Lately, many of us have been learning about Nadia Murad, a Yazidi woman from Iraq who was kidnapped, raped, and kept as a sex slave by Islamic State. Recently she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her astonishing bravery in talking about her experience, and bringing attention to the plight of innumerable others, suffering in obscurity. Gradually, the world is awakening to the scale and horror of sexual violence, and not just in war.
How appropriate, then, that this week we start the story of Esther, a queen in name, in practice no more than a toy, subject to the whims of a self-indulgent despot. This week we’ll be introduced to a world of lust, ambition, and violence. This is a world in which a woman who spurns her husband once must be completely disgraced, so as to maintain the power of all men over their wives. A world in which one man’s injured vanity makes him want to destroy an entire nation. In the first half of Esther, everything gets worse and worse. We’ll see just a glimmer of the hope to come, towards the end of the week.
In John, too, things are about to take a turn for the worse. We have the last of the ministry of signs, the entry into Jerusalem, and Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” at the last supper. Esther is famously short on theological reflection. In John, on the other hand, there is so much we can hardly scratch the surface here. In both, though, we have impending trouble, and the promise of hope.
1) “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). Esther risks her life to save her people. What risks is God calling you to take, with confidence in his promise?
2) “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” (John 14:6). What truths about violence and injustice in the world do you need to tell?
3) “I am the Vine, you are the branches” (John 15:5). Like Esther, our fate is tied to God and his people. What does that mean in practice in your life today?