Women and Jesus
49. The Women
49. THE WOMEN
1. The status of the Jewish wife in the Old Testament :
The main role of a Jewish wife was to give her husband many descendants, to keep house, prepare the meals, fetch the water, do the shopping, wash and dry the clothes, take care of the children's education and in particular, the education of the young girls who were not all at school.
The choice of a wife was generally agreed between parents. That is why, it was very common for very young girls to be betrothed (usually without their consent) and when the betrothed came to live in the husband's home the marriage was ratified by an official certificate.DEU 22:15 Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel's virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate:
DEU 22:16 And the damsel's father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her;
DEU 22:17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her, saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter's virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.
DEU 22:18 And the elders of that city shall take that man and chastise him;
DEU 22:19 And they shall amerce him in an hundred shekels of silver, and give them unto the father of the damsel, because he hath brought up an evil name upon a virgin of Israel: and she shall be his wife; he may not put her away all his days.
DEU 22:20 But if this thing be true, and the tokens of virginity be not found for the damsel:
DEU 22:21 Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father's house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you. DEU 22:14 And give occasions of speech against her, and bring up an evil name upon her, and say, I took this woman, and when I came to her, I found her not a maid:
Even in Jesus' time, when the future wife was pregnant, she had to either show proof that her husband to be was responsible, or be subject to the "bitter waters test", a sort of divine judgement where the accused woman, whatever she did, she had not to vomit, to avoid being stoned. But yet this mixture of bitter herbs, vinegar and dusts from the temple was enough to make even a strong animal vomit!
The First Gospel of James claims that this test was imposed on Mary, the mother of Jesus because of her impregnation by an unknown father!
The Jewish religion was indifferent to the personality of the woman and only allowed her a secondary position. Unlike the neighbouring pagan women, or those women of the very liberated occupying Romans, the Jewish wife had to be loyal to her husband without being able to demand a reciprocal attitude from him. It was very unusual for her to ask or obtain a divorce, but on the other hand her husband had a "privilege" contained in the Law of Moses, which allowed him to renounce his wife (to send her back to her parents or out of her home for something "shameful!")
This term "shameful" was interpreted very widely according to the rabbis:
- Sterility after ten years of marriage
- A serious, contagious or disgusting disease
- An inability to bring up her children, to teach them the Jewish law, to observe within it the rules and the tradition of customs
- An inaptitude in household tasks.
Of course, the replacement was generally younger and prettier, but the total amount of repudiation payments considerably moderated divorce candidates petitions.
The fact remains that the repudiated wife who often had custody of very small children (and young girls up to the time of their marriage) had to either return to live with her parents or find a place to live which created tension in the family and which caused many unforeseen expenses.
Matthew.19 v 5. And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
MAT 19:6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
MAT 19:7 They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?
MAT 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
MAT 19:9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
The Virgin of Vladimir - Russia 18th Century
2. Jesus and the woman of his time :
We do not have, in fact, a detailed description on the physical appearance of the Master, who, when all is said and done did not attach Importance to clothes and external signs of wealth. He chose to be born poor, to live unassumingly for thirty years in the midst of simple village people, to choose his disciples as John the Baptist did - amongst humble people and the little man.
Born a Jew, he would remain according to the Peguy expression: a Jew amongst Jews
During his entire earthly life, he wore nothing but a long, loose-fitting, and seamless tunic, decorated with four woolen tassels representing God's commandments.
DEU 22:12 Thou shalt make thee fringes upon the four quarters of thy vesture, wherewith thou coverest thyself
Long hair with his temples covered by two locks, which the Law of Moses made obligatory for men. His was a desired and voluntary poverty in order to show the example of natural simplicity. It was thus that the women of his time saw him, living alongside him, being close to him, and they convinced, following him on the long and frequent moving around trips on foot on the roads of Judea, Galilee, Peree, and the adjoining surrounding regions.
Who were they, these devoted and pious women, following the Master behind the disciples making up a small group on their own where they chattered happily and joyfully amongst themselves?
