Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes–Jesus and Women #1

38d2ea28-d0b8-4953-b962-1b9a41648f0b_1.521799f19899b1e8b6f68e4eef180b97We now move on to the fifth section of the book: Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels, by Kenneth E. Bailey. The main purpose of this book is to take a fresh look at the Gospels in the context of Middle Eastern culture. This section is entitled "Jesus and Women," and focuses on Jesus' interaction with women.I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. This is a book I would highly recommend that you add to your library.

In the introduction to the section, Bailey compares the honor and respect that Jesus gave to women in the Gospels with the low place of women in the culture at the time as typified in the writings of Ben Sirach. He looks at Mary in the Magnificat (Luke 1.46-55), Mary at the feet of Jesus (Luke 10.38) and the women at the tomb after the resurrection of Jesus (Mark 16.1-8) Mary is seen as an example of what Jesus will do for all believers when he raises her from a lowly position to a blessed one. Jesus would call women as disciples and appeal to women in his sermons and parables. Finally, the female disciples will be the central characters in the resurrection accounts and the first witnesses to Jesus' resurrection.

This song presents a woman with boundless compassion for the oppressed, along with a clear vision for the lifting of that oppression. The Gentiles are not opposed, but the mighty and the arrogant are. Mary is also seen as an intelligent woman who knows that God has grace for her ethnic community and for all who believe. She becomes a model for what will happen to all believers, and she is exalted from her lowly estate. Luke 1.46-55, 192

To “sit at the feet” of a rabbi meant that one was a disciple of a rabbi. Mary thus became a disciple of Rabbi Jesus. Martha, we are told, is “distracted” (not burdened) with much serving. To be distracted one must be distracted from something by something. Clearly Martha is distracted from the teachings of Jesus by her cooking...Martha is more naturally understood to be upset over the fact that her “little sister” is seated with the men and has become a disciple of Rabbi Jesus. Luke 10.38, 193

This movement on the part of the women, out of the shadows of the accounts of the cross and burial and into the bright light of Easter morning, is a fitting climax to the dramatic affirmation of the radical equality of men and women in the fellowship that Jesus created. Indeed, all through the Gospels Jesus treats all women with respect and compassion. Mark 16.1-8, 198

The Woman at the Well John 4.1-42

From this story Bailey lists 10 surprises about the person of the Messiah, the status and role of women, the nature of religion and worship, the nature of mission and service and the breaking of cultural barriers. Jesus was not the Messiah expected by the Samaritans or the Jews. He was the "I AM" who would send his Spirit and life-giving message to all people. It was not tied to a place or a book, but to a Divine person so it was universal and met the needs of all people. Jesus broke down cultural barriers between race, gender and culture. It raised the status of women so they were reliable witnesses and disciples. This story is paired with that of Nicodemus. The male Jewish leader is a reluctant doubter, while the Samaritan woman becomes a successful witness.

Here the covenant is not words in a book but a person. For the woman, as for all Christians, the supreme gift of God to his people is not the New Testament but rather the person of Jesus. John 4.10-13, 206

William Temple observes, “That is the assurance that we need: that He with whom we know we have dealings is none other than the eternal God. If my soul can hear that word, then it can rest.… I need the divine assurance of the divine love.”  John 4.26, 211

She came to draw the water that will quench thirst for an hour or two. She returns to the village without that water. Instead, she carries a witness to the water that quenches the thirst of the spirit—forever. She begins to become a spring for others, even as Jesus directed. John 4.27-30, 212

The Syro-Phoenician Woman Matthew 15.21-28

Bailey sees this story as a lesson for both the Gentile woman and the disciples. Jesus was testing the woman because he saw her great faith which he wanted to bring out as an example to the disciples. Jesus wanted to expose their prejudices against women and Gentiles and their limited view of His kingdom. This Gentile woman had amazing faith to continue to petition Jesus after what he put her through. Jesus healed her daughter, but his gentle ministry was to the care-giver, the mother. Jesus uses the Gentile woman to give the disciples a lesson in faith and to enlarge their vision for ministry to the world.

The text can be understood as follows: Jesus is irritated by the disciples’ attitudes regarding women and Gentiles. The woman’s love for her daughter and her confidence in him impress Jesus. He decides to use the occasion to help her and challenge the deeply rooted prejudices in the hearts of his disciples. In the process he gives the woman a chance to expose the depth of her courage and faith. Matthew 15.21-28, 222

The reference to dogs is primarily for the disciples’ education. Jesus is saying to them, “I know you think Gentiles are dogs and you want me to treat them as such! But—pay attention—this is where your biases lead. Are you comfortable with this scene?” Matthew 15.21-28, 224

Her faith is expressed in her unfailing confidence in the person of Jesus as the agent of God’s salvation for all, both Jew and Gentile. She confesses him as Lord and Master. A final, almost indefinable, element in that faith is her willingness to pay any price, even public humiliation, in order to receive the grace mediated by Jesus. Matthew 15.21-28, 225

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