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The Gentle Savior

Seeing Jesus Through the Eyes of the Women Who Met Him

Why Call Jesus a “Gentle” Savior?

January 24, 2015

It has been a long time coming, I guess, but it finally dawned on me that I should clarify the use of the word gentle to describe Jesus on my website and in the Bible study I developed.

I fear that some readers may assume I mean that Jesus had to be gentle with women because he found them too weak, soft, fragile, or unintelligent to treat them the way he might treat men.

That’s not what I have in mind at all.

“Gentle and humble in heart” is the way Jesus described himself in Matthew 11:29. His use of this phrase recalled Old Testament messianic prophecies of God’s king, who was envisioned as the helper of the poor and of those who have been deprived of their rights. Throughout the prophets and wisdom literature of the Old Testament, God positioned himself as a defender of those who are oppressed, cheated, exploited, and defenseless. In fulfilling the messianic prophecies, Jesus took up that role as a humble peacemaker who came to rescue without force (see also Matthew 21:5 and Luke 4:18-19). [a]

What I see of Jesus in the Gospels is not that he handled women with kid gloves but that he recognized what women were up against. He knew the attitudes of the ancient culture at large and the systemic marginalization of women. He knew the double standards and sometimes even cruelty of popular Jewish religious thought. He also knew the specific circumstances faced by some individual women in destitute and distressing conditions, dysfunctional families, abusive relationships, and intolerant communities. (Read More)

This One’s Got to Be Better

January 1, 2015

Happy New YearHello, 2015!

I am so ready for a new start.

Good riddance, 2014! You brought more pain in your 52 weeks than any I have experienced in 52 years.

Don’t get me wrong. The past 12 months weren’t all bad. I received tons of love and support from caring family, friends, and co-workers. I tried some new things, broadened some perspectives, had some great experiences with my daughters, and enjoyed an amazing weekend retreat in Colorado that was purely a gift from God.

The year began, though, with several months of intensive marriage counseling that went nowhere except to make me feel like an utter failure. Then there was the finality of the divorce decision and then months of haggling over a settlement agreement that still isn’t final. I am so ready to put that all behind me. (Read More)

Expect the Unexpected

November 27, 2014

candle“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

 Luke 1: 45-55

As we enter the season leading up to Christmas, it seems appropriate to reflect a bit on the moment of angelic visitation when Mary learned that she was about to become miraculously pregnant with the Son of God. (Read More)

Married With Jesus

October 17, 2014

wedding bands“I never noticed Joanna before!” a new friend said as she approached me at the end of a recent retreat in Colorado. “She was a married woman who served Christ! I really needed to hear that.”

This dear sister was talking about a name barely mentioned in an obscure but interesting passage in Luke 8:1-3:

After this, 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.

(Read More)

Jesus at the Table

September 27, 2014


“Eats with Sinners” is the name of a book by Arron Chambers that our whole church is reading right now. The title intrigued me, and since Jesus didn’t eat only with sinners, I decided to scour the Gospels to learn more. I have a relationship with Jesus, and I have a relationship with food, both of which could always stand improvement, so it seemed like a good topic to explore further.

Food and miracles were often related in the Gospels. Jesus was tempted by Satan to turn a stone into bread after 40 days of fasting. He could have, but he said no, of course.

Jesus, instead, performed the first of his miraculous signs at a wedding feast, after his mom dropped a hint that the hosts were out of wine.

For his next big mealtime miracle, he spent a whole day healing sick people, then his compassion flowed on their empty bellies. He fed 5,000 men plus women and children with five loaves of bread and two fish. He reprised that miracle another time on a mountainside along the Sea of Galilee. This time he fed 4,000-plus people with seven loaves and a few small fishes.

Although Jesus certainly cared about hungry people getting fed, if you listen closely, you learn that Jesus was into more than physical nourishment. He told a lonely Samaritan woman at a well that he could give her living water so she would never be thirsty again—and he wasn’t talking about liquid refreshment either. Later, when his disciples returned with dinner, he informed them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” If you remember, in the face of temptation, Jesus had countered Satan with that Old Testament reminder, “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Read More)

No More Looking the Other Way

September 5, 2014

girl_rain[Trigger warning: The topic of this post is adults who ignore signs of child sexual abuse.]


Not again.

Not another one, please.

But there it is: “Rotherham sex abuse scandal:1,400 children exploited by Asian gangs while authorities turned a blind eye” reads the terrible headline in last Tuesday’s issue of The Telegraph.

The proportions of this crime are epic. A mind-numbing number of children have been abused over the past 16 years, which should make us all weep for their trauma and the deep depravity of the human race. Yet, what makes this case all the worse is that the people who should have protected the children and prosecuted the pedophiles turned a blind eye and ignored all the signs of it. Here are some particularly disturbing statements from the news article and the report revealing the scandal:

 “Police officers even dismissed the rape of children by saying that sex had been consensual.”

