A Dangerous Rabbi
Chapter Nine from The Alabaster Jar by Theresia Saers
One day, only weeks before his execution, Jesus mother and his brothers appeared at the door of the house where he was preaching. Jesus, who knew full well that they were there because of the growing threat to his life, treated his relatives in the same way as he did his disciple Peter, when the latter wanted to dissuade him from going to Jerusalem and threatening death. He disowned his mother. The listeners must have misunderstood his apparently cold words, Who is my mother, who are my brothers? Were blood ties no longer valid in the coming kingdom? Maybe that is why the disciples and the early believers, among them gospel writers, called Mary of Nazareth the mother of James or the other Mary.
We are well aware that Mary Magdalene touched the heart not only of Jesus himself but of all later generations. At the most dramatic moment of her life she addresses him with the words ´my teacher, my Rabboni´. To what manner of teacher had she committed herself as a disciple? What doctrine does he preach, for him so to upset priests and scribes, in other words the orthodoxy?
Actually Jesus is very much a Son of Moses and the Law, but he wants to do away with all the accretions of later centuries that have made the Law into a straight jacket for the poor and uneducated.
It is true that the Jews were pining for a saviour, possibly the Prophet Eliah himself, who would restore the House of Israel to its former importance and eventually reinstall the kingdom. Jesus does indeed preach a kingdom, but how different it is from the one the leaders of Israel have set their minds on. They think in terms of power for Israel; instead here is someone that speaks of a kingdom of God, a kingdom of heavens, in which the notion of power has no place. We find that two of his own disciples have to be rebuked, when in an effort to win preferment in the coming kingdom, they send their mother to Jesus to raise the matter. Money is not an object to hanker after either, it is no more than a necessary commodity for survival and it is to be shared with neighbours in need. This Rabbi emphasises the obvious but rather unwelcome truth that riches shall prove of no avail, when man must appear before Gods judgement seat. The fact that Jesus has not received his authority from the Pharisees and moreover is from Galilee makes him even more suspect. The main bodies of scribes, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, send delegates to check the teachings of this so-called prophet, Jesus.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, "Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?" Jesus said, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets also."(Matth. 22:34-40)
As for Mary, who listens with an open mind, she is initiated into the basic truths of the Kingdom. Love is what knits this community together. Jesus repeats it again and again: God is Love and whoever remains in this love, remains in God and God in him. Indeed, the relationship of men amongst themselves must be founded on love, because it is only through love and charity towards each other that they will prove their love of God. Jesus not only preaches this, but practices his doctrine with overwhelming generosity.
Mary knows full well what is the deepest wish of every human being, love, belonging, acceptance and appreciation, especially so when people are young or poor, or ill. Or when they are like her, thirsting for knowledge and wisdom-in-God and for contact with Rabbi Jesus. Indeed, in him she feels the same need to be accepted and loved. She shares his anguish, when those that should have been his greatest supporters appear to harden their hearts against him.
© Theresia Saers
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