What Exactly Was Jesus’ Relationship With Prostitutes…?
“Christians need to decide if Jesus had genitals, and if so, whether he used them.”
Have you ever wondered what kind of social life Jesus had…? I haven’t really thought about it too much because, well, when I hear “social life” I think of a life apart from your job.
Jesus was a carpenter, apart from his carpentry, what we read about in the four canonical gospels, that is His “social life.” (i.e. His life apart from His job).
Of course, we love to mythologize and expound upon what has mostly been motivated out of conjecture and day-dreaming (e.g. The idea of Him being married to Mary Magdalene, etc.). Some of it’s fun; while other parts of this form of conjecture can be quite dangerously damaging.
There’s very little about our popularized sexual ethic that’s biblical.
But what many of us fail to see is how our American version of Jesus is more of a myth than a loving Jesus who happened to be sexually active.
(I know, take a moment to process that…) It takes most of us a moment because we’ve inadvertently been taught pre-marital sexual activity is somehow unloving.
Just using the four canonical gospels as my reference two things are seemingly incontrovertibly clear:
- He had a liberal view of the Torah and,
- He had an affinity for the “prostitute.
So, really, it’s not a question as to whether or not Jesus had an affinity for prostitutes (He did); it’s a question of what type of relationship he had with these prostitutes.
But, First… Why Was Jesus Around Prostitutes In the First Place?
The fact that this is even a question a vast majority of us are asking eludes to the bigger problem; that being, assuming the best, there is this social hierarchy that has impacted our way of thinking; at least to now question why Jesus would hang out with women engaging in what our society has deemed “sexually immoral.”
The religious elite, ironically similar to today, considered these women to be unclean – little has changed as our modernized version of deeming one unclean is seen through things that have been labeled as “slut-shaming,” negatively using homosexual labels as degrading terminology… etc.
In the words of Nietzsche, “Christianity is a protest against the merciless mechanism of selection in this world.” Understanding the irony, Jesus’ mission was one in which was just this; He pointed towards an upside-down Kingdom.
Swinging it back around, this is exactly why He hung out with “prostitutes” in the first place. Furthermore, this is exactly why He had zero issue with Himself (Jesus Christ) showing and receiving public physical affection with a woman known as a prostitute throughout the city (Luke 7).
His actions being made so very public in front of the religious elite were absolutely done with a motive; as they were prophetically symbolic; intentionally hyperbolic; purposely offensive; all of which, taking note from OT prophets such as Isaiah (running naked for three years [Isaiah 20]) or Hosea (marrying a “prostitute” or “adulteress” [Hosea 3]).
“People often get upset when you teach them what is in the Bible rather than what they presume is in the Bible.”
– N.T. Wright
We think of “transcendence” as this lofty metaphysical idea only monks could achieve; looking through the life of Christ, we see this type of transcendence as being tangibly practical. His physical presence and very willingness to dine with sinners, be massaged by a prostitute, and heal the sick… this was his radical and very transcendent way of shattering the boundaries in which excluded, reduced, and dehumanized these people defining them either by their actions or their illnesses.
Jesus would despise our westernized sexual ethic just as much as He despised the pharisaical piety of His day…
Positioning sex as an unmitigated moral qualm gives way to creating a social stratum that leverages sex as a means of power. (Which, contextualizing this for today, this is exactly how the GOP has been able to legislate a hateful “morality” pitted against LGBTQ, and yes, even women at large…)
Jesus saw the violence inflicted and justified through this ethic; this ethic that was weighted so heavily on demonizing sex – particularly it’s negative and very oppressive effects imposed upon both men and women.
Putting it plainly: His message seemed to be consistent; consistent, in that love always went before the law.
He seemed to adamantly press against the “law” when it’s oppressive effects became glaringly obvious; which, this is extremely different from His trying to abolish the law.
It is then used for the opposite purpose of integration. The tax collectors, the “sinners,” the lepers, and yes the prostitutes… they were all separated because of this type of morality.
And, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.’” – Matthew 21:31 (NIV)
I’m left wondering… with all of this being considered, how does this affect our modern day Church? Is there a difference between a prophet and a pastor? Do these two have to be mutually exclusive? Is there not a prophetic undertone to the apostolic’s mission? And, lastly, what then would be a radically hyperbolic prophetic way of living Jesus would make today?
I’m also already hearing echoes of toxic well-intentioned sentiments saying, “Jesus loved the sinner! He just wants us to hate the sin.”
No… just no.