Post-resurrection

The previous posts have been a surface look at Jesus’ interaction with women, and how those interactions were important milestones for him with regard to his journey toward maturity. Post-resurrection, and as both risen Lord and first-born from the dead, the firstfruits of all creation his interactions transform women. It starts with his realignment for Mary his own mother. No longer is he to be her son, but John is (Jn. 19:26,27). Relationships in this age are important, but cannot define relationships in that age. They are transformed as we will be transformed into his (mature) image. I will be ME, truly me!

He transforms Mary’s relationship, an equality alongside himself ‘My God… your God… My Father… your Father’. Transformation of relationship so with a skip in her step she can follow up the work of the Gardener (second Adam).

In John’s Gospel Jesus is shaped by his interaction with women, the interactions are a catalyst to provoke an expansion of thinking. The women are key as the world was strongly (is strongly) patriarchal. We too can find in the world of marginalisation the catalysts to enable our thinking to expand (there will always be a limit as to what academia can provide as the ‘experts’ are the ones who inform that world. A limit is not something negative, but it remains a limit!) If we are willing to be touched by the marginal within society, we will find that our interactions with the Ascended Messiah will transform us, and will transform us – not by confirming how right we are, but by showing us a wonderful, even if challenging, journey forward.

Mary and Martha: John 11 – 12

This is such a rich story and we begin with the opening verses:

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

‘Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair’ – an important statement for later!

‘Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus’ – why Martha named and not Mary?

The resuscitation of Lazarus takes place and we then come to the next chapter and a subsequent visit to Lazarus’ home. In John’s account it is Mary, the sister, who anoints Jesus with an extravagant show of love. (We might pull in from Luke’s account that Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet had chosen the ‘better part’.)

She anoints his feet and ‘washes’ them… anoints him for burial. Was her act a catalyst in Jesus’ understanding that his death was both necessary and approaching? Did he meditate on this and that enabled him to reply to the Greeks who wanted to see him (John 12:20-25) that they would one day… but only once a grain of wheat had fallen into the ground and that grain (a Jewish male Messiah) would be raised as a Greek Saviour (and substitute what is necessary for an resurrected but fully incarnated Saviour into all cultures and tribes)?

Did her washing of his feet provoke him to wash the feet of his own disciples? Is there a link between the two for all we have is a chapter division separating the two accounts? (Culturally, it was seriously undignified to wash feet, a woman could be forced to do so, even though it was below what one could expect a Hebrew slave to perform.)

Finger in the dust: John 8

I realise this passage is a disputed one as original to the Gospel of John, but it seems to have stood the test of time as being canonical, so I am more than happy to include it. (And in including it I indicate that the question of authenticity is not simply answered by the problematic test of was it ‘apostolic’.) Here is part of the text:

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her…

Something that is interesting as I read these verses is the movement of Jesus: ‘Jesus straightened up’… ‘once again he bent down’… ‘Jesus straightened up’. Of course a description of his posture, but is more intended to be understood than something physical?

There is a final straightening up when we come to a release for the woman, an exposure of ‘self-established’ righteousness, and an empowerment to live differently. In between there is a finger in the dust, a writing by the finger in the very substance of humanity. Humanity created from the dust of the earth was the point of connection for Jesus. ‘He touched me’ not simply to transform me… but to be transformed / to see clearly by touching me?

What a mess is dust. What did Jesus touch while writing? Male superiority, male excuse (the old question remains where was the man as it takes two to tango?), religion being on ‘my’ side, a woman ‘caught’ and made to stand before them all (shamed for guilt will never be enough for religion). Once he had touched and deeply touched humanity, and touched something at the heart of humanity, that exploitation of the male / female relationship he straightens up for the final time.

Does Jesus grow / develop in this encounter. I think so.

Samaria and a well: John 4

Next up in John’s Gospel is Samaria and the encounter there with a woman. It has to be read in contrast to John 3 and Nicodemus. Nicodemus, a teacher in Israel with ‘the Law, the prophets and the writings’; this woman with a religion that was somewhat syncretistic and had access only to the first five books of Moses; one at the darkest hour, the other at the brightest hour; one unable to see, the other ‘seeing’ at such a level that she enabled others to see that Jesus was the ‘Saviour of the world’.

