What does an empowered faith community look like? An often overlooked example is a brief description in Luke’s Gospel, which immediately follows the story of the unnamed woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair (7: 36-50). Her action is an example of genuine hospitality in comparison to that of Simon the owner of the house who has not even extended to Jesus the customary hospitality given to guests.
Mihee Kim-Kort, writing in The Christian Century, says that “[we] often forget the women. Do you see this woman? The way she throws off cultural expectations and norms by giving fully of herself in the moment? What if our hospitality were rooted in this kind of love and fearless intimacy, a reckless abandonment that allows for the giving and receiving of salvation and wholeness?”
In response, Jesus assures her that she has received God’s forgiveness and peace. Absorbing that realization had to be powerfully liberating, yet the woman needed a new and different community to live a truly empowered life. That’s why I love the way Luke’s Gospel gives us this glimpse of a liberated community of women and men working together (8: 1-3). This is the antidote to the chauvinism of a man like Simon whose prejudices keep him from seeing the woman for who she is.
That courageous woman’s loving act has given Jesus new energy as he now continues his mission of “proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.” We will want to especially notice who is traveling with him. All have been freed from the personal demons that had previously tormented them.
There’s now a whole cohort of liberated women alongside the twelve disciples. I’m sure the unnamed woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears was among them. Notice that these were empowered women—not rescued women still beholden to others. The group included many who were supporting the Jesus movement with their personal resources. Such inclusive, empowered community is the genius of Jesus and his band of disciples.