Friday, March 19, 2010

Female Disciples and the Good Soil

How much new could be said about the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-15)? Jesus calls us to be good soil--not rocky or thorny soil--because that's the place where the seed of his word grows and flourishes. 

"Not much new," I thought to myself as I pondered a blog entry. And then I re-read Luke 8, and pondered the section that precedes the parable, where women follow Jesus, and are thus by definition (though not the Twelve) his disciples. Check this out:
Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 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.
Women following a rabbi? In the first century that was radical.  Second, women bankrolling Jesus's itinerate ministry? Even radicaller. More radical of all? That these women are models for what it means to be good soil. 

Let's see if we can hear the parable's conclusion one more time:

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown. "When he said this, he called out, "Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear."

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Jesus, Capernaum, and the Outsider

Three months ago, I had the opportunity to visit Capernaum on the north shore of the sea of Galilee. In fact, here's a picture of my friends, Wally and Jerry, as they walk out the remains of this ancient Jewish city, having taken its guidelines with extreme seriousness. 

This memory of Capernaum provides context for a story from Jesus's life in the Gospel of Luke (chapter 7, 1-3):
After Jesus had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave whom he valued highly, and who was ill and close to death. When he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders to him, asking him to come and heal his slave.
To ruin the drama of this encounter, I'll note that Jesus does in fact heal the slave. In the process, Jesus demonstrates that he's more than fine about moving beyond the confines of the Jewish people to do his work of healing. (This is a theme the Gospel of Luke loves.) But before that healing, another thing happens that's contained in these verses: somehow this Roman military officer--outside of the Jewish faith--heard about Jesus, which I suppose occurred through local people sharing stories about Jesus's messages and his healing. And that fact leads me to another question: How does this happen today?

My response is entirely too straightforward--people hear about Jesus through the witness of his followers. Sometimes it's through relating their faith. Sometimes it's through acts of kindness. If knowing Jesus is good, it's got to be shared. And I suppose the bottom line, as it follows the story here, is the goodness and beauty of Jesus isn't the sole property of the Christian community. Like a good infection, it just keeps moving beyond the boundaries we set up.