Now for some speculation as the text does not automatically push us in this direction. The discussion takes place at Jacob’s well. Jacob who became Israel, the third generation patriarch from whom the nation derived its name. The patriarch that meant for Jews that Samaritans were not ‘in’, so much so that any Jew travelling north would take the long route around Samaria so as not to enter there. Was Jesus processing at this time what would have to take place for Samaritans to be included? He understood he was sent ‘only to the lost sheep of Israel’ (Matt. 15:24). Could it be that his understanding of inclusion and how the inclusion would take place was further developed in his interchange with the woman?

Salvation is from the Jews but that salvation had nothing to do with place – this mountain nor Jerusalem. The hour was coming, indeed Jesus in this context pronounces it has already come when inclusion will be based on Spirit and truth.

Perhaps coming to a well, Jacob’s well, and having a discourse about water and marriage (as per many former stories in the Old Testament) provoked Jesus to not only push for the issue of spiritual water and spiritual thirst but to consider covenant relationship with God, a covenant that would no longer exclude non-Jews, but might indeed exclude Jews who did not worship in Spirit and truth.

The encounter was certainly key for the woman (see https://3generations.eu/posts/2021/09/a-trip-back-in-time/ for another post on this encounter)… it might also have been a provocation for Jesus. I think so.

It is interesting that the next passages have Jesus returning to Galilee (Galilee of the Gentiles, Jn. 4:43) and that he heals a ‘royal official’s’ son – was this royal official a Gentile? (The jury is out as to whether this is John’s recording of the healing of the Centurion’s servant.) He does it back in Cana, where the first miracle was done. Did Jesus return with an expanded view of inclusion, a view provoked by his discussion in Samaria?

Then immediately following this miracle comes the deliberate healing of the man by the ‘sheep gate’ on the Sabbath, that caused offence to the Jews. John’s flow from Nicodemus to Samaria on to Cana and then back to Jerusalem might just indicate that the encounter in Samaria was important for Jesus’ development.

Jesus’ mother: John 2

I plan to write a few random posts on Jesus’ interaction with women in the New Testament (yes I realised that I have excluded the Old Testament!). They will just involve a few observations, a little bit of ‘probably this is going on’. I am provoked to do this as I am convinced that the Gospel values the small, the small gift that is given. And the provocation was provoked by Gayle returning from walking the dog with a cup of coffee given to her by a woman who lives on the end of our street. A small gift – a cup of coffee; but the context makes it a much bigger gift than a 1000.00€ from someone who can afford it – though if you need our bank account number….

My observations carry a pre-supposition that Jesus was the Great Teacher because he was the Great Learner. He never sinned but became mature and his growth in maturity was before God and humanity, that maturity growing because he was always willing to step outside his previous boundary. That stepping outside being provoked at times through a new experience, and often those new experiences were encounters with women.

Starting off with John’s Gospel, my reading of the text brings us to John 2 and the wedding at Cana. The whole context is set ‘on the third day’ indicating that this is to be read as a ‘new covenant’ reality. That is further backed up by the water jars used for cleansing within Jewish rituals becoming the jars for drinking the ‘new’ wine from. The passage ends with:

After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother, his brothers and his disciples…

First on the list – his mother.

In the story it seems a pretty clear reading that Jesus and his mother had two different perspectives on the time-line. ‘My hour has not come’ was Jesus’ understanding. And Mary’s? It seems she understood it was ‘the hour’! The writer presents it as ‘on the third day’, indicates it was ‘his hour’.

Mary I am sure knew her son well, and knew that at this stage he needed a gentle nudge with regard to his view of timing. I have no idea if she had not been present what would have taken place. We will never know if he would have moved ahead to shift the time and bring forward ‘the hour’ or not. But it remains that it appears to me in this situation that she was the catalyst for the shift, and as a result, ‘the first of his signs’ and the revelation of ‘his glory’ took place on that day.

A trip back in time

Sychar. A well. John 4. Sychar – the Samaritan village, the Greek name could well be a translation of Shechem (more later), and the village might well be the Shechem of the Old Testament (I think so); if not they were in very close proximity… So first trip back: Shechem.

Genesis 34. Dinah, the daughter of Jacob is violated; the sons of Jacob do not find a way through this other than to respond with anger and murder:

On the third day, when they were still in pain, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city unawares, and killed all the males.

I do find it intriguing how often we read ‘on the third day’ in Scripture! However, the key point here seems to me to be that the land is locked in a painful memory with the sin of abuse and the response of murder. The land holding the corporate memory. So much pain locked up (can only be released through forgiveness / cleansing), and I suggest manifesting very visibly in the woman at the well.

