A New Kingdom
Chapter Eleven in The Alabaster Jar by Theresia Saers
In the eyes of the Pharisees Jesus, the itinerant preacher, is a threat for the orthodoxy of the people, for their own grip on them and for the stability of the political situation. Here is a new teacher, who speaks about a coming kingdom. Dangerous stuff. On what authority does this man teach? Certainly not on theirs. They are mad with anger. Not only does he undermine their authority, but there is great political danger as well. If the Romans get to know all this talk about the coming kingdom, they will come and take away what little independence remains for the Jewish people. What if such a new kingdom would really arise with this unwanted preacher as its king? A king, moreover, who is not interested in earthly possessions? A king, who has in his retinue a woman like Mary the Magdalene and Joanna, who actually belongs to the court of unclean King Herod? Women should stay at home, looking after their husbands and children, not pretend to have knowledge of the Law and the Prophets.
Jesus, however, never daunted, just carries on with what he has chosen to do. So do the women. Mary Magdalen appears to have become their leader, because the evangelists all mention her first, when referring to the female followers of Jesus. Little by little a new way of living together is worked out, a hospitality of the faithful, with a strong emphasis on the duty of sharing ones worldly goods with ones neighbours in need.
Day after day Mary sees suffering people approach Jesus to be healed. He understands their needs and is generous in his efforts to help them. He makes sure that when they leave him they understand a little more of the love of God. Cause and effect of the illness become evident; he heals and gently points out a way forward to a better future. How often must he have repeated certain words of comfort for the evangelist in later years to have put all this advice together as a set of guidelines and an invitation to take a fresh look at life.
To those people in our age that insist that Christianity is first and foremost a spiritual matter it could be an eye opener to have a good look at the way of life of the early followers of Jesus. A way that developed in his own lifetime. He has the true holistic approach. We remember the miracle of the bread, when the disciples come to Jesus as a matter of course to inquire about the feeding of the multitude. Obviously they see it as a normal thing that those that listen to Jesus teaching are fed before they are sent home; it is only the worry that their money will not be sufficient that drives them to ask Jesus what to do. We know from Judas reaction to Marys squandering of costly nard that she should at an earlier stage have handed over all her money to the newly formed community. The pattern of living together that we discover in Acts is not something worked out by the early Christians, it is the natural development of the teaching of first John the Baptist and later Jesus himself. The women make it possible, for it is obvious that the men have left their jobs to follow him and cannot be expected to bring in much. It is only because of women such as Mary Magdalene, Joanna and others who have resources of their own, that this continuous hospitality is at all possible. It is the real meaning of Jesus´ word at the occasion of the anointing, You will always have the poor around you. The poor will recognise your charisma, my followers, your readiness to help them in their need.
© Theresia Saers
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