Friday, July 13, 2012

There and free to speak

I was flipping through the gospels, scanning the pages for a "she" or "her" and looking for a topic for this week.

My eyes stopped on two verses in Luke 11:

"As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, 'Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts an which you nursed!' But he said, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" (27-28)

As this series is focused on women and not on teachings, I'm not going to elaborate on what the beatitude means/doesn't mean here, but I will say that based on other scriptures, we can safely say that Jesus was not "dissin' his mama" here. It is simply an instruction that true blessedness comes not through biological relationship, but through obedience to the word of God. (And, of course, Mary was indeed obedient)

Since the passage started with "as he said these things" I flipped back to get some context.

The end of Chapter 1 has Jesus at the house of Mary and Martha. Chapter 11 begins with Jesus "praying in a certain place" where the disciples come to him and ask to be taught how to pray. That transitions us into The Lord's Prayer. After that lesson for the disciples, there is a rather abrupt transition to Jesus casting out demons and the people watching had reactions ranging from marvel to being certain he worked in the power of Satan, to being curious but skeptical. Jesus addresses these concerns to them. He goes on to explain more.

He's drawing a crowd with his talk, the people are interested. Some doubt and are looking for signs. A pharisee will invite him to dinner at the end of the chapter and Jesus will accept.

But in the middle, there is a woman, who shouts above the crowd and lets her voice be heard.

I want to point out a couple of things.

First, she is there. In this crowd of people made up of disciples, pharisees, lawyers, and the demon-possessed there is at least one (and most likely more) woman in their midst. For whatever reason, she is there.

Perhaps she stopped in the midst of her daily errands. Perhaps she followed Jesus there. She is a part of this story, she has recorded text. She spoke directly to Jesus and he answered her.

Second, she spoke, and loudly. I so often hear the command for women to be quiet, sit down, stop making a scene. I know those words and general thought exist in this same set of scripture. And yet this lady exists too. This lady whose "outburst" was affirmed by a response by Jesus himself.

Her shout seems to be authentic praise. It is a woman speaking from a knowing-heart about what a blessing it would be to raise a man like this. What a blessing to call him son. What a blessing to know that your womb, your breast, nourished this man.

It is perhaps, also a longing. For a culture in which the fate of women were subject to the prosperity of their husbands and sons - perhaps our woman-in-the-crowd imagined what her life could be if she had a son who could do such miraculous things. Perhaps she wondered what it would be like to be the mother of a man who drew crowds and performed miracles.

And Jesus, his response, opens the door to her. "Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it." An invitation to all to join in the blessedness. An invitation to her.

You, woman who dares to raise her voice in a crowd of men, you too can be blessed.

This is part of an ongoing series where I look at females and feminine imagery in the Bible. Click the "FeminineFridays" tag for more!


  1. Awesome news here, Nicole. Everyone can be blessed in Jesus.


    P.S. Followed you over from Rachel Stone's site, and glad I did!

    1. Hi Tim - Thank you for stopping by and for commenting! (And the blog stats watcher that I am, I love to know how people got here, so thanks for that info as well. :) )

    2. Love the reassertion of the "present woman." I also like the interpretation of the "open-invite" to blessedness. Though we don't come from the same backgrounds of faith, your words make me think. I'm so glad I subscribed to your blog! Someday, I hope to have enough motivation as a writer to do the same. I am still timid and, well, scared of the self-motivation that it takes to set deadlines for myself. I am so excited to hear your chronicles of grad school. I was too young, I think, when I went for my master's. Didn't have enough experience. Don't regret it, am just excited to read how the experience touches you and makes you grow. Be blessed! Jen Grover (

    3. Thanks, Jen. I love that you got something out of it even though we don't have the same faith background!

  2. enjoying reading your posts, nicole!

    1. Thanks, Mom! I was wondering when I would get another comment from you! :)

  3. Great entry Nicole. I really enjoy reading about these women that I would admittedly not think a lot about while reading the bible.

    1. Thank you! I'm really enjoying paying closer to attention to passages I would normally skim myself!

  4. Oh, the glory of it all. *sigh* Love this.

  5. This story reminds me of the story about the woman who touched Jesus' garment. A very bold move for a woman in those days. Interesting how these stories are so commonly overlooked!