Sometimes joy arrives in the strangest of circumstances. It often comes from those deemed outcasts. It takes a conversation with a homeless veteran to remind us that we have heat blowing through vents in our homes. It takes our car breaking down for us to realize the joy of transportation. Gratitude often brings joy. At other times, it takes a person in a room that we do not want to be labeled as being seen with, like the woman with the alabaster box, to teach us about the oil of gladness for the spirit of mourning. The Pharisees rebuke Yeshua. “If this man (Yeshua) were a prophet He would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39, NASB). All the eyes in the room were on one woman who they deemed unworthy. They were so blind they could not see that the greatest prophet who ever lived was right there in their midst.
One night, years ago, before a conference with a pastor, a small group of those of us in ministry had gathered outside the sanctuary. We were all talking on couches when several others came and sat with us. Some who came for healing and prayers each week, had issues with mental health, trauma, and abuse. One was convinced he was the anti-Christ. Many, like him, were coming to these meetings for prayer, healing, and love. One night, a woman, who made the ministry team uncomfortable due to her beady eyes, strange sense of humor, and continuous mirth at all the wrong moments, sat across the way from me. We will call her Brenda. Brenda began to talk, tease, and chatter to the persons next to her. Brenda rode a public transit bus there and had some form of disability.
I glanced at her backpack on wheels with its Jesus stickers and hearts and pondered her idiosyncrasies. She had never married or had children. One by one, I watched people scurry away from her. Suddenly, they were in need of using the restroom or began to gather into another area by the coffee machine, but Abba whispered to me at that moment—”see her.” Tekoa, do you want to be with the elite? Love my sheep with all the love and even more than you have for these you are looking up to—these who are impressed by Biblical knowledge—these who have asked you to speak on Thursday night– because Tekoa, I am not impressed.” Heart conditions.
I, out of everyone there, should have understood. I was the child who was dragged down the hallway by my sister and the principal in the first year of my schooling–crying, gagging, and kicking as I went. I was the last one picked for sporting events in P.E. I was the shy pigeon-toed girl who sat at lunch in elementary school alone at times. Children were holding their noses at my smelly paper sack lunch with hard-boiled eggs that stank. Young children, and later teenagers, often were making fun of me. I learned to throw my food away on the way to elementary school. I was ganged in Middle school by a group of girls who beat my head into an aluminum fence so severely that I could not wash my hair for a week. I learned to disappear in a room. Now I was watching adults do what was done to me. They were treating her as if she were a ghost, invisible, and without worth.
I walked over and sat next to this woman created by my Father and began to make small talk. I eased into the chair and complimented Brenda’s colorful stickers adorning her travel case. I began to ask her things and smile. I looked deeper into her tiny eyes and imagined His eyes shining back at me. I tried to ignore that it was summer, and she was wearing thick tights the color of a 1990s hunter-green kitchen countertop, or that her paisley mauve dress looked dated from 1940, or how she cracked 3rd-grade jokes, laughing hysterically. And then I began to ask Brenda about her life—dreams—aspirations. Mostly what I remember is this woman in her 40s started crying buckets of tears. She began telling me about her pain. She had lost her father at an early age. As she opened her heart and began to share more, I realized she had experienced much heartache and anguish in her life. And underneath the strange mirth used to mask fears and awkward spaces was a soul that needed to be loved. What an honor it is to listen and love the broken, the strange, the misfits, the sick, the elderly and the ones no one sees or pretends not to see. There is joy in this type of ministry if we are obedient to the call. We help bear burdens, for we are told to do just that. “Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, NASB).
Friends, this is what the Body of Messiah needs. And at that moment, as I was sitting on the couch next to Brenda, I recognized that she could have been my mother, misunderstood at a Tupperware party attired in pink lipstick and eyeliner, in a room full of religious spirits. If we think it does not exist in our newfound Torah fellowship, our smiling Joel stadium, our small rural congregation, our shul, our synagogue, we might need to find a mirror. The lady with the piercing blue eyes and the hunter green stockings unfolded the sad details of her life articulately. Oh, how much childlike love she had for Abba. I felt smaller than small. I tried to imagine all the ones He created and shaped on His potter’s wheel that we ignore—angels unaware.
Sometimes we hurt–we judge–or we think we know what could come forth from another’s heart. These are the ones we have prayed will stop talking, stop speaking, stop praying, and fade into the background of our lives. The lepers are crying out. Can you hear them? They scream, “Son of David have mercy on me!” while the crowd tries to shut their mouths. “Have mercy,” they roar as we hurry to the other side of the street or the room, or worse, we pretend we do not hear them or see them at all.
Jesus replied and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he encountered robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went away leaving him half dead. And by coincidence a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was on a journey came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
–Luke 10:30-34, NASB
Another story from Matthew 15, reminds me of the outcast and broken. There was a Canaanite woman whose daughter was vexed with demons, and she was in great need, but what did Yeshua’s chosen men say at that time?
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came to Him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is miserably possessed by a demon.” But Jesus did not answer a word. So His disciples came and urged Him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”
–Matthew 15:21-23, NASB
She keeps laughing too loudly. She has dirty laundry. She is embarrassing. She is a Canaanite. I’m too tired. The healthy, chosen disciples, who one day would ponder which side–the right or the left–they could sit in His kingdom, had not yet acquired compassion or empathy for a Canaanite woman with a daughter who was demon-possessed. It was not their problem. Who cares if her daughter screams all night—hisses—put holes in the walls—wears green stockings–not our problem? “Send her away,” we cry! Can you hear my voice echoing from amongst Yeshua’s disciples? Can you hear yours? We, like them, wait to do what is right—what we know is right. We must picture them as someone’s son, someone’s daughter, mother, father, sister, brother, and possibly what we do for others will be poured back out on those we love. Those we are praying for daily.
Sometimes people with titles who are well known get better treatment, and we make sure to respond to them quickly. Sometimes cliques happen, and the people in them do not even know that they have formed a group of elites—big dogs. We can walk in a room and feel loved, cherished, and wanted, or we can walk in a room and feel like a square peg among a group of circles. We can walk in a room with new eyesight and compassion, but we usually do not acquire this change without being crushed, rejected, slandered, and unheard. We might not receive what the Father has for our hands to do If we are turning away instead of turning towards those in need. The place lacking an ounce of joy comes from our self-seeking, our arrogance, our knowledge without humility that lacks power. The joy of the Lord Adonai is our strength. Great joy comes from anointing the sick, listening to the outcast, and having empathy for those who suffer in silence. There is nothing more powerful than being chosen to pour oil on the Body of Messiah when we play a part in a person’s freedom, healing, and growth by making disciples and by feeding His sheep.
The leaders who pointed at the woman with the alabaster box while she anointed Yeshua proclaimed He was not a prophet, for if Yeshua were, He would see just what kind of woman she was. Friends, may we bow lowly at His Feet regardless of what those in the room are saying. May we minister to a broken world and His broken Body for this brings true joy. A King is coming, so we must work while we still have light. There is so much joy in caring for others and loving our neighbors as ourselves.
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- Why does joy seem to erupt when we minister to others?
- Have you ever felt unloved in a room full of people who proclaim His Name?
- Why does man look at the outward appearance? Education? Titles? How do these things affect our eyesight?
- Joy is not in things. Joy cannot be purchased. Name one of your most joyful memories that happened when you least expected it.
- If you were to define joy, how would you describe it?
If this chapter has blessed you and you would like to use this book in a group study, please get in touch with me if you’d like me to zoom in with your study group afterward.
Tekoa (Bonnie) Manning