Near the end of Matthew 4, after Jesus had been tended to by the angels, he set out to continue his ministry. As he walked along the sea of Galilee, the water lapping at his feet in what I imagine felt like a distinctly human moment, he came across the men who would become the twelve apostles. I have often wondered what it would have been like to be called out by name by a man I had never met, and just know; know this was my saviour, the Son of God.
Of course, as a woman I would have never been chosen to be a apostle. Some have pointed to this as confirmation of God's supposed belief that women should not hold positions of leadership, and that Jesus also believed the voices of women were not as valuable as the voices of men. However, this assertion is incorrect. There are a number of logistical reasons that the twelve apostles were all men, such as living arrangements and travel customs. Sarah Bessey writes, "the lack of women among the twelve disciples isn't prescriptive or a precedent for exclusion of women any more than the choice of twelve Jewish men excludes Gentile men from leadership.”
Jesus did have female disciples who accomplished incredible things. The book of Luke in particular mentions the women who travelled alongside the apostles, evangelising and making sure that Jesus had the resources he needed to effectively carry out his mission. They sat at Jesus' feet, a place that had always been exclusively reserved for men. Though often overlooked and under embroidered in scripture, women such as Mary, Joanna and Suzanna were key figures in Jesus' ministry. And let us not forget Junia, who even Paul recognised as a respected Apostle.
By the way, later translations of the bible tried to erase this woman by adding an 's' to the end of her name, making it masculine. Again, don't be fooled: the women have always been there.
In Matthew 5 Jesus gives his infamous sermon on the mount. As a crowd draws near, he sits upon a mountainside and begins to preach. It's easy for all the blessed's to blur together; for this to be perceived as a simple encouragement for those discouraged. However, the words Jesus preached during his sermon on the mount were never meant to adorn Thomas Kinkade cards; they were meant to be a battle cry.
The sermon on the mount was a passionate call to the heart of God, which actively pursues goodness and justice. It was a call to action, a heavenly commission, a guide for our activism.
Sarah Bessey writes, "I don't want to be swallowed by the darkness. Nor do I want to be blinded by the beautiful facade. No, I want to be part of a people who see the darkness, know it's real, and then, then, then, light a candle anyway. And hold that candle up against the wind and pass along our light wherever it's needed from our own homes to the halls of legislation to the church pulpit to the kitchens of the world.” Be encouraged by Christ's words, but don't be blinded by comfort. Light a candle and love, love, love; fearlessly and recklessly and rooted in the overwhelming Grace of God.
In the next eight stanzas of teaching, Christ's central message is this crazy love. To stand against injustice, but to fight back with love.
What a radical notion; what a beautiful commission.