Luke 8 v 2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils, and Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
3. MARY de Magdelene and Luke's unknown sinner :
Magdala is a small fishing village situated at the side of the lake of Gennesaret between Tiberius and Capernaum (the town where Jesus lived prior to his departure from Nazareth)
Is it by chance that Luke concludes chapter 7 with the story of an anonymous repentant sinner woman who comes to thank Jesus for a kindness by perfuming his feet and drying them with her long hair? Chapter 8 continues in mentioning Mary Magdalene at the top of the list of women who followed Jesus - he described her as a woman from whom seven demons had come out.
Let us go back to chapter seven of Doctor Luke!
Jesus was sitting at the table of Simon the Pharisee, a very well known personality from the area, who invited Jesus to his house:
The strange man who is known for having supernatural powers.
While they were eating, a young beautiful woman, with a well-groomed appearance and with a determined attitude, entered the Pharisee's house with a vase, which contained a very expensive lavender perfume, which she threw on the Master's feet. She was visibly very moved for some unknown reason or grateful for something. (Perhaps there was a link between this woman and that of John ch 8 whom the Jews wanted to stone?)
The fact remains that this woman without worryng about anyone pushed open the door of a well-known Pharisee's house and came to perfume the Master's feet, then kissed them so lovingly and dried them with her long silky hair.
Her presence there was strange and perplex, the Pharisee and his wife were indignant! Luke recounted faithfully the scene even the intimate thoughts of Simon that Jesus revealed and used in order to reproach him on his manner of welcoming his guest!
- To do that to me, in my home, if this man is truly a PROPHET, he should be well aware that "this type (of loose woman) is the creature "who comes to cause trouble at my reception and to fill my house with perfume while we are eating".
- Simon, said Jesus who has read his thoughts, I have something to tell you:
- A creditor had two debtors, one owed him a lot of money, the other very little money, but as neither of them had anything to pay back the debt with, he paid off their entire debt for both of them. In your opinion, Simon, which one of them "would love him more?"
- The one for whom he paid most.
Jesus explained himself:
- You have judged well Simon, (contrary to custom) you did not give me water to wash my hands when I sat down at the table. But SHE covered my feet with her tears. You gave me no kiss at all, but SHE since I entered, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put any oil at all on my head, but SHE threw her most expensive perfume on my feet. That is why I say to you: her many sins are forgiven, because SHE has loved much."
We are at the heart of the matter: on one side a believing man and with a very cold nature, who imposes sacrifices on himself and who considers that everyone should live in the same manner (his manner). On the other side: a woman who had been considered like a sinner and who has on her heart an enormous debt. She did not only come to thank the Master, but above all to allow her admiration and her love to speak at the risk of shocking some of the fine guests Invited by the Pharisee Simon, in the hope of catching Jesus out in the law, instead of showing him admiration and kindness.
Before everyone Jesus said (to the women sinner)
- Your faith has saved you, go in peace, your sins are forgiven.
John spoke of Mary Magdalene as a repentant sinner, but confirmed that she will be:
THE FIRST HUMAN BEING, the first woman, to SEE Jesus after his resurrection. Therefore the first person "chosen by HIM" before all others, including his family and his disciples.
4. Three miracles given to women :
a/ the woman who had been bowed over for 18 years whom Jesus healed one Sabbath day in a synagogue.
LUK 13:11 And, behold, there was a woman which had a spirit of infirmity eighteen years, and was bowed together, and could in no wise lift up herself.
- see our ch 26 detailing the miracles carried out by Jesus one Sabbath day)
b/ the women suffering from chronic haemorragheing. It is Doctor Luke who describes her best ch 8 (v 43 to 48).
LUK 8:43 And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
LUK 8:44 Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.
LUK 8:45 And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
LUK 8:46 And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
LUK 8:47 And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
LUK 8:48 And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.
Extract from the Jewish Law - LEVITICUS 15 v16
LEV 15:16 And if any man's seed of copulation go out from him, then he shall wash all his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even.
The woman who has a discharge of blood in her flesh, stayed seven days in her impurity. On the eight day she offered two turtle doves to the priest, which was for her the atonement for the flow, which made her impure. Whoever touched her was impure until the evening. Her bed, her belongings, her clothes: EVERYTHING would be classed as IMPURE".
