In Jesus’ time, there was little regard for women. The traditions and laws of the Jews were extremely hard on them. Women were allowed to be in the Outer Court of the temple, so they could see and hear what was happening in politics of the day. They also were allowed to listen to various teachers who came to speak. Still, they were considered second class citizens and were often harshly judged and sentenced. When Jesus came on the scene, that all changed. The Supreme Court of that time was the Sanhedrin. It consisted of 71 elders, who were also rabbis. The number itself was symbolic – reminiscent of the 70 helpers Moses called while in the wilderness and himself added up to 71. They would try all cases involving the king, crimes of the high priest and crimes done by entire tribes. They did not possess the ability to execute criminals. That was up to the state. This is why Jesus had to appear before Pontius Pilate and Herod, the King. The story today is fictional, but could have happened and is applicable to women in our own culture who feel oppressed or unworthy. To Jesus, we all have value.
MARTHA – DAUGHTER OF MERCHANT OF SPICES & ANOINTING & HEALING OILS
It was another hot day in Jerusalem. We’d traveled for days in the heat to get there in time for our biggest sale day of the year. The Passover brought customers from many towns in the area and also some from far away places. I hoped the ointments and oils would survive the intense weather.
As we set out our wares in the Outer Court, my eyes remained focused on the beautiful brass gate that led into the area. It glowed in the morning sun. This was the temple built by Herod when Solomon’s temple had undergone destruction over many oppressing armies. It wasn’t nearly as beautiful as the original – which had been designed by God Himself. My father scolded me for daydreaming. He pointed me to the work at hand. I spread a woolen rug across our display table and gently placed the small tubs of fine spices from all parts of the world. The aroma was intoxicating. Then came the ointments for healing. These Hebrew men would be in need of healing their parched skin from days in the desert. The oils would help keep insects from invading hair and beards. We were there to provide a service to these people and as my father would say, “Make hay while the sun shines.”
My ears were opened to all sorts of conversations. There was the political talk of the day. The people were obviously tired of being oppressed by the Romans, but it seemed to be a way of life for the Jews. Being enslaved as a nation was common in their history. There was talk a messiah – a king who would come soon to defeat the Romans and make them a great nation again. There was the giddy laughter of children as they played in the streets. Women gathered and chattered about the latest engagement or newborn child. I also heard talk among the temple guard. Apparently there was a man named Jesus, who was stirring up the crowds. He could’ve been accused of insurrection or treason. Still he was allowed to speak, as were those who came before Him.
As I gently dusted desert sand off the containers, He came into the Outer Court. His disciples were with Him. One, named Judas, stood off to the side and eventually was joined by two members of the Sanhedrin. It didn’t seem unusual. Perhaps Judas was offering a bribe so that Jesus could speak without interruption.
Jesus was just an ordinary man. In fact, He wasn’t much to look at, but He exhibited the strength of ten men as he overturned the tables. His voice was filled with rage as He accused the merchants of defacing the temple. When he came to our display, I feared the cost of all those expensive items and how much money my father would lose. Jesus turned His eyes to me. It was as if He was saying He had need of these things. He then moved on to another table.
Voices rose up from the leaders of the church. Small groups of them gathered and seemed to be plotting how to get rid of this fanatic who was destroying their business. One merchant said it would take years to replace his wares. Another complained that this had always been the best place for him to make a living. He wouldn’t be back again. It was the second time Jesus attacked the marketplace of the temple. Something had to be done. The wheels were being set in motion and by the end of the week an ugly trial would take place.
I will never forget the look in His eyes as He approached our table. He was compassionate under all that rage. He was reaching out to me – a woman – as He passed us by. I could tell He was a king, but not the kind that was expected. He was a righteous king – a kind king – a forgiving king – a king who wanted to dwell with His people – a king who would die for them – even me.