The influencers

By

19 Jun 2024

The New Testament records a number of women who financially backed, supported and yes, sometimes, influenced Jesus.

One of the most surprising questions I was asked in the course of my studies is: ‘Did anyone ever change Jesus’ mind?’

For most of us, our religious formation had more to do with reflecting on how Jesus changes our minds. But then, looking over the stories and the journey, the people who followed, and those who challenged him, we looked again at how Jesus encourages us to grow in love and justice as he responds to those he encounters in his mission.

The New Testament mentions women followers of Jesus in various roles, often by name. Some, such as Mary Magdalene, become teachers and leaders. Some travel as a group, following Jesus and the Apostles and providing for them out of their own resources. Mary, Susanna, Joanna and Mary, the mother of James and John, are examples.

Some seek him out to be healed, like the woman with the issue of blood (Mark 5: 25-34), who touches the hem of his cloak with such faith. Some seek help for a loved and suffering child, as Jairus does for his dying daughter (Mark 5:21-43). In these two miracles, Jesus challenges the prevailing attitude towards women. He speaks to them with great tenderness as he heals them, body and soul.

UNACKNOWLEDGED SUPPORT

In many cases, it is the unacknowledged presence of women whose faith and care supports Jesus in his mission. The Woman at the Well brings him water, and he speaks with her, accepting and knowing her chequered past, recognising her as equal in dignity in a context of religious and racial discrimination. Out of their conversation, and her reception of his teaching, she reconnects with her neighbours and brings them to Jesus as well.

Then there are those many women who mentioned by all four Gospels as being at the foot of the Cross. Some stand at the foot of the Cross, attending his Crucifixion with his mother, Mary. Some anoint his body for the tomb. They take the news of the Resurrection of the Lord to the disciples, as the first witnesses.

When Jesus is lost in the Temple, the Holy Family are once again on the road – this time returning from the Festival of the Passover, travelling home from Jerusalem in a large group of family and friends. At the end of a day’s march, Jesus’ parents discover that he is no longer anywhere within the group. With mounting dread, as daylight fades, the mother and father realise they must retrace their steps to find their son. It is three days before they find their 12-year-old boy. He is in the Temple, among the elders and great scholars of the time, in his element.

Mary sees her son and steps forward towards him, her arms out. She cries out: ‘Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.’

Jesus’ response is surprising. ‘Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’

But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them.

JESUS’ DREAMS

When Jesus originally decides to stay in Jerusalem, what might his dream have been? All the scholars and elders he had been with were amazed at his insights and questions. He was welcomed warmly into this elite group of thinkers, treated with respect and honour. He could see a future for himself in ‘his Father’s house’, the Temple.

Why does he return to Nazareth with Mary and Joseph?

‘His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.’

Minds are changed in this story, surely. Mary and Joseph now recognise that Jesus is becoming an adult. The great future is in God’s hand, and what has been prophesied begins to take shape. But it is his mother’s plea that brings Jesus home from Jerusalem. ‘Not yet, my son. Not yet’. And Jesus is the greater man for Mary and Joseph’s parental influence and family love shared in these last hidden years together.

DOMESTIC FOUNDATIONS

As Jesus lays the foundations for the Kingdom of Heaven, the metaphors he chooses to describe it are domestic. ‘Servant leadership’. ‘The least shall be greatest’. ‘Love one another as I have loved you’. ‘The Good Shepherd’. ‘The wise and foolish bridesmaids’. ‘Bread and wine’. ‘Sheep and goats’. ‘Yeast’. ‘Salt’. ‘Water’. ‘Lost coins found’.

The whole of creation shines with the beauty of God. When we look with God’s eyes; when we listen with God’s heart; when we love one another as Jesus taught us, God’s Kingdom comes, and God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

The Women of the New Testament have a profound influence on the unfolding of the Gospels.

This article first appeared in the winter 2024 edition of Madonna magazinefrom which the reflections and many of the articles for Daily Prayer are taken. If you would like to subscribe to the magazine, see www.madonnamagazine.com.au/article/subscriptions or if you would like to contribute to the Madonna winter fundraising campaign, consider buying a raffle ticket (if you live in Qld, NSW or Vic) or give a donation.

Image: Jesus and Samaritan woman at the well in the church Chiesa di San Gaetano and the chapel of the Crucifixion, Padua by unknown painter from the 17th century. depositphotos.com

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