S. F. R. J. (Thoughts & Reflections) Chp 1: Joining Mary at the Feet of Jesus

Just so you know, the initials S.F.R.J stands for ‘Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus‘. So the time you see these initials you will know that these particular posts are ongoing discussions, reflections and thoughts on that particular book. This chapter sets the frame on two Jewish understandings on the use of these sentences ‘sitting at his feet’ as well as ‘anointing’ (in this case Mary anointing Jesus). Using these two examples, the authors are communicating to us the importance of studying Jesus in his Jewish context. It is interesting for them to use Mary to open up the pathway of following this rabbi named Jesus and subsequently framing the depiction of discipleship to Jesus the Messiah in the two sentences I mentioned above. Take ‘sitting at his feet’ for example: “If we were first-century visitors, we would have recognized the significance of something else in that story. It was customary for rabbis to sit on low pillows or chairs while they were teaching. Their disciples would sit on the ground or on mats around them. That’s how the phrase “sit at his feet” became and idiom of for learning from a rabbi…So when Mary was described as “sitting at Jesus’ feet”, she was being described as a disciple.” (14) Without the Jewish understanding of this particular sentence ‘sit at his feet’ we miss something profound and essential. A simple understanding would just depict Mary as an avid listener or willing to hear Jesus teach. These understandings might be right but coupled with Jewish eyes, the words that were once simplistic and had some sort of mundane imagery turns into a rather enlightened portrayal; discipleship. …as well as ‘anointing’: “By anointing him (Jesus) with expensive fragrances, Mary may well have been making a statement about who she believed Jesus was, proclaiming him as Messiah.” (16) Anointing was clearly framed to Jews on occasions where kings and priest were put into office. It is interesting to observe that the authors link Jesus’ riding the donkey and his anointing in parallel with Solomon’s episode in 1 Kings 1:38-40. It is explained that the fragrance of Jesus being anointed by Mary would have lasted for days and that his fragrance was surely evident wherever he went. Jesus smelled like royalty. (18) These depictions are fascinating because without cultural background of first-century Judaism, these insights would never have popped up to the imagination. Something that the authors were able to convince us at the beginning of the chapter is that there is a growing need of reading and understanding scripture in the light of its first-century background. Thinking through this chapter arouses my curiosity back again to the gospels and the deconstruction of what we have always thought certain passages meant. There is a list of the online conversation discussing the book. Click here to see the other blogs that are discussing about the book!

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