One did not banter with a flow of blood, whatever its cause or its location! This woman was suffering still more effects of this limitless law, than from the continuation of her incurable disease. Jesus calmed her down and reassured her:
Go in peace my child; your faith has saved you. (Matthew 9 - Mark 5)
C. The healing of the daughter of the woman from Cana (Matthew 15 and Mark 7)
Jesus was passing through Tyre (present day Libya) a foreign "non-Jewish" (Mark precise Greek) woman shouted:
- Lord, "Son of David" have pity on me. My daughter is very ill.
Yes, a foreign Greek woman certainly did call Jesus "Son of David". But as Jesus seemed not to hear anything, the woman raised herself up even higher and she became more insistent. To such a point that the disciples who were accompanying the Lord became very embarrassed asked him with insistence:
- Send her away, she keeps shouting after us!
The Master stopped and approaching her but did not answer her:
I have not been sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But the woman was undeterred- she insisted, she threw herself at his feet and knelt before him:
- Lord, help me (help)
Jesus for a moment still said nothing. He knew that the Jews called pagan foreigners dogs, that is why he was going to test the poor unfortunate using the term dogs, but adding the word small to it to soften the offensive impact:
- It is not good to take the bread of children to "throw" it to"little dogs!
- No, Lord, she said accepting the moral slap in the face, and only thinking of her poor anguished child in her bed, replied:
- But the little dogs (that we are) also eat the crumbs which fall from their master's table (give us therefore " a crumb" of bread that you give to the brothers of your religion)
Jesus, in actual fact was struck with admiration at the courage and at the faith of the woman, to such an extent that he congratulated her on her great faith and decided in her favour:
- Woman, your faith is great, that it be done as you wish.
How many modern women tied by the chains of the huge work of daily life wait under the Lord's table for some crumbs to fall to feed their small famished souls?
Peter 1 ch 3
PE1 3:4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
PE1 3:7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.
Paul to the Ephesians 5 v29
EPH 5:28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.
EPH 5:29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church.
5. WOMEN of today
In many countries, woman is still considered as man's servant. One must not forget that God created man and woman equal and complementary to each other.
Man like his companion was born to love himself, love and be loved. Together: they should struggle, bring up their children and protect them.
Whatever happens, God has through marriage united man and woman so that they may express their love, become one flesh and bring each and every basic principle and qualities, which all their children have need of during their childhood.
"HE" has filled the Earth with all these orchids, which have such a need of love in their fragility. For our happiness and to fill our hearts "HE" has created these flowers with all the colors:
| Blonde girls
from the North
With long golden hair
Who live beside the seas
Where the mermaids live.
| Brown does from
Whom one notices sometimes
At the end of the path
When destiny decides
Auburn and sensual
Like pure blood
The fire on your face
Breaks forth in little freckles.
| Sun tanned
Behind your veiled shapes
Your pupils gleam
Like lightning flashes in the sky.
Yellow butterflies from the Orient
Which always smile
With long braided plaits.
black from the sun
With bright pink lips
With sparkling white teeth
And your long locks hanging down.
Illustrations taken from the ELLE Internet site
"HE" has made you all more beautiful and each one different. Through YOU, he teaches us love and lifts our SPIRITS.
Your sole presence restores our confidence, because a life without you is truly bland!Eccles. 26 The charm of a wife makes her husband's joy and her knowledge for him a strength. The charm of a young wife in a well kept home is de leternel insert text.
The beauty of a face on a sturdy body is like a shiny lamp on a sacred lamp. Pretty legs on sturdy heels are like golden columns, decorated with a silver base.
There is perhaps in these lines from Ecclesiastes a touch which recalls strangely the splendors of ancient Egypt:
- ... The beauty of the rising sun.
- ... The homage to the woman's body,
- ... the huge golden columns of pure gold.
- ... and the silver ceilings of the temples.
6. The eternity and the STARS
In the depths of outer space, there are stars which are slowly dying! But before going out, they light up for a last time in the sky, with a brightness which is comparable to an entire reunited galaxy.
After having for a last time concentrated all their fires for a last time, they transform into gaseous nebulae. However, despite that these stars have ceased exist for hundreds even millions of years, their light continues to travel in the huge universe, to make us still believe that they are still there.
Like the Phoenix, this royal eagle which was consumed and was reborn from the ashes, the fires of the camera make the stars relive mixing on our screens the past and the present like a sign of our eternity.
