Luke 7 reveals a remarkable, pop off the page story, about a prophet named John. However, his story was sandwiched, like book ends, by two other stories, each about a memorable woman. On one end, was the story of a widow, whose only son had died. Jesus performed a compassionate miracle, a miracle of life, resurrecting her son and giving him back to her.
On the other end was Mary, a sinful woman with a broken spirit and a penitent heart, who was humbly seeking forgiveness, which she found in Jesus. I imagine both women to be hurting, weeping, and fearing for their futures.
But in between these stores of memorable women, there was the pop off the page prophet named John the Baptist. He successfully evangelized all of Palestine, baptizing nearly everyone, including Jesus. The nation thought of him as Elijah reborn. On one occasion, Jesus spoke about John, quoted Malachi, and confirmed him as the one preparing the path for God’s anointed. Then Jesus asked the crowd these questions:
- Was John a reed that swayed with the wind? (A weak willed populist?)
- Did John wear royal attire and live in a palace? (An untouchable aristocrat?)
Jesus affirmed John as the greatest prophet of all time, and most of the people believed in John. They were the commoners, some of whom were disenfranchised, like the defiled tax collectors. But others rejected him and harangued the believers, attempting to paint the prophet a fraud. They were Israel’s elite, the Rabbis and Pharisees.
Try to grasp it, the most significant moment in Jewish history, the revealing of the Messiah, and Israel’s leaders said no. Those same Rabbis and Pharisees would later lead the celebratory parade, the prejudicial renouncing of Christ. In fact, theirs would be the vitriol voices calling for his crucifixion.
I wonder if, at Golgotha’s place of suffering and shame, there were two memorable women. Maybe they stood as bookends with the cross between them. One would be a forgiven sinner: loved, set free, and befriended by the King of Kings. The other would be a widow, living in loneliness, but a loneliness assuaged by the son restored to her by the author of life. Were they seeing the nails that fastened him to the roughly hewn wood? Did they notice the blood dripping from his head, hands, and feet? Or were they only captivated by Jesus completing his ministry, fulfilling his purpose, and preparing his return to the Father? Either way, they owed him everything.
Mary and the Widow; memorable, and forever changed.