Did Jesus have a wife? It’s become quite a meme in the last week, since a tiny scrap of ancient papyrus showed up with the words, “Jesus said, my wife…..” Let’s assume he did have a wife, and ask the question, “What would Jesus wife say?” Here are some of the funnier possibilities I’ve read in the last week.
Honey, could you turn me a glass of wine?
What do you mean you don’t know what day or hour you’ll be coming back?
I think 40 days in the wilderness is long enough. Let’s get the map out.
She would end all their arguments by saying, “well, I’m sorry we can’t all be perfect like you!”
You can feed the masses, but heaven forbid you fix dinner once in a while.
I don’t care if you were born in a barn, close that door!
You can raise Lazarus from the dead! How about lowering the toilet seat?
You have to stop ending every meal with ‘one of you will betray me’ – you’re scaring the kids.
You don’t need to sit there and watch the game all afternoon – you already know who wins!
You disappear for three days, and THAT’S your story!
It’s fun to imagine. But does it really matter if Jesus had a wife or not? On the one hand, YES! It affirms women and humanity and relationships. People seen as heroes by millions experience all the same joys and struggles that we ALL face. This is empowering, not to mention that it will hopefully open up a long closed conversation about celibacy.
On the other hand, NO! We don’t need to have our efforts to live our best lives validated by anyone outside of us. If humanity and relationships are important, let them be important because of deep seated intrinsic value and not because someone or some tradition told you to value them.
Still, it’s good to even have the possibility of Jesus being married out in the open. Even the discussion is healthy. We could do with less “religion as an escape from life”. Life is supposed to be celebrated and lived fully, not feared and avoided. It’s like the old story about the monks working on ancient manuscripts.
A new monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to help the other monks in the basement of the monastery, comparing and copying old texts by hand. Hours into his first shift, the other monks see him quietly sobbing the corner. They ask what’s wrong.
He points to the manuscript. “The word is celebrate not celibate.”
D’oh! (Cue the sound of monks slapping bald heads)
I respect the right of anyone to be celibate, if it feels authentic to them. But I don’t respect institutions forcing people to be celibate because they believe Jesus wasn’t married, or whatever other economic reason is really behind this practice. Spirituality is not about being otherworldly and detached. It’s about experiencing everything with awareness and compassion; being present and fully engaged in ALL parts of life.
The idea of Jesus being married may just be another opportunity for religion to close ranks. I remember when I was starting out in the mainstream church as a 23 year old, being in a discussion group about the resurrection. After some people shared thoughts, I naively dropped this bomb shell into the conversation- “If someone found a bag of bones somewhere in the Middle East and it could be shown conclusively to be the remains of Jesus, I wouldn’t even miss breakfast. It wouldn’t make any difference to me.” A dark silent cloud descended on the group. Within hours I got a call from the Bishop. He said, “I hear that you don’t believe in the resurrection.” I said, “It’s not so much that I do or don’t believe in the resurrection. I just don’t think it matters a whole lot in the scheme of things.” He wasn’t impressed!
I made an independent decision around that time that the path mapped out for me by the church was too narrow, too small, too restrictive, too otherworldly; in short, not me. Then I had a choice; find another path or blaze my own trail. It took a couple of years, but I made the choice to blaze a trail.
I believe this is at the heart of the trend towards being spiritual but not religious; spiritual trail blazing. So many people find their lives uplifted and empowered by non dogmatic practices like yoga and meditation. They read widely, mix in diverse company and feel no need to sign up for institutional religion.
Like the recent revelations that Mother Theresa had dark doubts, this recent meme that Jesus was married is an encouragement to me to live more fully.
When I think about the story of Jesus, married or not, I think of someone who was living the truth that life is beautiful and every person and every experience contains some golden nugget of truth.
Every now and again, a little spark of awareness awakens in each of us. It comes at odd moments, sometimes with thoughts, sometimes in relationships, doing yoga or hiking in nature, but also in spontaneous moments of new awareness. As more and more people have more and more moments of waking up to their true essence, the world becomes a more peaceful place.
Religion is one place that this awakening happens, but it’s not the only place. For many people, it doesn’t happen in religion anymore because religion has failed to move with the times and embrace life as it is. If one religion or another still gets the job done for you, that’s great. If not, or if like me you don’t want to be limited to one perspective alone, then look to the life in front of you for inspiration. It’s all there, all around you, all inside of you, all at your feet. As Franz Kafka wrote,
You need not do anything.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait,
just learn to be quiet, still and solitary.
And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.