“And your daughters will prophesy”: Reflection on the Role of Women in the Jesus Movement
SCRIPTURE READING: JOHN 12:1-11
If asked to name who were the first followers of Jesus or the first leaders of Christianity most would name: Peter (the rock), John (the disciple that Jesus loved), or even the Apostle Paul (who spread Christianity throughout the Roman Empire). Though all of these men played important roles in establishing the church the first person to actually figure out the full capacity of who Jesus was and act on this knowledge was a woman named Mary by anointing Jesus with her alabaster jar of perfume that was worth a year’s salary this woman was not just serving Jesus with a random act of kindness but she was acknowledging who he was and what he was about to undergo. She was the first Christian and a leader because she had the vision to see and act on the totality of who Jesus was. Her action was actually a prophecy without words. Though most men of his day would not have acknowledged her service, Jesus actually advocates for her when Judas (for his own selfish reasons) criticizes her “wastefulness”. Jesus also says some curious and difficult words: “the poor will always be with you”. Though this comment from Jesus may discourage some from working to end poverty, could it be possible that Jesus made this statement more as a condemnation of the disciples’ behavior and not as a commentary on whether it is possible to end poverty. We have to be a careful to not read this comment out of the context of Jesus’ entire ministry, where in his inaugural sermon he declared that he came to “preach good news to the poor”. This passage also shows us the importance of women in the ministry and life of Jesus-Martha was present at this event because she planned the dinner where the anointing occurred. Women were not a side bar in the ministry of Christ but played an essential role, by hosting, fundraising and completing many other tasks that facilitated the spread of Christianity. The sin of sexism prevents many women from serving in leadership roles but throughout history we see examples of women who like Mary navigated around the confines of their times: Deborah the Old Testament Prophetess, Queen Esther, the women of the National Welfare Rights Movement, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and even Mary Mother of Jesus. These women worked for freedom in various ways and had the vision to prophesy to the injustices of their day. God can use anyone regardless of the conventions of culture.
God help me to truly see you and your children for who they are, help me to prophesy with whatever I have-whether it be words, hospitality, resources, or time. Give me a vision that is larger than societal expectations so that the poor will not always be with us.