Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3)
Jesus' attitudes toward women stood in contrast to the cultural and religious traditions of the period. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian wrote: "The women, says the Law, is in all things inferior to the man." Women were treated as the property of their husbands and fathers. Yet Jesus treated women with value and respect.
Notice the kinds of women who were following Jesus. Luke tells us they had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities. What kind of infirmities had they suffered from? The Gospels report that these included internal bleeding, fevers, and maladies then thought to be caused by demons, though now these are often associated with mental illness. We also know that Jesus offered grace to prostitutes, women caught in the act of adultery, and a woman divorced five times and living with a man who was not her husband. We also know that Jesus was concerned not only for Jewish women, but also for Samaritan and gentile women as well.
The women Luke describes were more than followers. They provided support for Jesus and the twelve out of their own means. We learn in the Gospel that it was the women who stood at the foot of the cross while the male disciples, with the exception of John were in hiding. It was the women who went to the tomb while the men continued to hide. And it was to Mary Magdalene that Jesus first appeared after the Resurrection. She became the first person to proclaim the resurrection of Christ.
I don't know where I would be without the female disciples who have entered my life. My grandmother was the first to share Christ with me. My mom took me to church. My wife has been my partner in ministry, and most of the best ideas I ever had were really hers. In the church I serve, half of our leaders-lay, staff, and clergy-are women. Our aim for equality is not an effort at political correctness but at congregational effectiveness. Women made possible the ministry of Jesus in the first century, and they make his ministry possible today.
Lord, thank you for those women who have come into my life. Thank you for demonstrating the value of women in your ministry and, through them, teaching us how you value women today. Amen.