Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Woman Jesus Loved

Every year on July 29, the same thought crosses my mind: Where are all the headlines? You know, the "Jesus' wife" hoaxes, the cheesy romance stories about Jesus and a female disciple, the cloak-and-dagger novels about Jesus' secret family with (who else?) Mary Magdalen.

Why, you ask, on July 29? It's not, after all, the feast of St. Mary Magdalen--that was last week.

Ah, but today, July 29, is the feast of the only woman the Bible categorically states that Jesus loved. Look it up! It's John 11:5:
"Jesus loved Martha (and her sister and Lazarus)." 

Where are the headlines? Where are the exposés?

Is it somehow disappointing to learn of Jesus' love for Martha in the same sentence that testifies to his love for her sister and brother? To me that's just the point that so many "Jesus' wife" stories miss. Jesus' love for each one of us has that unique, unrepeatable character that our limited experience of humanity finds best exemplified in spousal love. The fact that nowhere in the remotely reliable tradition indicates that Jesus was married is a clue that we can each have an extravagantly personal relationship with Jesus. The kind Martha had. The kind that led to her epic act of faith: "I believe that you are the Christ, the One who is coming into the world."

The anointing at Bethany; that's Martha sitting next to Peter (between Jesus and the apostles).
Manuscript detail from the Walters Museum of Art.

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