Friday, March 16, 2012

"The women"

On Sunday, our Bible study class studied the biblical narrative of the woman caught in adultery in John 8.  The story ends with Jesus looking at the woman, both of them standing, eye to eye, and telling her, "Go and sin no more."  It's a familiar phrase but something about it has always troubled me.  People don't change just because someone tells them to.  "Just do it" (or "Just don't do it") doesn't actually work.  The roots of our brokenness go deep and change is usually hard and sometimes elusive.  Surely Jesus knew that.

In Faithwalking, we try to model the process of transformation on the method that Jesus actually used and that seems to have continued into the early church:  bring people together who are all on the journey of change, put them in small groups for teaching and even smaller groups for deep learning.  Offer what is now called "coaching" but used to be called "discipling," as a more experienced (but not perfect) fellow-traveler comes alongside a small group of others and offers what Jesus offered--good questions, a few profound answers, and a safe place to explore repentance and a different way of life.

As I wondered about what happened to the woman in our story and wondered whether that very brief experience with Jesus was enough to set her free from whatever had brought her to that place of sin and exposure, I remembered something.  Twice in the gospels, the male gospel writers give brief attention to "the women" who were also following Jesus.

1 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.  Luke 8:1-3

40 Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph,[d] and Salome.41 In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there. Mark 15:40-41

Like the Twelve, the female disciples were also traveling together in a small group of unlikely friends.  Don't you wonder how a woman who had been delivered from 7 demons ended up in this relationship with the wife of the manager of Herod's household?  

In my imagination, one or two very brave and very devoted women must have begun following Jesus at a small distance, offering to help in the unique ways that a woman could and then folded into their group the women whose lives were changed by this itinerant rabbi.  Just a few at first, probably, and then one by one, women came to find out more and ended up staying, until there were "many others."  

I can imagine them staying up late at night talking about Jesus' latest teachings and what they meant and what it would mean to really live them out in their own ordinary womanly lives.  I can imagine them finding women in the crowds who had come to listen to Jesus and engaging them in conversation.  And, on Sunday, I could definitely imagine them encircling this shamed woman after the men had left and offering hugs and grace and the larger message of the gospel and maybe a cup of coffee.  

I can see them inviting her to go with them and maybe she did.  Maybe they embraced her and sent her back to her village with a new understanding of what had just happened to her.  Maybe they told her how they had learned to "sin no more," and encouraged her to imagine that could be possible for her.  Maybe they lifted her shame off of her so that she could go in peace. 

I'm aware that this is just my imagination and that we don't know what happened.  The story of the women in most of Scripture and church history remains unknown and untold.  About this particular cluster of women, though, we know that they were there during Jesus' ministry and they were there at the cross and they were still there at Pentecost (Acts 1:14).  We know that they embraced both radical roles (following a rabbi and supporting him from their own means)  and traditional ones (caring for his needs).  We know that they were braver and more faithful at the end than the male disciples were and we know that one of them was the first to know about the resurrection.  We know that they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and prophesied.  It's really not hard to imagine the rest.

1 comment:

mcj said...

It looks like once they became busy with the Kingdom, that occupied their minds to avoid any previous temptations they had before. I can't help wondering about the former adulterer. I wonder which type of group she became apart of.