Sometimes they don’t see that potential for themselves, though. Or if they do it’s too scary, or requires too much risk, or too much faith, and they aren’t willing to get uncomfortable to go there. One of my friends is “victorious,” but acts like a victim. One of my friends is “free” but remains in chains. Another is “mighty” but feels weak and won’t fight.
Jesus had such a gentle yet bold way of calling people what he saw them to be, not as they were. Time after time, he addressed them according to what they really were, whether they recognized it or not. Most times it was affirming and life-giving. Sometimes it was rebuking and correcting.
But it was always true.
In Matthew 9, there is a woman who has been unclean for 18 years…the bleeding woman. Because of her condition, she was considered dirty and untouchable. When she touched the edge of Jesus’ cloak and was healed, he turned to her. And he saw her and called her. “Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you” (9:22).
In ancient Greek, the word daughter is thygater, and means “daughter, by extension a term of endearment toward a woman, descendant.” He gave her a term of endearment. By calling her his descendant, he welcomed her into his family. He restored her to being touchable again. Despite her current circumstance of uncleanliness and discarded, he called her as he saw her. His own. She had a place and was valued.
In Luke 13, there was a woman who had been crippled for 18 years. She was bent over, could not fully straighten herself out and stand up. I’m sure if the disease itself didn’t keep her bent over, the shame would have. But Jesus, “saw her, he called her over, and said to her ‘Woman, you are freed from your disability'” (13:12). He called her Woman. Her disabled state I’m sure made her feel more like an animal, and I’m sure she was treated as one. Physical disabilities back then brought shame. But Jesus brought her esteem. He called her Woman, and gave her worth. She could walk again with her head held high.
In John 2, Jesus meets the Samaritan woman at the well. She had five husbands in the past, and was currently living with a man who was not her husband. She went to the well only at the noon hour, when everyone else was home and resting from the heat. Most women went to the well in the mornings and evenings to draw water, but she came alone when no one was there, probably to avoid the ridicule and name calling. Probably to avoid the stares and whispers.
But Jesus saw more.
He acknowledged her sin and gently rebuked her for it. But then. He said to her, “Woman” (4:21). He didn’t call her Adulterous Woman or Sinful Woman, just Woman. The Greek word for Woman used here and in Luke 13 is gyne, and can mean “woman, wife, dear woman, faithful to her husband, believing wife.”
In Matthew, the crippled woman is called Woman, because Jesus saw her as a dear and believing woman. In John, the Samaritan woman is called Woman, because he saw her as a dear woman, faithful to her husband. Even though she had not been, he saw that she could be.
And that is what he called her.
In Matthew 26, Jesus was in Gethsemane, praying and then talking to his disciples. Judas comes with a mob behind him, ready to take Jesus away. Judas comes up to Jesus and kisses him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do” (26:50).
Jesus knew Judas was going to betray him. He knew Judas was coming for him before he got there (26:46). But when Judas arrived, Jesus called him Friend. The Greek word is hetairos: “friend, comrade, companion.” Even though the current circumstances deemed Judas a betrayer and enemy, Jesus called him his comrade and companion. He loved him regardless.
I wonder if the people Jesus called realized what he was calling them; how these personal interactions with Jesus left those he called. I wonder if it made their spirits leap with excitement, their hearts overflow with joy. I wonder if in the moment he called them, they were overcome with emotion at the realization they aren’t called by their present circumstance, they are called by their hope and future. If months later, I wonder if they still clung to what he called them. I wonder if it was easier to disregard the taunts of others, because they knew who they were, and to whom they belonged.
I love that Jesus met them at their deepest need — the need they may not at times known they had — and called them the only thing that could fill that void completely. I’m sure even as Judas hanged himself, he heard Jesus’ voice calling, “Friend, friend, friend…” over and over in his mind.
I want to be called by Jesus. I want him to call me according to how he sees me to be, not how I see myself. And certainly not by my present circumstances. I want for my worth, importance and value to come from him. I wonder what he would call me, if I took the time to stop so he could see me. I wonder what he would call me if I was desperate enough to reach out to just touch his hem. I wonder what he would call me if I was broken in spirit, that would make me stand straight, head held high, no symptoms of disease left to show.
He calls me. He calls you. Not according to our roles, our circumstances or our past, but according to our future. He gives us value and worth, according to the vision of who we are going to be. He sees us using our talents and giftings in amazing ways, beyond what we are doing this moment. The key to unlocking it lies in our willingness to accept what he’s called us. To have that much faith, to take that risk of getting uncomfortable, is worth it all to be called Daughter, Woman and Friend.
Sometimes God gives me a glimpse of who someone is going to become, not who they are today. I’m able to see beyond where they are in this moment, and envision their future — full of hope and promise. I see them using their talents and giftings in amazing ways.
“He [Abraham] is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed–
the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were.”