While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ But he said, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!’
‘While he was saying this’ refers to a rebuke Jesus is giving to people who try to spin and twist the story of his healing a man (who could not speak), by suggesting that Jesus casts out demons by the power of stronger demons. At the end of this rebuke, a woman tries to offer Jesus and his family praise by blessing his mother. Jesus’ response is that it would be a greater blessing all round, if folk simply got on with obeying God’s word.
I hear his words as frustration spoken through gritted teeth to everyone present. Frustration that through him God has just freely transformed the life of a man who could not speak, (they should be glorifying God!)…yet some take this as an opportunity to twist and pervert Jesus’ intention and ability, while another focuses honour on Jesus’ family. Jesus is not interested in the spins of shame or glory about himself, he just wants folk to get on with obeying the word of God; in this instance to get on with healing and setting people free.
I am reminded of the story of the temptation in the wilderness where Jesus is offered all authority and glory of the Kingdoms of the earth if only he will bow down and worship the devil, but Jesus recognises that his life is not about glorifying his own image and prestige, it is about glorifying God. God is glorified and the earth is blessed when humans are less concerned with how they are perceived and more active in obeying God’s word and enabling God’s freedom and wholeness for all life.
Holy One, in each encounter and action I face today may I hear and obey your Word to find freedom and wholeness for all life. Help me not to be persuaded or distracted by notions of shame or self glory but to focus on, and celebrate, the abundant life you bring. Amen
The Rev’d Fiona Bennett minister at Augustine United Church Edinburgh