50. MARTHA and MARY of Bethany
1. Jesus' friend at Bethany
When one leaves Jerusalem by the east side of the temple removed by Herod the Great, one takes a road which goes across the Mount of Olives at the place which is called Bethpage, in the direction of Bethany. Jerusalem (the big crowded town) and Bethany this small haven of peace, perched at the top of the hills which look down over the Jordan valley.
The friendship between Jesus and Lazarus and his two sisters had been established for a long time.
John claims even that Jesus loved them all. (ch 11 v 5) Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
LUK 10:39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word. .
Martha who was distracted with domestic chores came suddenly to the Lord and called out to him in an irritated tone:
- Do you not care, Lord, that my sister leaves me alone to serve you? Tell her to help me.
Jesus said to her:
- Martha, Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.
It must be said that when Jesus arrived in to Bethany with his disciples, after having crossed on foot the long dusty roads of Palestine, (often on an empty stomach); Jesus knew that Lazarus's family offered him the best foods they had!
But all those people meant a lot of work to be done quickly. As it was not a custom in those days for a man to help with domestic chores, Lazarus was saved by Martha, but reproaches were falling quickly on Mary, the youngest, sitting down listening to the words, whilst Martha was worrying about everything in her kitchen.
Sitting on a cushion, at the feet of Jesus, Mary was ecstatic! She said nothing; she was watching the Master and was listening to the charm of his voice, which had cured so many sick people1 She heard Jesus in a very faraway dream and she dreamed- Mary was in love1
Jesus knew this perfectly well and because of that he protected her, but he also knew that he did not have time to stop on the way. How many people are today like Martha, anxious and agitated to such a point that they manage to forget the essential?
2. The Resurrection of Lazarus at Bethany
( Jean ch 11 )
Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. JOH 11:8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus had just escaped for the second time from the Jews who had tried to stone him for the same reason - that of blasphemy. He was on the other side of the Jordan, near Enon, the place where John the Baptist had baptised and this bank of the river which was under the jurisdiction of Antipas and on another riverbank under the jurisdiction of Tetrarque Philip
Suddenly the news that he was awaiting came to him - Lazarus was very ill! In order not to throw the disciples into a panic, Jesus said - Lazarus is sleeping! But Lazarus died and was put in the tomb by his family.
Four days after his death, Jesus finally arrived at Bethany. Mary as still suffering from the shock of the sudden loss of her brother and she did not come our from her house anymore, she could not understand why Jesus (their friend) who had healed so many unknown people, had not come to them since the first call for help to the family from Bethany!
Thus it was that Martha, in deep mourning, her face drawn, her eyes full of tears who came before the Master and said to him.
- "Ah, if you had been there, my brother would not be dead.
After a moment's hesitation, she sat down again thinking of the state of her brother's soul.
- But now I know that what you ask God for, he will grant. (because God listens to you - he is merciful)
Jesus said to her:
- your brother will rise from the dead
- I know - at the resurrection, on the last day
Raising his voice Jesus said to her:
- I AM the resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live even when he is dead. He will never die. Do you believe that?
- Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah who had to come into the world.
Having thus spoken, she secretly called her sister Mary and said to her:
- The Master is here and he is asking for you.
When Mary saw Jesus coming towards her house, she fell at his feet in a flood of tears and reproached as Martha done - "Ah, if you had been there!"
John insisted a lot that the disciples' anxieties and had made him aware that the Jews were looking for him in order to kill him. In spite of this Jesus had returned to Bethany. At this moment, Jesus did no longer see the crowd which had come to see him, not he Jews who wanted his life, the only thing that mattered to him was the huge sorrow of Mary, this young woman who loved him from the bottom of her heart and who reproached him for having abandoned her when SHE has needed him so much.
John wrote: The Master's heart was overflowing and his spirit began to tremble and big tears ran down the Master's cheeks, who began to cry as well as all the Jews who were accompanying Mary.
However the Jews were suspicious when they believed that Jesus was crying because of the sudden death, and that he, the doer of miracles had not been able to prevent it. NO, the Master knew well in advance ALL that was going to happen and why he had waited 4 days to come! It was quite simply so that the MIRACLE that he was going to perform would be more obvious. So if Jesus cried, it was solely because Martha and Mary had touched the depths of his heart.
