Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Big Faith in Small Ways

There are a couple of stories of women told in the Gospels that we ought to pay close attention to. (We ought to pay close attention to every story in the Gospels that is told, but these two stand out for a very notable reason.) They are the stories of the widow who put two cents in the collection box and the story of the woman who broke the expensive bottle of perfume and washed Jesus's feet with her hair. 

We first have to recognize that we're talking about women here. We're talking about second-class citizens, if you could even call them that. Women were property in this time, and a woman who was not claimed as a man's property was worth even less than that. Men were not to associate with women outside of their own families, except for an initial courtship, and we know how scandalous it was that Jesus even spoke to the woman at the well in Samaria. Much has been preached on that. Much has been preached on the fact that it was women who first went to the tomb. We understand well by this point what it means to have women in the story of Jesus at all. 

And these two stories in particular have so little to do with Jesus, especially the story about the widow and her two cents. Jesus didn't do anything in them. He didn't do anything normal, and He didn't do anything miraculous or spectacular. He was just there. He was just noticing what we going on around Him. He wasn't proclaiming any truths or ushering in any kingdom or teaching any lesson. 

Now, you'd think that if you were going to tell the story of Jesus, you'd want to talk about the things that He did. And there were plenty of those things to talk about. John tells us at the end of his gospel that if you could fill the world with books, it still wouldn't hold everything he could say about Jesus and his time with the Messiah. And yet, in the few short chapters that each of these men took, they keep telling us about these women. 

Because Jesus told them to.

What Jesus says about these women is that their stories will be told everywhere that His story is. He tells His disciples that what these women have done is important. He tells them to take notes and remember this moment because it is essential to the telling of His story. 

But then, He says something curious. He says the stories of these women will be told "in remembrance of them." Read that again. Jesus wants their stories told in remembrance of them, not of Him. 

Jesus wants their stories told with His story. In His story. When you tell His story, you have to tell theirs, too. 

Which means that no only did Jesus recognize and praise these women, but He convinced His disciples that they were worth recognizing and praising, as well. So the question is - is this a story about them or is it a story about Him?

Certainly, it shows us that Jesus recognizes big faith exercised in small ways. That He notices the little things that we do that don't seem to make a lot of sense or that can often go unnoticed by the world. If He hadn't mentioned it, the disciples wouldn't have even noticed a hunched-over old widow putting two cents into the collection box. Judas might even have commented about how she was taking too long, how she was holding up the line, how others had more to put in and she ought to move out of their way. (That was just who Judas was.) The disciples probably sat with Jesus in that temple for hours, looking around and not knowing what they were looking for until Jesus told them. Until He drew their eyes to something. 

And what He drew their eyes to was not His story, but someone else's. Someone marginalized. Someone on the outskirts. Someone they wouldn't notice at all if He hadn't pointed her out. Not only does He draw their eyes to her, He tells them she's important. So important that His story cannot be told without hers. 

That's why we know about this widow two thousand years later. 

The truth is that Jesus keeps saying the same thing today. Jesus has His eyes open to the world, and He's always trying to show us the stuff we're prone to miss. He's always trying to get us to see more than we'd notice on our own. He's always trying to remind us to look around and see one another, really see one another. Because His story cannot be told without theirs. 

Which means we ought to always be learning more about Jesus from those around us, from those created in His image who are living big faith in small ways every day. Honestly, who notices two cents? Who pays attention to a sinful woman making yet another spectacle of herself? Ho-hum. A dime a dozen. Whatever it is. Our world has taught us to look away, that if we don't make a thing about it, no one else will, either. 

But Jesus says...make a thing about it. Take notice. Start telling their stories. At the very least, start noticing them. Because our human stories reveal something about Him. Our human stories show something that we can't afford to miss. His story cannot be told without ours, all of ours, no matter how small or shameful we think they are. Because His story is a story of big faith. Big, big faith. 

And ours are the stories of all the small ways we live it. 

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