The Night Jesus Called His Disciples a Bunch of Women

There is a desire in each of us to live as best we can. I think it is innate, designed into us. It’s a desire that Jesus said he came to fulfill.

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10.)

A full life sounds wonderful, right? Jesus showed that this fullness is in the love he has for us, and he displayed it in some startling ways, like washing the feet of the people who were supposed to instead be serving him. We’re told he did this because

Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. (John 13:1.)

To the end? But we want to share full lives forever with those we love and who love us.

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Christ Taking Leave of the Apostles ca. 1308-1311 (Wikipedia)

It’s a good thing Jesus promised that his leaving was only temporary.

My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:2-3.)

The really interesting thing about that last passage is how his friends would have understood it. Jesus was talking about Jewish marriage traditions, what a Jewish groom would do for his bride after their betrothal. He’d go home and spend up to a year preparing a place for his wife, whether it required an addition built onto his father’s house or something less involved. After he finished, he’d return for the wedding. That would last week or so, and then the groom would take the bride to live with him in his father’s house forever.

Marten de Vos, The Wedding at Cana ca. 1596-1597 (Wikipedia)

Jesus’ friends – all men in that John 14 conversation – would have understood what he was saying. He was saying that he was the groom and they were the bride. I’m not sure how that sat with them initially, that they were a bunch of women in this story. Yet when you think of all he’d told them, it probably ended up sounding good even to men steeped in a patriarchal society where women were far lower down the social scale than men. After all, Jesus had said a lot of audacious things and he came through on all of them. He was worth trusting.

I can even imagine John, who was there that night leaning right up against Jesus, might have smiled as he recalled the scene when adding it to his gospel of the life of Christ. What better than to be betrothed to the Son of God.


[My thanks to Darrell Johnson for his lectures on the Upper Room Discourse, which included insights on 1st Century wedding practices.]


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13 Responses to The Night Jesus Called His Disciples a Bunch of Women

  1. This passage was the sermon during my church services yesterday. I have heard this passage taught many times in my life, but usually relating to how we will be given a mansion in heaven (a very selfish perspective as I thought about it).

    Never have I had the explanation about how the passage was rich with wording associated to a Jewish wedding. I was completely taken back to have this passage illuminated under this light and see how the Groom told them he was getting ready to pay the dowry on the cross.

    Thanks for sharing this insight!

  2. Wow, so interesting, Tim. This passage was the one the pastor chose to use for my mom’s funeral. I’ve always loved the passage, but this analysis adds to its richness — and is yet another reason why it’s so helpful to know background and context for Scripture, though some preachers might argue that “just reading it” is enough…. 🙂

  3. I love this perspective, Tim. Thank you for writing about it! I would pair it with the passage in John in which Jesus calls his disciples a bunch of *laboring* women!

    “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:21–22)

    We are all in childbirth as we wait for Jesus to come. 🙂

  4. Mary Anne says:

    I suppose this also applies to parables like the wise and foolish bridesmaids, because you might not be exactly sure when the Bridegroom was coming–so keep an eye out! Those must be some mansions He’s getting ready for us. *sigh* Sometimes I wish I could see them RIGHT NOW, especially when life’s throwing stuff at us . . .

    • Tim says:

      The bridesmaids and their oil is another way to look at it. And again Jesus told his male followers to put themselves in the mindset of women.

  5. shimosi says:

    I’m not sure how shocking this would have been to a group of Jewish men who were steeped in the metaphor of God as husband and Israel as wife. Nonetheless it would have made that metaphor more intensely personal to them.

    • Tim says:

      I wondered the same, Shimosi. They’d heard for centuries that Israel is a beloved if wandering bride. It’s the intensely personal nature of Jesus’ words that strikes me.

  6. G&TandENT says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Tim, it’s very interesting. I love the insight we can get by looking at the context of the society Jesus lived in and him being a 1st century Jew. Have you read either of Lois Tverberg’s books about Jesus’ teachings in the light of his being Jewish? I’m just reading ‘Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus’ at the moment and it’s fascinating. Highly recommend it!

    • Tim says:

      I read both of her books on what life was like when and where Jesus lived and as you say they are fascinating. Context helps much. Another book that helped me understand context a lot is A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23. Have you ever seen that one? Each part of the psalm is covered as the author – a shepherd – talks about sheep and sheep herding.

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