It seems to be part of every society or social relationship that we have set conventions of how each person should act or be in each situation. Those standards may be different depending on where you are even if it is the same people involved. When Jesus was walking around on this earth one of the biggest challenges he faced was acceptance with the religious leaders of the time. They had very definite standards about who should do what, when and how. Rabbi’s were men who had been trained by other Rabbi’s and who would fit neatly into different schools of thought. It was natural for those trained to be leaders among the priest, Levites, or part of the Sanhedrin to keep themselves apart from the riffraff of society. They had clear parameters on what they could do and even their conduct around women and even children. They certainly didn’t want any contact with Samaritans. They didn’t even fit into normal relationships. Any good Rabbi would know to have nothing to do with tax collectors. They were traitors to the country because they worked for the Romans and often cheated their fellow Jews. Yet Jesus didn’t buy into any of their conventional way of seeing things.
Among his chosen apostles was Matthew, the tax collector, who wrote the very first of the gospel accounts about Jesus that we read when we open the New Testament. Who would ever have dreamed of picking Matthew from a huge crowd of disciples to turn into one of the leaders of your new movement to change the world? Jesus chose him right from the tax table. He found him at his work station and offered the challenge “Follow Me.” Matthew followed and was a loyal follower for the remainder of his life. I strongly suspect that some of the rabbis just about blew a cork when Matthew threw a party, inviting all those fellow tax collectors he knew and invited Jesus and the other apostles and they came. “What is your teacher doing eating with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus wasn’t staying in his place. Rabbis didn’t hang around with people like tax collectors. But Jesus laid down a whole different principle to use when he said it isn’t the ones who are well who need a doctor but the ones who are sick. “I didn’t come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus was even more pushing the boundaries when he and the disciples were going from Judea to Galilee and instead of taking the long way around to keep from going through Samaria, he took the shorter route, going through Samaria. They came to Jacob’s well outside the Samaritan town of Sychar. Jesus was tired and sat down by the well while the twelve went to town to purchase some food. As he rested a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Even though the custom was for the women to come in groups to draw water, she came alone. Jesus shocked her and would have shocked any of the Jewish leaders if they had been there even more. He asked the woman for a drink. She couldn’t believe it. “What are you a Jew doing asking me a Samaritan woman for a drink?” It was completely out of place. Jewish men didn’t do that especially not ones who were spiritual leadres. But He did it anyway. “If you knew who I was you would ask me for a drink and I would give you living water.” Now she was sure puzzled. Where are you going to get this living water? You don’t even have a bucket. Jesus told her that the water she was drawing would quench her thirst for a little while and then she would need another drink but the water he would give would quench your thirst so that you never needed to drink again. She certainly wanted that water. it would save her all kind of trouble. Jesus said, “Go call your husband.” She said, “I don’t have a husband.” He said, “You told the truth about that. You’ve had five husbands and the man you now have isn’t your husband at all.” Can you imagine what went through her mind then? “How does he know that?” “Are you some kind of mind reader or prophet or something?” “Hey, I’ve got a religious question for you. Our fathers say we should worship here in this mountain but you Jews say that Jerusalem is the right place. Which is it?” Jesus told her that Jerusalem was the place now but the hour was coming and was there when it wouldn’t matter about where a person worshiped. “True worshipers worship the Father in spirit and in truth. God is looking for those true worshipers.” She declared, “I know the messiah is coming.” Jesus told her clearly that he was the messiah. As the apostles began arriving back she excitedly left her bucket and headed back to town to tell the whole crowd “Come see a man who told me all things that I’ve ever done. Could this be the Christ?” They came and heard and many became believers in him. What if Jesus had stayed in his place? The woman wouldn’t have heard the gospel, wouldn’t have changed her life, wouldn’t have become his witness to the town and the people in the town wouldn’t have become his followers. Thank God he didn’t stay in his place.
In that day a woman’s place was in the home, in a place of service. If men came into the house she was to be about serving them and allow the men to sit and discuss matters of importance in life. Jesus came to Bethany outside Jerusalem. There a woman named Martha invited Jesus and the apostles to come to her home to visit and eat. As they sat down, Martha busied herself in preparing to serve them, but Mary her sister went into the room with Jesus and the twelve and sat right down with the men to listen as Jesus taught them about the gospel. Martha didn’t appreciate it bit. That wasn’t Mary’s place. Women should be serving and let the men study God’s word together. She went into the room frustrated, at Mary and seeking Jesus help. “I’m serving all alone. Tell Mary to get up and do her part.” “Martha, Martha you are troubled over many things and only one is needed. Mary has chosen the good part and I won’t take it away from her.” Mary was completely out of place and Jesus said it was good. Later when Jesus came back to their house after having raised Lazarus from the dead, he was again eating a meal with them and Martha was busy serving. Mary again broke convention and came to Jesus with an alabaster jar full of precious perfume. She broke the flask to the jar and poured the entire content on Jesus, anointing him for the burial that would soon come to him. It was out of place. Even the apostles were frustrated with her and began to criticize her actions. They declared she had wasted this valuable purfume. It could have been sold for a years wages and the money given to the poor. But Jesus told them to stop with the critcism. She had done a good deed anointing him for his burial. He said, it was such a great thing that she had done what she could and wherever the gospel was preached the story of her actions would be told.
When Jesus was traveling about preaching the gospel of the coming kingdom, he broke their rules in so many ways, including not observing the Sabbath as they thought he should, not fasting as they understood it, and not doing the ceremonial washings as he should. But I suspect it was his relationship with women disciples that was most troubling to many. In Luke 8:1-4 it says he was traveling from town to town preaching the kingdom. “The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household,; Susanna; and man others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.” This was a scandal waiting to happen. What do you think the gossip was as these women walked around with Jesus and the twelve teaching others? That just wasn’t their place. But it didn’t seem to bother Jesus. Even that was topped though, when Jesus died on the cross, was buried and on the third day rose again. It was one of those same women to whom he first appeared and told her to go back and tell Peter and the other apostles that Jesus had been raised and was going before them into Galilee. Surely both Jesus and Mary Magdalene knew it wasn’t a woman’s place to be the witness of his resurrection. But he just didn’t seem real concerned about either staying in his place oo making others stay in theirs.
I wonder if we may be too concerned about keeping folks in their place.