Letters to Jesus from the women in his life…
by Major Deborah Flagg –
Jesus, God bless him, was a friend to women. In a time and place where a highly formalized patriarchal system often relegated women to the fringes of society, Jesus honored them, affirmed them and listened to them. He was concerned about their suffering and sorrow and disturbed by their silence. Jesus was their son, brother, friend, teacher–their mysterious healer–and they loved him.
How does a woman, or anyone for that matter, speak of such love, loyalty and gratitude? Today we might send an appropriate greeting card, or a thoughtful e-mail. We might wire flowers or a balloon bouquet with just the right message attached. We might be brave, pick up the phone and actually speak what our soul longs to say. In this age of instant communication, we can express love and friendship in a heartbeat–no problem.
The women in Jesus’ life, however, did not have such options. Schooled in silence and submission, they did not express themselves freely, especially to men. They hardly had any chance to write, lacking the skills, the tools and the permission to do so. But, what if they had written? What if we were to uncover a cache of ancient letters, so old and fragile that they crumbled into dust at the slightest touch? And if we were fortunate enough to decipher the fragments… what if we found epistles of love to Jesus from his women followers? I think the time-worn expressions might look something like this:
From Mary, Jesus’ mother, who must have puzzled continually over her enigmatic son. As she began to catch glimpses of Jesus’ true identity, she moved from concerned parent to devoted disciple. But, he was still her baby, her boy.
Dearest, dearest Jesus,
Has anyone ever had such a child as you? From the moment I knew I was carrying you, my soul was bursting with song; I couldn’t contain it. Not that it was an easy pregnancy, nothing was easy in those days. And if I had chosen, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to give birth to you at that time, but I’m glad that I did (of course, that’s easy to say 30 years later)! Really, you have made me so proud, so very proud, even when I didn’t understand you.
I have never been more proud of you than I was today. I’m still quivering from the warmth, delight and surprise of it all. You saved that wedding, son! How humiliated our hosts would have been with all that food left and no good wine to wash it down. The bride and groom would have been off to a dismal start in life, but you saved the day, and I only had to hint, just barely ask, for you to help out. You’ve always been a good son.
Tell me this–how did you do it? I’ve thought and thought and I can’t figure it out. First there was water, then it was wine–and not just the cheap stuff, but really good, full-bodied, beautifully scented wine. I was mystified. But, then there was the dancing and the praise from the guests, and I had such a good time.
Thank you, son. It seems like lately I don’t really understand all that you’re doing and thinking, but I’m trying to just love you and be here for you. You’re not like other women’s sons. I can’t explain it, but I feel so blessed. Please come around soon and we’ll have a good talk. Take care of yourself. Eat well.
–Your loving mother
From Martha and Mary of Bethany, faithful and loyal friends of Jesus. They readily opened their home and their lives to him and he spent a significant amount of time in their company.
It has been just a few hours since you left our home and I have many chores to attend to, but I want to write a brief few lines to express all that is on my heart. First, let me say how sorry I am that I scolded you and doubted your care. It’s just that we called for you when we knew that Lazarus was so sick, and when you didn’t come right away, I was scared. And then, when Lazarus died, I was out of my mind with grief. When I saw you, I wanted to lash out and blame you for what had happened.
I really do know how much you care, and I know you came as soon as you could. When I saw your tears and heard the agony in your voice, I was ashamed for ever doubting you. You are such an extraordinary person! You are like Messiah, like one straight from God. How else could you have done what you did in bringing my dear brother back to life? Life seems to follow you everywhere. I don’t know whether to be your friend or to bow down at your feet. Please let me know what I should do.
After all the blessed hours spent in your company, you continue to surprise me. Sometimes I feel like you know more about me than I know about myself, like you see right into my very soul. Sometimes that can be unnerving! But, mostly, I’m so grateful for your friendship and grateful that you consider our little home in Bethany a haven from the stress and crowds. We are so honored.
Thank you for giving our brother back to us. I’m already planning the next meal for you. I’m asking Mary to help out so that I, too can sit and talk with you.
–Your faithful servant,
My most wise companion,
When will you be coming to Bethany again? I have been thinking about many things that I want to discuss with you. My mind is still reeling from what happened with Lazarus. I keep touching him to make sure he’s real and not just my imagination.
When you visit, I don’t care if I eat or drink, I just want to listen to you. I always learn so much. You are like truth itself–a rare and precious commodity.