There was another well in Sychar, one much easier to access, but here we have the woman journeying outside the city, and not only but she is doing at in the midday sun. She is no insider with privileges.

But wells… So many biblical stories set the well as the place of romance. Gen. 21 the servant finds Rebekah at the well ‘outside the city’ and he knows that she is the one to be married to Isaac. And given that this is the well of Jacob, we also find that Jacob’s family history involves a well and romance:

Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the people of the east. As he looked, he saw a well in the field and three flocks of sheep lying there beside it; for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well, and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well.
Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” He said to them, “Do you know Laban son of Nahor?” They said, “We do.” He said to them, “Is it well with him?” “Yes,” they replied, “and here is his daughter Rachel, coming with the sheep.” He said, “Look, it is still broad daylight; it is not time for the animals to be gathered together. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together, and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep; for she kept them. Now when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and wept aloud. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son; and she ran and told her father. (Gen. 29:1-12).

Jesus comes to the well – what does he talk about? Husbands, marriage

Then the contrast with John 3. Nicodemus – male; comes at the darkest hour; a teacher in Israel with the Law, the Prophets and the Writings; and he needs to be born again!

John 4. Unnamed woman; at the brightest hour; a Samaritan with only the first five books of Moses; and not told to be born again! (There are other contrasts.)

Jews did not walk through Samaria when heading north, they avoided the area and the journey took them considerable extra time. Jesus deliberately goes that way. Then comes the highly controversial exchange of conversation. He deliberately went that way to bring a release to the woman, but also to the land.

When the disciples returned they were shocked to see him talk with ‘a woman’. They would have been shocked to see him talk with ‘a Samaritan’, but that is not picked up on by John: the real shock is that he is talking with a woman.

Something was going on, and at least the disciples picked that much up!

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” (John 4:27).

The second question (not asked) was of course aimed at Jesus (‘why are you speaking with her?’. The first question? I think perhaps also aimed at Jesus! The question is: Τί ζητεῖτε, a literal translation would be ‘what are you seeking?’ Joanne Guarnieri Hagemeyer suggests it is a translation of a Hebraism, meaning something along the lines of:
“What are you looking for in life?”

The same phrase occurs as the first words in Jesus’ mouth in John’s Gospel when two of John’s disciples come to him. He says to them: Τί ζητεῖτε. Same phrase. In that context those two disciples of John having heard that Jesus was the Lamb of God, they began to follow Jesus. Then Jesus turns to them and said, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38, as stated aready the same phrase as in John 4.) ‘What are you about, what is it that lies at the core of your being?’ Maybe that is putting it slightly too strongly, but it was certainly not a surface question but one to penetrate to the interior of someone.

Now if that question – ‘what are you seeking, what are you really about?’ – that first question forming in the minds of the disciples was aimed at the woman it is quite radical. But what if they are really so provoked they are aiming it (also) at Jesus. No one dared ask, ‘What are you about? What is at the core of your being?’ Their shock is not at the woman, but that he is talking with a woman. What is Jesus about? ‘What are you seeking, Lord?’ ‘What is at the core of your being?’ are questions that still remain.

I kind of think the question is aimed at Jesus. Jews in Samaria, Jesus deliberately going there, talking with a woman at a well, in a place where abuse and murder had locked the land up. This Jesus is not one that is easy to understand. Not then not now!

So maybe just to add this. We have no dealings with…. (fill in the blank). We will avoid journeying through that territory. And if we do Jesus will probably send us off to get some bread, i.e. so that we don’t mess things up for him; he will push to touch the land and all those enslaved by the land, and are marginal. It will leave us asking of Jesus – what on earth are you really about? What lies at the core of your being, Lord?

Life… but not as we know it?

I was never a great Star Trek viewer but I do remember the line that was woven into a song:

It’s life Jim… but not as we know it.

Humanising the Divine. The Incarnation does just that. The resurrection makes it permanent. God was and is eternally humanised. Humble and accessible.

Then we come to the life of Jesus – fully human, but the temptation is to respond with ‘He’s human [Jim], but not as we know it’. And that is where it stops for many. An affirmation that Jesus is fully God and fully human but with a huge advantage. Once we understand the miracles are not performed through his divinity, but by the anointing of the Spirit that closes the gap a little, but I think the aspect I am pursuing at the moment closes the gap further.

