luke 8:1-3 … speak[s] of women following Jesus, and this was an unprecedented happening in the history of that time. … Jesus … knowingly overthrew custom when he allowed women to follow him. He could do this because he required from his disciples an attitude to women of complete chastity … Jesus was not content with bringing women up onto a higher plane than was then the custom; but as Savior of all … he brings them before God on an equal footing with men …” (Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus, pp.375-376)

Or as Charles H. Talbert puts it:

“It was not uncommon for women to support rabbis and their disciples with their own money, property, or foodstuffs … but for a woman to leave home and travel with a rabbi was not only unknown, it was scandalous …” (Reading Luke, p.96)

With that in mind, at least three thoughts seem obvious as we seek to take the teachings of this text onto our lives today. First, while the gospel of Christ is not a “social gospel,” it is a gospel with radical social implications. A gospel that claims to be of Christ, but does not address the social world in which it finds itself is no gospel at all. Second, Jesus was not content to massage the social and religious status quo, rather, he challenged it head on in words and practice. Disciples seeking to imitate him today must move toward doing the same, not settling for less. Third, Jesus’ engagement with the human injustices of contemporary religion and society bought him on a cross. Christ’s church today must not cower in fear over potential negative repercussions from wherever they may come, but boldly live out the gospel it claims to believe, knowing that God’s way for this world is best.

Our Father in heaven, holy is your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. So be it. Amen.

ct: death undone

(Reflecting on John 11:32-44 and Revelation 21:1-6)

Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, but that only delays the inevitable. Lazarus will still have to die one day. Which is reminder that we too, like Lazarus, will have to die. Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Good question. Like Martha we say, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the son of God, the one coming into the world,” but that answer is you evasive. We may believe Jesus is the resurrection and the life, but we know, like Lazarus, that we are going to die.

It is hard, moreover, for us to live in the light of Jesus’s resurrection. Like Martha we may believe Jesus is the Son of God, but I suspect the reality that we are destined to die means that we are not at all sure we know what we are saying when we say, “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” I often observe that now that I’m in my 60s I am beginning to realize that death is not a theoretical possibility – even for me. I am going to die. Yet as sure as my dying is, I am not at all sure I have comprehended or understood what it means for me to die. When I was young, that is when I lived as if I would never die, I assumed when I was actually faced with death I would be frightened. I have discovered, however, that I so little understand what it means to die that I am more puzzled than frightened — at least I think I am more puzzled than frightened. …

What we know is that the crucified Jesus has been raised, making possible our hope that death cannot defeat God’s love for us. We were created for God’s enjoyment and through the Son’s obedience even to death he has reclaimed us so that we may regard our deaths not as an end but as a beginning. In short God does not give us explanations that can make our dying something less than that. He does not give us an explanation; he gives us his Son.

Stanley Hauerwas, A Cross-Shattered Church, pp.81-82,85