It as now necessary that everyone saw what he was capable of and which no one thought possible - to resurrect a dead person who had been buried for four days under the blazing sun of Judea.
How many times have we thought in the height of adversity, but where is God then? If he was there, all that would have not happened. But God has other plans that we only understand with time.
Stepping in front of the heavy stone tomb of the family cellar, he ordered for it to be raised, then lifting his eyes to Heaven:
- Father, I thank you that you have answered my prayer and in order that they believe that YOU have sent me,
he added this order towards the open tomb:
- Lazarus, come out!
It was not known how, suddenly the dead man shadow stood up in front of the tomb entrance with its feet and hands bound and his face covered with a cloth.
No one knew how, suddenly the dead man's silhouette stood up in front of the tomb entrance with its hands bounds and his face covered with a cloth.
Reality transcended fiction from all the stories imagined at this time. The crowd was paralysed with fear and a good moment went by before the Lord issued his second order:
- Untie him and let him go.
Mary had stopped crying. She thought that she was dreaming, she felt that a miracle had reconstituted this broken vase. She thought that she had just refound that which she thought was forever lost! A nightmare faded away, she had just woken up, like her brother Lazarus.
With all the amazement and joy surrounding the resurrection of the dead man, no one noticed that Jesus and the disciples with him, had just slipped away without saying anything, without even eating to be thanked.
That evening there would be a lot to talk about in the village of Bethany. Lazarus, Martha and Mary would find it hard to sleep. But Mary was so happy to have refound her brother and she thought of the kind person who had made it happen without cease.
She looked for a way to show the Master her gratitude. He, whom she did not dare to kiss on the cheek, or rub against his shoulder. However, she did not have to look far, as she suddenly remembered a story that the disciples had told her - it was about a poor woman who, in order to thank the Master for some kind deed, had publicly bathed his feet and had covered them with kisses.
In the early hours of the morning, she set off to Jerusalem in order to buy a very rare and expensive perfume
3. The homage of Mary of Bethany to the Lord
JOH 12:1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead.
Imagine the joy of Lazarus and his sisters when Jesus crossed their doorway? They kissed his hands and after a thousand thanks, Lazarus got his best celebration wine from his cellar. Martha was singing again in her kitchen, and today she wanted to excel (all by herself) completely in the hope of giving him pleasure.
Lazarus was the picture of health, just like a newborn he was listening attentively to the Master's words who was seated beside him at the big table. After the master had blessed the bread and given thanks to the Eternal Father, they shared the meal between all of them.
Suddenly towards the end of the meal, Mary appeared in her finest clothes, her long black hair untied, and SHE had in her hands an extremely expensive perfume. SHE approached the Master, the guests in utter silence; she perfumed the Master's feet with a very pure lavender which scented the entire house.
SHE placed her lips on the Master's feet and caressed them with her fingertips, and then SHE dried them with her magnificent hair ever so gently. Without understanding the gesture of gratitude of this woman, Judas Iscariot became indignant about this wastage and said to the people beside him:
- One could have got 300 denarii from this perfume and given it to the poor.
John could not help adding that normally Judas was not interested in poor people, but rather to the common funds, which he was responsible for, and which he was embezzling.Furthermore, in two days he was going to sell his Master for a tenth of the price of this perfume!
Immediately, Jesus took her side and said:
- Let her be, said Jesus, she kept this perfume in view of my (pending) burial. Which is something no one understood, that night! Matthew adds in ch 26, v 10
- MAT 26:13 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
Three days later, at the same time, the Master's body would lie inanimate and hanging from a cross at the top of the Hill of the Skull, Golgotha, hardly three kilometres from Bethany.
Mary from Bethany did not know this then. For the time being, intoxicated with perfume, she was happy being so near to Jesus who came to pay his final respects to them and to thank them for the happy time spent at Bethany.
Mary would be inconsolable when she learnt all that they had done to him. But as soon as he was resurrected, she would remember his words:
- Mary, I am the Resurrection and the Life. Mary, you have chosen "the good part", it will never be taken from you1 Peter 2 v 11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;
1 Peter 1 v24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:
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