 “Senior officials were responsible for ‘blatant’ failures that saw victims, some as young as 11, being treated with contempt and categorised as being “out of control” or simply ignored when they asked for help.”

“Some councillors seemed to think it was a one-off problem, which they hoped would go away.”

“For years, the police failed to get a grip of the problem, dismissing many of the victims as ‘out of control’ or as ‘undesirables’ who were not worthy of police protection.”

“It emerged that there had been three previous reports into the problem which had been suppressed or ignored by officials, either because they did not like or did not believe the findings.” (Read More)

The Adulterous Woman: We Are Her

August 12, 2014

How could those Jewish leaders in John 8 so mercilessly humiliate a woman caught in the act of adultery? Spend a little time reading the Old Testament prophets, and you’ll get a bit of a clue. Here’s a little sample from Ezekiel:

“The noise of a carefree crowd was around her; drunkards were brought from the desert along with men from the rabble, and they put bracelets on the wrists of the woman and her sister and beautiful crowns on their heads. Then I said about the one worn out by adultery, ‘Now let them use her as a prostitute, for that is all she is.’ And they slept with her. As men sleep with a prostitute, so they slept with those lewd women, Oholah and Oholibah. But righteous judges will sentence them to the punishment of women who commit adultery and shed blood, because they are adulterous and blood is on their hands.” (Ezekiel 23:42-45; read all of this chapter to get the full story)

Adultery was frequently the metaphor used by God for the idolatry of Israel and Judah. Hosea and Jeremiah used it too:

“They sacrifice on the mountaintops and burn offerings on the hills, under oak, poplar and terebinth, where the shade is pleasant. Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery.” Hosea 4:13

“I gave faithless Israel her certificate of divorce and sent her away because of all her adulteries. Yet I saw that her unfaithful sister Judah had no fear; she also went out and committed adultery.” Jeremiah 3:8

Reading these passages (along with the warnings about adulterous women in Proverbs) can lead a reader who is so inclined to conclude that God hates women who commit adultery. (Read More)

What Kind of Man Was Jesus?

July 25, 2014

He v. She?I know I usually write about Jesus and women, but as I study the life of Jesus in the gospels, I am left with some questions about how Jesus embodied masculinity.

I see that he wasn’t very competitive. He said the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

He wasn’t into power or domination. He said that he who would be lord of all must be the servant of all. He said when someone hits you, you should turn the other cheek, and then he went to the cross like a lamb to the slaughter. He blessed the meek and the peacemakers. He taught love of enemies and living through dying.

He usually sided with the underdogs, ministering to the sick, disabled, poor, and marginalized. (Read More)

More on Singleness

April 1, 2014

woman walking on beachThis week I’m giving a shout out to our minister Steve Malone at Maple Grove Christian Church, who challenged us on Sunday to rethink singleness – as good – not only perfectly fine with God but even spiritually advantageous for those accept and embrace it. The church needs to consider more of this message in a culture where 50% of adults are single.

Here are a couple of interesting observations I have found recently about single women in first-century Christianity:

 “The women surrounding [Jesus] and, indeed, the men as well, are predominantly celibate. It’s difficult to name a married couple, with the exception of Mary and Joseph, who are together when Jesus talks to them.” (New Testament scholar Amy-Jill Levine in a Christianity Today interview, April 2012)

“Should they be widowed, Christian women also enjoyed very substantial advantages. Pagan widows face great social pressures to remarry…. Of course, when a pagan widow did remarry, she lost all of her inheritance—it became the property of her new husband. In contrast, among Christians, widowhood was highly respected and remarriage was, if anything, mildly discouraged. Thus not only were well-to-do Christian widows enabled to keep their husband’s estate, the church stood ready to sustain poor widows, allowing them a choice as to whether or not to remarry.” (Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity)

Listen to “Singleness … and Searching” by Steve Malone

Looking Like Jesus

March 5, 2014

I’m a little off topic this week, but I’m excited about something new I learned and wanted to share it!

This may not be a new story to you, but I recently learned it about in vivid detail when my daughter shared with me her copy of The Rise of Christianity by Rodney Stark. It’s a fascinating a book written back in 1996, which I hungrily consumed in a single day of cross-country travel.

I loved the details about the early church and how it fit into the pagan world of the Roman Empire. The best example occurred during a devastating epidemic of infectious disease in the third century. (Everything I’m writing about here comes from chapter 4 “Epidemic Networks and Conversion.”) There’s one report that at its height the epidemic killed 5,000 people per day in Rome. Across the empire the death rates were unimaginably large. (Read More)

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