He is the GREAT LEARNER, breaking out beyond his contextually induced prejudices through his encounters with those he would not have been able to see (naturally) as fully human. Gentiles, Samaritans and women (maybe also children?).

Jesus gives God a human face, a human life; the great learner then humanises Jesus (I think Hebrews is the book that pushes this aspect, further than Paul for example does in his letters).

Maybe Jesus has an advantage over us. I certainly was not filled from my mother’s womb with the Spirit. But living life from then on? We are both on the same track. Through our encounters with those who our tradition / culture conditions us not to fully see, we can grow toward true humanness. (And maybe from a Christian perspective, those we have been able to label as ‘unclean’, and so are unable to see them with different eyes?)

And perhaps Jesus had an advantage. I am sure that I could not make it to becoming truly human, without sin along the way, and thus become a source of eternal salvation to all! Anointed by the Spirit, but always with a choice to follow the path of the Spirit or not. I am glad that he rescued us.

  • Jesus fully human – not an infusion mixture of divine and human. Like us.(Also fully God.)
  • Jesus, human anointed by the Spirit, in ways that we are not by nature, but in order to rescue us so that we can be anointed by the same Spirit.
  • Jesus, without sin, but not mature, going through the natural process of growth and development, with provocative encounters that confronted his environmentally induced perspectives that he stepped beyond. Thus becomes mature, becomes truly human.

I have often quoted the remarkable response of Jesus in the dialogue of Luke 13: 27, 28.

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

The woman’s worldview was one shared by and deeply imprinted on her mind by her culture. A woman started at the bottom, but could rise, provided: she was married, she was a mother, she gave birth to a son, and if the son could be a rabbi like Jesus then she would indeed be blessed.

Jesus’ reply completely transformed that worldview. With a ‘no… you are human, in the image of the divine… not in any way lesser than anyone else… gender does not enter into any assessment of value.’

Now I wonder did Jesus carry that transformative worldview with him, or did it come to him in that moment. Like us, most revelation of where we need to adopt a different worldview comes when we encounter something / someone that means we can no longer live with authenticity from the former box.

Jesus… When we look there we can say – there’s life and just as I know and experience it. His responses, his willingness to learn and adapt – now there’s a gap.

Jesus: great Teacher / Learner

Jesus was more than a great Rabbi, but a great teacher and revealer of who God truly is. When he spoke there was a wisdom that astounded people, so his words are words of ‘eternal life’, and the words are just that because they come from his inner reality, that reality that carried and revealed the God he spoke about.

Following on from the post on sinlessness being also a growth toward a fullness of true humanity, rather than something static and intrinsic to some internal nature, I have one further suggestion.

Jesus was a GREAT TEACHER because he was a GREAT LEARNER.

Certainly not all Greek

No need to read the verses above! Just a lot of the word ‘anthropos’ that appears there including the part that affirms that Jesus’ identity post resurrection is as ‘the man Christ Jesus’… and yet that is what I wish to challenge.

The resurrection is a very key event which has enormous ramifications for creation. The resurrection is not a Greek alive-after-death scenario affirming that there is life after death, rather it is the resurrection of a physical body that affirms God’s ongoing commitment to his work of creation and secures a physical future.

Jesus died, Jesus rose again. The body that went in the grave is the one that came out and there was a transformation of that body. He enters the grave male and comes out…

A little speculative theology about to be embarked on here.

I have considered the question about resurrection and gender in my little head before and had previously reasoned that if sexual identity is an element of my identity then resurrection would include that element. Recently though I have re-considered. So a little journey to get to where I am speculatively settling.

A few basics first, and in this terminology is not always easy. I consider that God is neither male nor female, but both masculine and feminine. Humanity (and I appreciate there are biological exceptions to this) are either male or female but both are masculine and feminine. In other words I am using male / female biologically and masculine / feminine to relate to characteristics, and in that open up the whole scenario to the critique of cultural and gender stereotypes.

Jesus was male and Jewish. Jewish as they were the redeeming nation that had lost the plot. Born of a woman and born under the law he came at a time when the ‘sins of the Jews’ had reached fullness:

Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all (Lk. 11:50,51 – ‘sins of the Jews’ is a cheeky, but I think appropriate, adaptation of the term ‘sins of the Amorites’ from Gen. 15).

