Pursuing Partnership: Men & Women in Ministry
The Blessed Alliance – Week 10
In the School of Rabbi Jesus (continued)
By Carolyn Custis James
We learn about the Blessed Alliance as we look at Jesus’ life and relationships with women. Relationship language in the New Testament in far more about brothers/sisters than about husbands/wives. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (whose marital status is not mentioned) were some of Jesus’ most beloved friends and Kingdom colleagues. Just as he so often pressed past human tradition into Kingdom relationships, like the woman at the well and Mary Magdalene, his response to Martha’s legitimate complaint about her sister brings a whole new level of importance to what Mary is doing in Luke 10. Rabbi Jesus underscores the fact that Mary has chosen what matters more than anything. His response is also a gentle invitation for Martha to join her sister—which future conversations between Jesus and Martha seem to indicate she did.
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things., but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:41-42, NIV).
There is more to unearth from this rich story than one brief article can describe. But for our purposes it’s important to narrow our focus. The importance of educating women is not in question here. Rather, Jesus is raising a much deeper issue that relates directly to the recovery of the Blessed Alliance introduced at Creation and dismantled when humanity rebelled in Eden. God’s Creation vision is still in force. Jesus came to restore it—to inaugurate the kingdom of God envisioned in the beginning. Nothing could be more important or urgent.
Mary isn’t sitting at the feet of just any rabbi or teacher. She is sitting at the feet of Jesus. Jesus who is crucial to her calling as a human being. Knowing Jesus is essential if she (or the rest of us) hope to fulfill our creation calling as God’s image bearer. The same Jesus who said, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9); Jesus who is identified as the perfect imago Dei, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” (Hebrews 1:3). Nothing could compete with the urgency of knowing Jesus and learning to live as he lived. Jesus raises the bar from what we think is “good enough” to what we’ve lost. The call to be like Jesus runs right through the New Testament. From the Apostle Paul for example:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Mary’s example is a metaphor for what we all need desperately to do if we hope to make progress as God’s imago Dei and to forge that Blessed Alliance that revolves around his Son. Mary has found the key—the center. Jesus insists “It will not be taken away from her.” Imagine a more incredible opportunity to learn what God has in mind for us that to learn from Jesus himself.
We may not be able to have Jesus over for dinner, but we have four gospel accounts of the things he said and did, how he shocked his own disciples by his compassion and care for people young and old they just wanted to go away. We have records of words he spoke, habits he acquired. We have hardly scratched the surface of the rich resources we already have at our fingertips, but this is the highest priority for those who follow Jesus if we hope to grow as God’s image bearers and join his mission of self-giving love for the world .
Education for Malala and Arifa is not simply information and knowledge intake. For both it prepares them for a mission that will make a difference for others. In our culture and others, women are now going to Seminary to be trained as theologians because the world needs the eyes of the Ezer to more fully understand and teach the Scripture as well as see life in ways her brothers cannot. Mary will take what she learns from Rabbi Jesus into the hard places of life and ultimately give us one of the strongest examples in the entire Bible of an ezer-warrior in action and of the Blessed Alliance.
We’ll look at the continuing story of this Mary next week!