Please visit soon. And while you’re here, Jesus, maybe you could say a few calming words to Martha.
From the unnamed woman who “crashed the party” to give a gift to Jesus. She has become a symbol of prophetic service and extravagant love. She seemed to know who Jesus really was when others could not see.
To the dear, mysterious dinner guest,
No, I wasn’t invited to the party; I’m not usually invited to such gatherings. But, when I heard that you were going to be at Simon’s house, I knew I had to be there too, if only for a few minutes. I knew it would take courage to intrude, but I also knew it would be worth it. Thank you for not letting the others keep me out. I can’t tell you what that small gesture of acceptance has done for me.
The ointment that I brought had been a gift. I think I can safely say it was my most valuable and costly possession. I kept it in a special jar hidden away, protected. I didn’t know what I was saving it for until today. Somehow, I knew that you were the one who needed it and who deserved it. If I never do anything else of importance in my life, that one single act of anointing your precious head will be worth it all. Thank you for allowing me to give what I could.
My life will not be remembered for long, but yours surely will. Perhaps you will remember me. That will be enough.
–Your anonymous admirer (from the dinner party)
From the woman who gathered water by herself at midday. The encounter with Jesus at the well seemed to bring out the best in her. In fact, one of Jesus’ most extensive theological discussions was with this unlikely woman.
Remember me from the well in Samaria? I can’t stop talking about you! You not only knew everything about me, you actually made me feel smart and that doesn’t happen very often! You talked to me like I was a person.
Anyway, I have a small favor to ask you–could you tell me more about that water, the kind that quenches your thirst forever? I want to know more! Besides, I get awfully tired of hauling these heavy buckets.
Thanks a lot. I’m gonna keep talking about you.
–Your friend from the well
As she stood at the foot of the cross watching her first-born die, Mary’s heart was first of all a mother’s heart.
Oh my son,
You won’t be able to read this, but I must write it or I’ll go crazy. Today you hung on a cross like a common criminal and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I tried to comfort you. It hurt me so to see you hurt. I brought food, as if you might eat–that was silly. I brought water, but even when you cried out in thirst, they wouldn’t let me give it to you. And you died. I feel like I died, too.
Your last thoughts were of me and my well-being. You have been such a good son, and so much more. So very much more. You taught me that there are things more beautiful, more valuable, more lasting than life. I have been so blessed by your life and even in death you are like life to me. I love you so and thank God for you. I miss you.
From Mary Magdalene, who found new life in her relationship with Jesus and who grew to deep discipleship. She was the first to witness the risen Christ.
Dear friend and teacher,
As I walked to the tomb this morning, the whole world seemed to be given over to death. It didn’t matter that the sun was rising, or the trees were blooming, or the flowers were giving off their living aroma. Everything seemed dead. I seemed dead. You were my light, and I thought that light had been extinguished forever. To make matters worse, I thought they had stolen your body. I couldn’t even weep over your body.
But, what joy! What indescribable joy! At first I didn’t recognize you–do you blame me? It’s all too amazing for words. But then I heard your voice, that voice that penetrates to the depths of my soul, that unmistakable voice that I had heard so many times, and I knew it was you. You trusted this earth-shattering news to me! Your secret that was no longer a secret, the awesome reality that you are alive. Where will this reality take us? I think it will take us to places we never dreamed possible.
You who brought me from slavery to freedom, I will do my best to share this good, good news.
–Your faithful witness,
Mary the Magdalene
Letters are a slice of life, the heart’s deepest longings frozen in time. As we carefully fold these ancient, loving communications and place them back in history’s care, we know that there would be many other letters from Jesus’ unsung disciples. There would be letters of hope and amazement, of confusion and revelation, of profound renewal and deep despair. There would be life spilled out in ink, life in all of its pain and wonder, life poured out to Jesus, who poured out his life for us and who cares about our lives, every line, every space, every comma.
And one more letter from a contemporary woman
I have studied you, read about you, prayed to you and thought of you. I don’t know what it is about you that continues to draw me in, but you are the truest thing that I know. You show me what God is like. I hear you knocking on the door of my heart and I feel you moving through the edges of my life as one who can save me, even from myself.
More than anything, I want to know you, because I know (and this is the part that I don’t really understand) that through you I can participate in the very life of God.
Because of your death, I don’t need to fear life. Because of your resurrection, I don’t need to fear death. Help me to bear witness to your power and peace which go beyond any words that I might say.
Thank you for choosing to be with us and for all the blessed hours spent in your presence.