It’s a bizarre story, really—a woman shouting from the crowd about wombs and breasts. Umm … excuse me, what was that?!
And, I can guarantee, you have never heard a sermon about this encounter. Of course, women’s stories are not often sermon topics … particularly those mentioning wombs and breasts! But, come to think of it, circumcision is talked about often enough. But, I digress…
While Jesus was saying these things, one of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, “Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.” But He said, “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” (Luke 11:27-28)
That’s it. That’s the story. Just three sentences.
Yet, it’s packed full of information about Jesus, about us, and what’s worth devoting our lives to.
Jesus had just cast out a demon from a mute man, when the crowd began accusing Him of working on the side of Satan … why else would demons obey Him, they reasoned.
Differentiating herself from the murmurings of the crowd, our woman showed profound insight as she acknowledged the greatness of Jesus. Her exclamation was actually appropriate in the 1st century. It was a kind of blessing a woman might give … a 1st century way of saying, “Wow, your mother’s lucky to have a son like you!”
Jesus—in true Jesus fashion—turned it into something more.
First, and again, we see Jesus stopping and recognizing our woman. Perhaps He discerned a teachable spirit? Or, was He seizing the opportunity to raise the status of women before a crowd? Other rabbis of the time would have, undoubtedly, ignored a woman shouting from the crowd. Such a woman would have been considered annoying—if she was considered at all.
Jesus? Jesus turned and addressed her—instantly giving her value and worth as all eyes focused on her.
I wonder if our woman regretted having said anything as she became the center of attention? Was she shocked at being recognized? Did she bend her head, cheeks flushed in embarrassment? Or stand up taller and straighter, with chin lifted and shoulders back a bit?
Jesus took what she said, and in a gentle way admonished her. No, He said, that’s not where blessing comes from. Then, taking her under His wing, Jesus taught our woman as a rabbi taught a disciple.
Paraphrasing, Jesus says, Those who are really blessed? It’s not those whose kids turn out well. It’s those who truly hear God’s words … it’s those who cling to them and store them in their hearts … and their actions. They are the blessed ones, the enviable ones.
Was Jesus alerting us?
Beware of your heart when it takes good things and turns them into ultimate things.
In a culture that taught a woman’s value came from the sons she bore, Jesus taught her—and the crowd listening in— intimacy with God is more important than the honor of bearing a respected son.
And don’t we need to hear that lesson too? … I know I do! I’ve put too much value in people and things! I’ve acted as if they were my source of blessing—my source of happiness, peace, security. And, of course, that strategy never works. It always crumbles—because people and things were never meant to support that much weight.
As author Tim Keller plainly puts it, When something besides Jesus is functioning as my savior, I have created an idol. We tend to think idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.
Is this what Jesus was saying to the woman?
If anything becomes more fundamental than God to your happiness, meaning in life, and identity, then it is an idol.
There is only one thing—one person—who can hold us up, give us our identify, happiness, and meaning in life.
This is the point of Jesus’ words to the woman … to us. It’s all about deeply and intimately knowing God. It’s about placing my hope for peace and joy in the right place—in the only place—in Christ. That’s where the blessings begin!
Jesus is giving the woman—and us—an invitation to a life of happiness and peace. It doesn’t come by investing our lives in children, jobs, husbands, money, or even health.
Motherhood? Jesus seems to say, It’s fine, but if you want real satisfaction, real love, real meaning, don’t be satisfied with a lesser good.
It would seem, says C.S. Lewis, that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition [or weight, or looks, or relationships, or career, or …] when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Ready for a holiday at the sea?
[As you probably noticed, I could find no paintings, no stained glass, no ancient manuscript illustrations, nothing on the story of this woman. I find that interesting … and sad. So I chose to show pictures of places Jesus walked and taught. We do not know the exact location this particular encounter happened, but hope you enjoy the pictures nonetheless.]
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>While Jesus was saying these things… Luke 11:27-28, NASB
>In a culture that taught a woman’s… Life Application Study Bible, New Living Translation. (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2004).
>Beware of a heart that takes good… Timothy Keller. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. (Hialeah, Florida: Dutton Press, 2009), p. xiv.
>When something besides Jesus… Timothy Keller. Ibid.
>If anything becomes… Timothy Keller. Ibid.
>It would seem… C.S. Lewis. The Weight of Glory. (New York: Harper Collins, 2009), p. 26.
Pictures in Order Presented:
>Sea of Galilee. Retrieved 5/8/20 from: https://pixabay.com/users/dozemode-2904399/
>Synagogue at Capernaum. National Geographic. Retrieved 5/8/20 from: https://blog.education.nationalgeographic.org/
>Ancient Roman Road in Galilee. Roman Road-Jesus Trail. Retrieved 5/8/20 from: https://jesustrail.com/hike-the-jesus-trail/points-of-interest/roman-road
>Jordan River. Inventory of Shared Water Resources in Western Asia. Chapter 6: Jordan River Basin. Retrieved 5/11/20 from: http://waterinventory.org/surface_water/jordan-river-basin
>Olives Close-up. Photographer unknown.
>Jerusalem. Picture taken by Esther Wechsler. Retrieved from: https://unsplash.com/s/photos/jerusalem