Luke 8:1-3

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

Luke names three women among the followers of Jesus and adds “many others.” Have you ever imagined Jesus having more female followers than male followers?

Luke says that the twelve are with Jesus. As itinerant teachers/healers, they needed clothes to wear, food to eat, and places to sleep. Luke tells us that the women following Jesus “provided for them out of their resources.” Have you ever imagined that the main financial support for the ministry of Jesus came from women? Read these three verses again.

The historical record is crystal clear – the Jesus movement would never have taken root without the leadership and support of women. Women followed Jesus everywhere in his ministry. Jesus went out of his way to include women. Women were the first witnesses to the resurrection. Lydia is the only named leader of an early Christian community that preceded the ministry of Paul. Paul always names women among those he thanks for their faithfulness. The earliest urban Christian communities always included women.

So what happened?

Why did the Christian movement evolve toward male domination with male leadership and females given only supportive roles?

The literalist fundamentalist answer would be “That’s the way God wanted it.”

But for those of us who aren’t quite so quick to confidently speak on God’s behalf in authoritatively defining God’s will (a very male way of operating) – we might imagine other reasons.

Perhaps women understood the message of Jesus more clearly. They saw the possibility of liberation from a male dominated culture. They understood Jesus’ call to servanthood even as they demonstrated servant leadership. They instinctively recognized that the Jesus way of being in the world was less about power and more about peace.

Do a quick mental rundown of the social issues that dominate our conversations today and ask yourself, “What does it take to positively benefit the lives of women?”

Consider how one side of those arguments protects male privilege (often by excluding and limiting the freedom of others) and how the other side seeks gender equality, inclusion, and expanding the freedom of others.

Here’s a quick example. Abortion. How do we limit it? We can all agree, can’t we, that no one purposely gets pregnant just so they can have an abortion. No one. And that no law will ever stop a desperate woman from finding a way to end a pregnancy.

So how do we limit it? The historical record is clear – abortion rates fall when women have access to preventative health care, including birth control, good educations (including sex education) which give them a sense of hope for the future, and the ability to earn a living wage with increased economic opportunity. AND the willingness of men to shoulder the responsibilities for the choices they make in life. Making babies means raising babies, at the very least, it means providing the financial support that the babies they make require which also requires living wages and economic opportunity. All of this is good for women and ends up being good for everybody.

Isn’t it possible, beginning with his mother, that women not only benefited from the ministry of Jesus, their presence and participation actually shaped what and how he taught? We would do well, in our current age, and in every age, to listen and heed what women say.

Let us pray: Gracious Lord, thank you for the role that women played in your ministry and down through history in every community that seeks to follow you. Guide us as we continue to seek liberation, justice, equity, and wholeness in every area of our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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