Let us pray: In the name of the One who waded in the waters of Miryam’s womb, walked the way of suffering as one of the woman-born, and woke from the grasp of death in the deep darkness of the morning. Amen.
It’s good to be king. Power, wealth, control, fear, obedience, and wine, women and song. An ethical pass from the moral and legal codes of your people. At least in theory. In reality, monarchy is steeped in treachery and treason, murder and mayhem, conquest and colonization, rebellion and revolution. And this is the language some folk want to use for God. But that is yesterday’s lecture [at McMurry University].
In spite of having fought and won a vicious and bloody war against the tyranny of monarchy, Americans have always been captivated by its glittering splendor. Stories of ordinary young women romancing the throne have filled our heads and for some, their hearts and hopes. The transformations of the actress Grace Kelly to Princess of Monaco and of Lisa Halaby to Queen Noor of Jordan delighted and inspired many. But then there were the troubling stories of Diana Spencer, Sarah Ferguson, and Meghan Markle and in the eyes of more than a few, those royal jewels lost some of their stolen luster. And there are all those Disney princesses, all of those white Disney princesses and suspect attempts at browning up the roster, including polishing up a settler-colonial tale of what was likely survival sex between a young indigenous woman, or more likely, girl, Matoaka called Pocahontas, and John Smith. And then, finally granting a black princess after years of protest and petition only to turn her into a frog for the majority of her movie.
It’s good to be king, in and out of the scriptures but, all too often, monarchy comes to a sudden gory end, at sword point, knifepoint or, the cutting edge of a guillotine. Yet people still aspire for the job because, it’s good to be king. I’m using masculine language but kyriarchy is an equal opportunity hegemony. And at the same time, in the world of the scriptures it didn’t matter how much power and authority a woman had as pharaoh, queen, majesty or monarch, there was always some man somewhere plotting to take her throne just because she was a woman. Even when she could and would be a better choice than whatever sorry man who was plotting against her.
It’s good to be king and if you asked him, I’m sure David would agree.
But my experience with Jesus has taught me not to look in state rooms, but stables; not mansions, but mangers; not the throne, but the lynching tree. So, I turn to those on the downside of all of the power curves, at the bottom of the hierarchies and even, trapped for a time physically, under David from Bathsheba to Abishag spared that fate and it is on their behalf that I seek and speak a gospel that serves not the power-hungry but the powerless.
It’s good to be king. But not everybody wants to be king.
There was a mama’s boy in Nazareth. They called him Jesus, Yeshua, Mary’s baby, Joseph’s maybe. Some said he was a reintegrated John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. Some called him the Son of Man – but that isn’t quite right, as my spiritual ancestor Sojourner Truth is said to have said, “Man ain’t have nuffin to do wit him.”
In the same way anthropology is the study of all humans, women, men, nonbinary adults and children, girls and boys – all Son of Man (that tired sexist translation) really means is profoundly and fatally human, mortal – which is how God used it for Ezekiel. And when Hananiah, Mishael and, Azariah saw one like a Son of Man in the fire with them they were saying they saw someone who looked every bit as fatally human as they were but was something more, somehow, this one who looked fatally human just like them was unusually fireproof.
That something more, a miraculous confluence of mortality and immortality, is part of what led to this ancient title being applied to Mary’s baby boy. Profoundly human, fatally human, mortally human, just like us, woman-born. In fact, because the one thing everyone agrees on about the child of whom Mary, the first eucharistic minister and priest could say, “This is my body, this is my blood,” as she offered the living bread to the world is, that he was truly the Son of Woman – which is how I translate it in the Lectionary. They called him Jesus. They called him the Son of David. I call him the Son of Bathsheba.
They called him Jesus. They called him a threat to Herod’s throne. They called him fatherless; this is what means when they call him the son of Mary – that was the same as saying you ain’t got no daddy and neither you or your mama even know who your daddy is. They called him the one the devil couldn’t deceive or seduce. They called him master and teacher and rabbi. They called him a healer and a miracle worker. They called him Messiah, the Christ of God, the King of Israel and the Son of the living God. They called him a threat to the empire and to Caesar’s claim of godhood.
They called him soft on crime like adultery. They called him a socialist calling for the redistribution of wealth – fishes and loaves, coats and cloaks. They called him a womanizer with lowbrow taste in even lower women. They called him a glutton and a drunk, and not just guilty by association. They called him a thug who ran with thugs, some of his boys were quick to cut you and have you leaving with fewer parts than you came with, but he could fix that up too. They called him ignorant – six days a week you can heal folk but since you obviously don’t know how sabbath works let me tell you why can’t do any healing up in here on today. They called him out his name. They called him everything but a child of God. But they also called him by David’s name, Jesus, the Son of David.
If Jesus is the son of David, then he is every bit as much of the son of Bathsheba. But if we were to tell the truth, Jesus looks a whole lot less like David and a whole lot more like Bathsheba – both body-snatched by soldiers and handed over to someone who did whatever they wanted to their bodies. Jesus and Bathsheba bore different crosses but it was David who nailed her to hers.
It’s good to be king. But Jesus didn’t want to be king. He said, “You can keep that crown.” Jesus rode into town on a working-class beast of burden. He came not to conquer a throne but to surrender to a cross.
It’s good to be king. But Jesus didn’t want to be king. Kings take. But Jesus gives. A king will take your sister, wife or daughter. But Jesus gives women dignity. A king will take and tax your crops. But Jesus gives the Bread of Heaven and earthly food to the hungry. A king will take your life if you get in his way, but Jesus gives eternal life.