The nation called to be the means of redemption are condemned under the power of sin and therefore needed a representative redeemer. He is the Jewish Messiah. He dies as a Jew – we will come back to his resurrection in due course on this. He is not only Jewish but male, not because of some inherent superiority in the male gender – far from it. Male, as male had partnered with the powers, as expressed in patriarchal rule. Such dominance is antithetical to the kingdom of God. Jesus, as male, broke, through his relationships, behaviour, words and action this male dominance. A simple example of his cultural opposition to patriarchy is in Luke 11: 27,28:

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”
He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Her world view spilled right out in the presence of such a truly human presence. A woman’s status was like climbing a set of steps to the pinnacle. A woman needed to be married (step 1), to have children (step 2), to have a male child (third step) and the ultimate was to be a woman who not only gave birth to a male child but to a rabbi of the stature of Jesus. In one short sentence he corrected this totally. A woman’s status was not tied to her marital nor maternal relationships. Males are not superior, females are not subservient.

He is male, not to demonstrate superiority, but to deal with patriarchy. Unless sin at the sharp end is dealt with there can be no redemption. If he dies as Jew he dies for the world; if he dies as male he dies for humanity. Now to the resurrection.

He rises as new humanity, a humanity that is neither Jew nor Greek. Hence I do not see Jesus today as Jewish. He dies as Jew, he rises trans-national. And then… yes I think I have also moved ground on the maleness of the resurrected Jesus. He dies male, but ‘in Christ there is neither male and female’. This verse uses the term ‘and‘ when referring to male and female, unlike the ‘nor’ when referring to Jew / Greek and slave / free. The ‘and’ pushes us back to Genesis when God created male and female. New humanity is not male and female.

There is in heaven a human mediator:

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people (1 Tim. 2: 5,6).

I chose this translation with all its clumsy male language deliberately. ‘Mankind’ would be much better translated as’ humanity’, and the term the ‘man Christ Jesus’ is the generic ‘anthropos’ (humanity) not the specific ‘aner’ (male). Jesus was male, he (?) is now still fully human, but this verse leaves open the gender issue in the sense of ‘male’ or ‘female’.

The Godhead was not and is not male nor female. The Godhead was not Jewish. Jesus in the incarnation was both Jewish and male, but now?

Jesus’ family line

This will be my last post pre-Christmas… So to one and all who read and follow these rather random posts a thank you and trust that you will have some great reflections over this period. Maybe a time to re-centre.

Matthew’s Gospel is one that has the oft-repeated phrase or concept of fulfilment of Scripture. The opening words that introduce us to the ‘genesis’ of Jesus Christ resonates with the first book of the Hebrew scriptures and so it goes on right to the final words of Jesus in the Great Commission and the echo of Cyrus’ words at the close of the Hebrew Scriptures and the normal last book of the Writings (2 Chronicles).

His account of the family line for Jesus is interesting with his setting of it as being in 3 sections of 14 generations, positioning the entry of Jesus as at the end of the Exile. Then in the genealogy we have the mention of four women. The inclusion of women in this way is highly unusual for biblical or ancient non-biblical records. Maybe Matthew does not appear as radically non-patriarchial as Luke, but he outdoes Luke at this point. Then consider who he includes.

Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Tamar subjected to incest, Rahab described as a prostitute (and non-Jewish), Ruth a Moabite and perhaps a seducer, and Bathsheba a married woman caught up in David’s adultery.

A pure line? Not so, neither pure racially nor sexually.

Of course one could argue none of that means anything as we go on to read of the virgin birth, but given the unusual element of including women in these ancient records their inclusion surely must be communicating something significant. Maybe well-beyond the three simple points I make here.

  • Jesus has enough crap attached to his genealogy to screw up his identity, but finds his identity in his heavenly alignment. (He also has the stigma of his own questionable legitimacy; the identity of a refugee; the probable loss of his father at an early age to contend with.)
  • Given that none of the women are described in any way as relating to any wrongdoing indicates something huge. (Even Bathsheba is referred to that she ‘had been the wife of Uriah’.) Identity flows from our direction rather than our origins.
  • Pure qualifications do not seem to be the channel that heaven needs to enter the world.

Christmas: God with us, but not any god, the God revealed in Jesus. Not a religious judgmental God, but one desiring to be tarnished with humanity’s mess. Good news and true peace that resolves inner conflicts.

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