The Bachelor Jesus

by Jenny Klouse, Visiting Student

Spiderman has been wary about entering into a romantic relationship.  If Peter Parker declares his love for Mary Jane, will she be in danger from Spiderman’s enemies?  Would being in a relationship distract him from protecting New York City from bad guys?  Some scholars propose similarly for why Jesus didn’t marry.  He knew the life he was to lead receiving ridicule from those around him and the death he was to have, so it was best not to put his bride in harm’s way.  He knew he was sent to earth to usher in the kingdom of God, so it was best to be focused on his mission.  I wonder, though, if there was something deeper and more profound to Jesus’ decision not to marry besides the romantic martyrdom of a superhero.  Could Jesus’ decision not to marry have more to do with the application of the kingdom rather than with protection of the kingdom?

In a culture where a woman’s worth was in the home – married and producing children, Jesus was radical to honor women for engagement outside the home.  Jesus received financial support from women (Luke 8:2-3), affirmed the learning posture of Mary even though she was in a typically male disciple position of sitting at the rabbi’s feet (Luke 10:42), and appointed Mary Magdalene to be the first witness of his resurrection (John 20:18).  I wonder if Jesus did not marry in order to show that a woman’s worth was not dependent on having a husband, that quite possibly there was more to a woman than providing pleasure and producing heirs for a man.

In Luke 11:27-28, as Jesus was teaching, a woman exclaimed, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”  To which Jesus replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  Instead of affirming the culture’s role of women, Jesus changed the recipient of the blessing – to all who hear and obey the word of God.  Women and men would be blessed through the same standard: being involved in the mission of the kingdom.  Single, widowed, childless: these role-less women in culture would not be left out of a role in His kingdom.  If Jesus had married, he would have followed cultural tradition, possibly displaying that a woman only had worth through a man – a twisting of God’s value for mutual submission in marriage.  Jesus had to be single for the full effect of the kingdom’s values to be experienced by women and men.  In defying tradition, Jesus showed a new way of interacting with women – as partners in the kingdom.  Men and women could work alongside each other in mutual partnership.  This is a new paradigm for community and family that honors the unique contributions of men and women to the kingdom.

By not marrying, Jesus actually flipped the superhero image on its head.  He declared his love for his bride and invited her into the dangerous mission of the kingdom with him.

by Jenny Klouse, Visiting Student