Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming the good news. The twelve were with him, as well as some women … who provided for them out of their resources. – Luke 8:1-3 (NRSV)
If Jesus and his crew were on their own, they’d probably forget to eat. Or run out of money. But they’re not alone. Some women are with them, and the women provide.
That women were with Jesus on the road unsettles some people. It titillates others. Exactly how were they ‘with’ him? What exactly did they ‘provide’? Money? Yes. Meals? Probably. Um… Anything else?
Imagining answers to that question made The Da Vinci Code a sensation. But sleeping arrangements in Jesus’ entourage aren’t as interesting or consequential as this plain fact: the women attend to Jesus’ needs because, like all of us, he has them.
He needs to eat, trim his toenails, empty his bowels, clean gunk out of his ears, deal with his sex drive, belch, and sleep at night.
Nobody preaches about Jesus belching. The facts of his body are rarely the focus of our devotion. Which is a shame, and maybe a heresy in this world where getting your bodily needs fully met is a privilege reserved for the few.
A disembodied Jesus can’t credibly condemn crimes against the body. An un-needy Jesus offers little to people whose suffering bodies need constant care. Censoring talk of his bodily particulars reinforces the shame many people feel about their own. Downplaying his physical needs under-values bodily life and over-values spiritual life.
We don’t have spiritual lives. We have embodied lives. The women with Jesus get this. So while his body breathes, they care for it. And when he dies, they go with spices to the grave.
Blessed be your body, O Jesus, and all its needs. May we provide for them by providing for each other.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.