Just as Jesus taught that the reign and realm which he ushered forth was entirely different than the monarchies and majesties of this world, David is not just Israel’s beloved monarch of old, but he was also a broken man who broke others while wrestling to live in the light of God’s love, the very kind of soul Jesus came to save and redeem.
Jesus is not so much the Son of David as he is the Son of Bathsheba, for to be the son, daughter, woman or man of somebody or some place in the world of the scriptures was not just identifying whose people you were but what kind of people you were.
And David, well Jesus just wasn’t his kind of people. David was a thug and a gangster and hired himself out as a hitta. David was a murderer and a rapist. David was a liar and a cheat. David cheated Uriah out of his life and his wife and their future children together. And when David sent men to take Bathsheba, she had no means of escape. And we know that David and only David sinned because God sent Nathan to rebuke David and only David, the only one who sinned in God’s eyes. And we know the biblical writers have never been slow to call a woman a whore whom they found guilty of almost anything yet, they do not scandalize Bathsheba’s name. That would be male preachers long after her time calling her out her name for daring to survive her rape. David had the nerve to pray to God: Against thee only have I sinned. Against God and only God. He didn’t even call her name. The editor of the psalms had to add her name to explain what he was talking about.
David is the one who breaks women. Jesus is the one who restores broken women. They called him the Son of David. I call him the Son of Bathsheba. I just don’t see Jesus walking in the ways of dirty David. David was a man who sinned like they vote in Chicago, early and often. Yet Jesus was without sin. I don’t see any David in him at all. But In my sanctified imagination I see his great great great GiGi Bathsheba all over him.
I see Bathsheba when I look at Jesus. I see her in his love for scandalous and scandalized women, abused women, hurt women, broken women, abandoned women. I see her in his love for no count men too. I won’t say Bathsheba loved David or even forgave him, but she lived as his wife and birthed his babies, bestowing a grace on him that he did not merit. Ain’t that just like God? She took the broken pieces of her life and her own body and raised herself to new life with her head lifted high and even bagged a throne. Y’all been sleeping on Bathsheba.
I see Bathsheba in Jesus. Like Jesus, Bathsheba was sinned against. Her body was broken open and made the occasion of David’s sin and her firstborn son was sacrificed for his sin. Jesus’s broken body that knew no sin was made sin that we might be made the righteousness of God. But don’t get it twisted, the fact that the world got Solomon and even Jesus out of David’s sexual violence doesn’t make it all right. Let me say right now that the ends do not justify the means in God’s sight. God can redeem and transform any situation and take someone’s evil and use it for good but, God doesn’t need our filthy iniquitous contributions to bring her plans to fruition. This is the same God who inhaled nothingness and exhaled creation with a word on her tongue. God didn’t need David’s nastiness. But she took it and him and made something out of nothing.
This God who did not forsake Bathsheba though the half of her story has never been told. This God who will never forsake you no matter what has been done to you or your body, or even what you have done. This God who loved and forgave David and took him back when I would have gone another way. If God could save David from himself, God can save anybody.
That sounds like Jesus to me and any good black mama, standing by you no matter what you do, no matter how far from their teaching and example you stray. Jesus is set up to love everybody and anybody. Jesus knows who you are and where you came from, because he came from some trash too and because he was more than the Son of David. He was the Son of Bathsheba. He is the Son of God and he is the Son of Woman. He is the love of God in mortal flesh.
This God is the God that Mary of Nazareth, of the line of Bathsheba births into the earth in Jesus. This incarnate God who loves in word and in deed. This God who saves, heals, delivers, redeems. This God enfleshed in a virgin’s womb. This God, born between spit and shit. This God in human flesh who lived and loved and cried and died. This God who was both fatally human and immortal, invisible, the only wise God. This God who is mother and father, the shepherd who searches for lost sheep and the mama-sista homeowner sweeping the corners for lost souls more precious than money. This God put on human flesh, manflesh, and modeled for men a way to live with love and respect for women. Jesus never took advantage of a sister’s hurt and brokenness. They called him the Son of David. I call him the Son of Bathsheba.
Oh, my ancestors called Jesus the bright and morning star. They called him heart fixer and mind regulator. They called him a lawyer in a courtroom and a doctor in a sickroom. They called him a burden bearer and heavy load sharer. They said Jesus is bread when I’m hungry, water when I’m thirsty; a friend when I’m friendless. He’s my joy in sorrow, my hope for tomorrow. My fire by night and my cloud by day. They called him food in the desert and a rock in a weary land. They even called him a mother to the motherless and father to the fatherless. They called him the Lion of the tribe of Judah. They called him the Son of David. I call him the Son of Bathsheba.
But in his day, they didn’t treat him like the Son of David. They treated him like the Son of Bathsheba. They called him an insurrectionist; I call him a guerilla theologian. They called him incarcerated; I call him the Incarnation. They called him a felon; I call him beloved of his Father. They called him a crucified criminal; I call him the Christ of God. I called the family to pay my condolences and the only ones in the room were women like Bathsheba. I called the next day and he was resting in his grave. They called him a wasted hope. But I called him a dream deferred and I called to check on him one more time. They called him a quack; but I call him the quake that shook the earth. I called early in the morning, just before the break of dawn. They called him dead and buried; but I call him the death of death. They called him a broken promise. But I call him a promise keeper and the hope of the resurrection. They called him the Son of David. I call him the Son of Bathsheba. Amen.