Sunday, July 26, 2015

Jesus brings Unity in Diversity (The Gospel of Peace)

Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelves disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples” (Luke 8:1-3, NLT).

People have often wondered why Jesus never called any women in the way he called the twelve disciples. Knowing the character of the disciples as we do, Jesus invitation to “follow me” wasn’t given based on some kind of impressive resume. In the culture of the day, established business people and leaders would be prohibited from the travelling lifestyle the disciples had. Peter, James, John, and the rest needed a specific challenge; the women, however, simply responded to Jesus’ character and words – they followed. Women were at the cross, while the disciples hid. They were also at the tomb early while the eleven grieved, and so they were the first to discover the joyful of Jesus’ resurrection.

The three women – Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna –were written in the Christian history. Mary Magdalene had been afflicted with multiple demons, which Jesus expelled. This explanation captures the basis for this Mary’s connection with Jesus. She filled the void evil left behind with devotion to the One who set her free. Joanna, on the other hand, was a woman with social influence and an important husband, which shows that Jesus drew followers from every strata of society. Susanna, who is not mentioned anywhere else in Scripture, may have been a person widely known during Jesus’ time.

These three and other women would probably not have been allowed to carry out public duties like preaching and baptizing, but the Scripture notes that they used their personal means to support the efforts of Jesus’ travelling band. They partnered in ministry with their money (Btw, this shows that Jesus and his disciples were not wealthy and materially rich. Thus, I sometime wonder, what is the basis of today’s prosperity gospel teaching in the light of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry?). Yet these women also bore witness to Jesus’ power in their lives. Their presence made practical the “preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God.” Citizenship in Jesus’ Kingdom was open to women too. No discrimination. Jesus wasn’t simply speaking about an ideal Kingdom that might be achieved at some future date. He was modelling the diversity, unity and love of people whose connection to one another through Jesus Christ overcame any other barrier. Here the writer was describing an early form of community that would later be called the church (ekklesia), the ones called out by God for his purposes.

Think about this: As Jesus invested in the lives of others, he ignored many of the social barriers that kept people separate such as gender, race, nationality, social class, language, personality, etc. This breaking down of walls is still a hallmarks of the Kingdom of God. Remember – Peter, John, James and Andrew were fisherman; John and James were called “Son of Thunder” due to their vengeful and fiery attitudes; Philip and Bartholomew were ‘good-boys’ very well versed in the Hebrew Scriptures; Matthew an ex-tax collector; Thomas the doubter; James of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus and Judas Iscariot were probably members of the revolutionary group called the Zealots; Saul of Tarsus or Paul was a Pharisees; maybe Nicodemus remained a Pharisees; and on and on. Jesus brought all of them together. You and me together. Us and them together. Jesus brings the Gospel of peace.

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