The Gentle Savior

Seeing Jesus Through the Eyes of the Women Who Met Him

What a Friend We Have…

November 22, 2015

Remember that old hymn, “What a Friend We Have Jesus?” The lyrics speak of him bearing our sins and griefs, knowing our weakness, being the one to whom we can take everything in prayer — our refuge and solace.

It’s a nice song, but a version written by  the siblings Mary, Martha and Lazarus would have taken a much different tenor. It would have spoken of Jesus as a friend in a more literal and personal kind of way, in the “favored companion” sense of the word. He was not only a superior who healed or saved or taught them. He had a mutual relationship with this family, whom he clearly liked and enjoyed being with.

Image Martha, Lazarus and Mary clipped from the movie, "The Gospel of John"

Image of Martha, Lazarus and Mary clipped from the movie, “The Gospel of John”

This friendship is unique in the Gospels. Jesus certainly spent a lot of time with his disciples, but Martha’s home is the only one that he returned to time and again (see Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-47, 12:1-11).

Jesus even referred to Lazarus as “our friend” (John 11:11), although we never actually hear the voice of Lazarus in any of the narratives. Luke and John seem much more interested in Jesus’ friendship with the sisters. You see it even in this sequence (John 11:3-5):

“The sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’”

John didn’t let it go at that. He added, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

He put these siblings are on a very short list of individuals named explicitly as being loved by Jesus (another of whom was John himself). John really wanted us to understand the nature of this relationship. (Read More)

Domestic Violence: A Christian Issue

October 29, 2015

two womenI’m heading over to Charlottesville’s Shelter for Help in Emergency this Friday night for my monthly volunteer shift, so the topic of domestic violence is on my mind. Plus, I wanted to share some thoughts on this issue before October ends.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how important it is.

I did some web surfing about how churches and Christians often deal with domestic violence, so since I’m not the expert, I’m going to share with you some of the powerful words of writers who are. Links are included to each full article.

From Domestic Violence within the Church: The Ugly Truth:

“Spouse abuse shocks us,” [Denise] George writes. “We just cannot believe that a church deacon or member goes home after worship . . . and beats his wife.” Tragically, however, George notes, some of these men justify their violence “by citing biblical passages.”

George sites a survey in which nearly 6,000 pastors were asked how they would counsel women who came to them for help with domestic violence. Twenty-six percent would counsel them … to continue to “submit” to her husband, no matter what. Twenty-five percent told wives the abuse was their own fault—for failing to submit in the first place. Astonishingly, 50 percent said women should be willing to “tolerate some level of violence” because it is better than divorce. Advice like this, George warns, often puts women “in grave danger”—and in some cases, can be a death warrant. (Read More)

Who in the World Is Junia?

September 22, 2015

Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. (Romans 16:7 NIV 2011)

Since the days of the earliest church writings, this passage has been a puzzle to readers who came to it with a conviction that apostles must be men. From medieval times until fairly recently you could hardly find a Bible translation containing the name Junia. Translators through this period resolved their dilemma by rendering the name Junias, a male name (as in, “Those earlier manuscripts couldn’t have been right, so let’s just fix that little typo”). I still own an NIV Bible from 1984 that uses Junias.

Most modern translators now agree that the evidence supports a female name here, so disputes have transferred to that sticky phrase “outstanding among the apostles.” Some alternative renderings include “esteemed by the apostles” (see note in the 2011 NIV) or “well known to the apostles” (ESV).

I am more interested in the identity of this woman of such significance to Paul and the other apostles—regardless of what her distinction was. Is she really mentioned nowhere else in New Testament literature? (Read More)

Losing Her Life and Finding It

August 27, 2015

The disciple Joanna was the topic of a post here a few months ago. I’ve learned so much more about her since then, and I’m excited to share with you the rest of the story. All the credit for this background goes to scholar Richard Baukham.*

First, let’s review what Luke 8:1-3 says:

“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.”

To first century readers, this passage would have read like a neon sign flashing “This is a situation loaded with meaning!” To people living within memory of the rule of Herod Antipas, here in a nutshell is what they might have ascertained about Joanna:

She was Jewish, probably from a wealthy Galilean family. She was married to a prominent official in Herod’s administration, lived in Tiberias—Herod’s capital city—and enjoyed a life of luxury, at least until she began following Jesus. Then, she probably lost her social standing but also would have struggled for acceptance traveling with people who were accustomed to viewing “Herodians” with contempt. (Read More)

The Women Disciples — There’s More!

August 7, 2015

In this post we will look in more depth at the presence of the women disciples toward the end of Luke’s Gospel and consider their significance. We’re following up on a previous post, “Jesus and His Traveling Disciplettes,” which explored the way Luke’s Gospel places women as a regular presence among Jesus’ disciples throughout his ministry (beginning in Luke 8:1).

Here’s a rundown of what happened beginning in Luke 23:

  • The women who had followed Jesus from Galilee watched their Savior’s crucifixion at a distance (Luke 23:49). They are singled out because they about to become major actors in this plotline.
  • These same “women who had come with Jesus from Galilee” followed Jesus’ body, saw the tomb, and saw his body laid in it. (Luke 23:55) They became the only witnesses among the disciple group of the exact location where Jesus was buried.
  • “The women” then became the first witnesses of the empty tomb on Sunday morning, when they arrived with burial spices. Instead of the body of Jesus, they found two gleaming men who explained the absence of Jesus. (Luke 24:1-5)
  • The men remind the women what Jesus had told them back in Galilee (Luke 24:6-7). The women then remembered that, yes, Jesus had told them that (Luke 24:8).
  • They ran back and reported their discovery to “the Eleven and to all the others.” The guys were unwilling to believe the news, because “their words seemed to them like nonsense.” (Luke 24:9-10)
  • “The women” were finally identified as “Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them.” (Luke 24:9)
  • The resurrected Jesus walks along with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. These two report to Jesus that “some of our women amazed us.”Some of the guys, including Peter, went to check out their story “and found it just as the women had said.” Imagine that. (Luke 24:23-24)
  • The Emmaus pair returned to Jerusalem and found “the Eleven and those with them,” who said, essentially, “What the women said was true!” (Luke 24:33-34)
  • Jesus suddenly appeared to this same group. (Luke 24:36) He explained the scriptures about himself and told them, “The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” He reminded them that they were “witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:38-48)
  • Jesus told them he would send what his Father had promised and that they should stay in Jerusalem until they had “been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:38-49)
  • After he ascended, they (still the same group) returned to Jerusalem, and “they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” (Luke 24:50-53)
  • In Jerusalem the Eleven joined “together constantly in prayer,along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers” (Acts 1:14).
  • On the day of Pentecost “all of them” were filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1). As part of his sermon Peter reminded the audience that what they were currently experiencing was prophesied in Joel:

(Read More)

Matthew Is Not Mark Is Not Luke Is Not John – For A Reason

July 15, 2015

Four gospelsI once attended a church where the minister was known for his practice of reading all the way through the Bible every month. His discipline for being so “in the Word” is admirable. Yet, possibly influenced by this practice, his public teaching seemed to reflect a perspective of the Bible as one long book written all at once by a single author. He rarely mentioned the characteristics of a specific genre included within the Bible collection (like prophecy or poetry) or individual styles and word choices peculiar to different authors or key themes distinctive of each of the Bible’s 66 works of literature.

Don’t get me wrong, he is a man of great faith in God, and his life reflects the character of Jesus in many ways. He missed a great deal of the richness of biblical literature reading it this way, however, and likely sometimes misconstrued some of its teachings.

Each book of the Bible should be understood as part of the larger collection of spiritual works, but only after we understand it as an independent work of sacred literature. Sometimes we get this intuitively with other Bible books, but because the Gospels all report the life and ministry of Jesus, we might find it easier to ignore their individuality. In books like The Daily Bible and in pulpits every Sunday all over the world, well-meaning Christians harmonize all the Gospel narratives and teachings, as if scripture contained one consistent version of events regarding Jesus.

Many of us are more comfortable with this treatment of the Gospels than we are in acknowledging the conflicting versions of the crucifixion story and the ways identical teachings are placed in different contexts across the Gospels. Sometimes, I’ve seen people scratch their heads about these conflicts and suggest, “Maybe it’s like different witnesses today all describing the same car accident. They all tell what they saw from different angles.”

This post appeared as a guest contribution to the Women, Leadership, and the Bible blog. Keep reading.

To learn more, download a free bonus report, “Interpreting the Gospels.”

Women, Leadership and the Bible

July 8, 2015

Natalie EastmanI first met Natalie R. Wilson Eastman on her wedding day, when she was marrying David, a good friend I went to church with when we both lived in Corvallis, Oregon. Over the years since then, God and writing have been the intersections that have connected the streams of our busy lives.

I have a great deal of respect for the Natalie’s enthusiasm for serious Bible study, her belief that women can and should engage in it, and the incredible amount of work she put into her new book, Women, Leadership, and the Bible: How Do I Know What to Believe?

I decided this was the perfect time to tell you about her book after we had explored the presence of women among Jesus’ disciples. I see plenty of evidence that Jesus expected women to use their intellect. He was happy to teach them and was interested in conversing with them about what they believed (see, Luke 10, John 4 and John 11). (Read More)

Jesus and His Traveling Disciplettes

June 6, 2015

crosses reflected in an eyeThanks to a book I read recently, I finally understand why I was so surprised when I first discovered that Jesus and his band of followers was not a boys-only club.

It turns out that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John keep things simple and do hone in on the apostles throughout their narratives. With only a few exceptions, they use the terms apostles and disciples interchangeably.

Luke, however, pulls back the curtain wider and shows us that the twelve apostles weren’t the only guys around the campfire—nor were they all guys (which is why studying each Gospel as an independent work of literature is so important).

Luke (6:13) introduces the Twelve as chosen from a larger group of disciples of Jesus, although he occasionally uses the terms synonymously (the apostles were disciples, after all). Here are some examples in Luke where the group of people following Jesus clearly consisted of more than the Twelve (and later the Eleven): (Read More)

Now Available: The Gentle Savior (2nd Edition)

May 23, 2015

The Gentle Savior coverI haven’t written a new post in a while, but for a good reason. I’m excited to announce a new edition of my women’s Bible study workbook, The Gentle Savior: Seeing Jesus through the Eyes of the Women Who Met Him.

After discontinuing the relationship with my prior publisher, I self-published this edition. It sports several updates and improvements in the study itself, as well as a new smaller size and better graphic design inside. (Read More)

5 Scriptures I Finally Stopped Cowering Behind

February 28, 2015

4399065281_0b54b35fff_nAs a student and follower of Jesus for most of my life, I have wanted my behavior to reflect his teachings. Sometimes in my efforts to obey Jesus, however, I have used his teachings in ways he did not intend.

I confess that I have misused scripture as a cover for my discomfort with initiating difficult emotional situations. Instead of letting the beautiful teachings and examples of scripture transform me, I used them as righteous make-up to disguise my fear and emotional ineptness—I think I even fooled myself.

Here are some of the concepts that I have misapplied in my life for way too long.

1. Love

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13) (Read More)

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »