Jesus of Galilee
THE WOMEN DISCIPLES
After Jesus had chosen his disciples and had come down from the mountain he entered into a house, and there gathered round them such a crowd that they had no chance to eat.
People began to say that Jesus was out of his mind. ("He is beside himself.") And indeed the weeks of continual pressure and ceaseless crowds, the driving force and power flowing through him, the zeal with which he contemplated this difficult mission in its growing magnitude, added to his concern for those twelve whom he had now committed to his path -- all this had changed his peaceful demeanor to one of driving fury, so that the Pharisees were saying he was possessed of an unclean spirit.
He warned them of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for they were accusing him of being under the power of a devil, when actually it was the power of the Holy Spirit that was pouring through him.
When word of the things being spoken about Jesus reached the ears of his family, they came quickly to take charge of him and to take him home with them, away from the crowd. They had not fully grasped, as yet, the import of all that he was doing.
According to Matthew: "While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside asking to speak with him. But to the man who told him of this, he replied, 'Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother.' "
With these words, he was not only teaching the people that one must exchange his earthly family for a heavenly one when he dedicates his life to service, but he was also telling his family that he was not the same person who had dwelt with them as son and brother.
When one consciously enters the service of God, he chooses a new life with those who share his goal and leaves the old one behind. He let them know that he could no longer join them, but they must join his family if they would see him again.
He knew his words would be carried back to them, that there was no half way. He got this message across to them in time, for most of them eventually joined in his work.
The Gospel story emphasizes the work of the apostles, the intimates of Jesus and his emissaries in the Father's business. But back of these stood a patient group of women whom we may occasionally glimpse. In Chapter 8 of Luke, "Jesus was traveling in cities and villages, preaching and giving good news of the kingdom of God.
"His twelve were with him, and the women who were healed of diseases and unclean spirits: Mary who is called of Magdala, from whom seven demons went out; and Joanna, the wife of Chuza the steward of Herod; and Susanna, and many others, who ministered to them of their wealth." These women probably cooked and sewed and washed the linens of this considerable group who traveled about.
One of the wealthy Pharisees invited Jesus to come and dine with him. And he entered the house of that Pharisee and reclined as a guest. It was the custom to recline on couches about the table of a feast in the wealthier houses. Upon arrival a servant would usually remove the shoes and wash the feet of the guest, to cleanse them of dust from the roads.
Now there was in that city a woman who was a sinner; and when she knew that Jesus was a guest in the Pharisees's house, she took an alabaster cruse of perfumed ointment. The woman is not mentioned by name, but it is believed this was Mary of Magdala, from whom Jesus had cast out seven demons. The Pharisees knew that she was a "fallen woman," one from whose impurity they would draw away their skirts; so they were appalled at her entering into their respectable house.
She was overcome with the new-found grace which Jesus had brought to her, and to all; and she stood behind his couch at his feet weeping, and she began to wet his feet with her tears and to wipe them with the hair of her head, and she kissed his feet and anointed them with the perfumed ointment.
When the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he reasoned within himself thus, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who she is, and her reputation; for the woman who has touched him is a sinner."
Jesus answered his silent criticism, saying, "Simon, I have something to say to you."
And he answered, "What is it, Teacher?"
Jesus said to him, "There were two men who were debtors to a certain creditor; one of them owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty silver coins. And because they had nothing to pay, he forgave them both. Which one of them will love him more?"
Simon answered him saying, "The one, I suppose, to whom he forgave more." Jesus said to him, "You have judged rightly."
Then turning to the women, he said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me even water for my feet; but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not kiss me; but she, since she entered, has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil; but she has anointed my feet with ointment. So I say to you, her many sins are forgiven because she loved much; but he to whom little is forgiven, loves little."
And he said to the woman, "Your sins are forgiven."
Then the guests began to say within themselves, "Who is this man who forgives even sins?" So Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."
Women walk through the pages of Christ's life with calm frequency. They are often close to him, in his company, playing dramatic roles in his life's story. They are consistently the recipients of his kindness and his gracious favors.
To talk or write as if Christ ignored or avoided or had little dealing with women is simply to leave out or pass over whole sections of the Gospel story, or to misunderstand the Christ.
Not only was he ever-mindful of his chosen apostles, but he appreciated fully the ministrations of the women, who obviously adored him. He could read their minds and hearts as well as those of the men, and they knew the depth of his compassion and understanding.
The women too were his loyal followers, his devoted friends, who saw in him their advocate and courageous protector. His attitude toward women is just one of the beautiful and consoling things in his character. He did not shun or dislike them and his attitude was in contrast to the prevailing one of his time.
The world then was a sad place for women. Pagan slave markets were full of those who were graded on their physical charm or the breadth of their backs for carrying burdens.
The lot of a Jewish woman was much higher, but even she was the servant of the home, who sat in a lower place in the temple, an inferior seat at table, and had the task of waiting hand and foot even on her own sons. And woe unto her who fell victim to man's instincts of pursuit, or to her own desires.
But Jesus defined the difference in importance between the physical and the spiritual life when a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!"
The physical vehicle is useful as a temporary dwelling place for the spirit. But it is only through obedience to God that all, even mothers of godly persons, must obtain eternal Life for their souls.
The hearts of women were lonely before Christ came. There need be no such loneliness even for the most forgotten of beings if she looks upon Jesus Christ as her saviour and asks for his forgiveness and understanding.
The beautiful tenderness he showed the women of his time, even the most sinful who turned to him, he still holds out to women today. In Jesus Christ do they find the ideal of their highest aspirations, the only one who never fails or disappoints.
Women Initiates of the Christian Mysteries
Among the portraits of the disciples, none is more impressive or important than that of Mary the mother of Jesus. At certain times during his ministry, she accompanied the Master on his journeyings through the Holy Land. By her divinely-awakened powers, she also began following in his footsteps, ministering unto the needy and eager to learn from the Anointed One of God.
The women disciples of Christ, biblically described as the "holy women," became her especial charges, and they revered her great wisdom and gentle humility.
Mary was rather tall and youthfully slender, her bright hair framing a delicate oval face which was illumined by lustrous eyes, through which the powers of her radiant spirit shone like the perpetual lights of some heavenly altar flame. When the three-fold power of grace was bestowed upon her by the rite of baptism, the natural processes of time became stilled within her, so that her physical body no longer knew the forces of age and disintegration.
Mary, in all her life and being, became attuned completely with Spirit. She who had been blessed as the mother of the Holy Child, became now an illumined One through the spiritual initiation of the Christ -- the gift He could return to her.
The name Mary appears prominently in the Gospels; there were several persons with the name mentioned in Jesus' life. Every biblical character name represents some attribute within man, an attribute either to be expanded or overcome, as he makes spiritual progress. "Mary" typifies the feminine or emotional soul, and the characters who bear this name represent various phases of soul growth on the Path to Initiation, or the Christed consciousness.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, typifies soul development in its most exalted stage. She brings intuition, the voice of the soul which, once awakened, enables Self to use the personality to the fullness of its God-given power.
Mary, the wife of Cleophas (supposedly a brother of Joseph) has been called both sister and sister-in-law of the Virgin. This second Mary symbolized the courage and sustaining strength of soul powers which are awakened and functioning.
The homes of the two brothers were close together in Nazareth; the two Marys were intimate friends, their children like members of one household. For this reason many commentators explain Jesus' "brethren," Simon, Jude and James the Less, as being actually cousins. Still others believe that the Virgin, after Jesus birth, had several more children, or that these were Joseph's children by a previous marriage.
The third, Mary of Magdala, came from a small village upon the banks of the Sea of Galilee, near Capernaum. Young, beautiful and arrogant, vain, selfish and worldly, she typified the emotional nature functioning at its lowest level.
When Mary of Magdala first met the Master, she was steeped in sensual and material living. His presence, the sound of his voice, and Light in his eyes so impressed her that she soon renounced all to follow him. Her supreme dedication, uncompromising allegiance and selfless devotion constitute a highlight among Biblical narratives.
Legend states that when the Lord first saw Mary of Magdala she was gorgeously attired; her hair was redolent of perfume and she sore a necklace of great splendor. To impress her with the worthlessness of outer adornment compared to that of inner virtue, he offered her a pinch of dust in exchange for the stones, adding, "Verily, in this dust is more than in her stones, because from ashes I may create stones, but from stones only dirt."
In those days a woman who had morally slipped even a little was considered unredeemable and consigned to the gutter. Mary Magdalene was far less innocent, but eventually enacted the role of a prodigal daughter. Jesus knew that one who had seen the lowest depths, if he was at last fully repelled by it, was capable of rising to the heights. His casting out of the seven devils connotes a spiritual process whereby her sevenfold nature was purified.
The transformation which occurred in the life and character of Mary, at the awakening of the Christ within herself, presents a most beautiful example of redemption. From among the lowest she became one of the highest. Mary Magdalene was the most advanced of the women Initiates in the Christian Mysteries, except the Virgin. In her exalted communion with the Risen Christ at the mystic hour of sunrise is given a veiled account of the awakening of Christ consciousness within Mary herself.
Another woman prominent among the disciples mentioned in the Gospels was Salome, sometimes called sister of Mary the Virgin. She was married to Zebedee of the fishing fleet, a man blessed with both material and spiritual abundance. Salome and Zebedee, together with their two sons, James and John, were dear to Jesus and among his most devoted followers. Zebedee gave time and money to the cause of the new Christianity, while Salome watched over the physical needs of the disciples.