Luke 8:1-3: Jesus’ Female Disciples
Today we are in the thick of the gender wars, the last 50 years has seen the rise of feminism which has dismantled biblical and traditional views of male headship in the church and in the home. Egalitarianism, the view that teaches that there are no real differences between men and women has won the culture war and is the dominant perspective today. Added to this we have the transgender war. We moved from the removal of the differences between men and women, to pushing acceptance for homosexual activities and marriage, and this has now taken a third step as all traditional categories of maleness and femaleness have become fluid and several new genders have arisen as equally valid, noted in the LGBTQIA+ label. And it is not only a case of everyone attacking traditional views, there are new divisions. For example, J. K. Rowling the author of the Harry Potter series, who is also a feminist, got into trouble in the media recently because she insists on a biological definition for a woman. This met with intense criticism even from the actor who played Harry Potter who insisted against her that transgender women are real women.
Jesus was a revolutionary and controversial figure in His day. He touched the untouchables, He befriended sinners, He was an equal opportunist when it came to accepting invitations to dine, and in the section before is Luke 8:1-3 we see that against the beliefs of the day, Jesus had women as disciples. The reason Jesus was a radical is not because He made an enemy of whatever the present status quo was, but rather because He ignored the status quo. Jesus treated everyone as equally sinful and in equal need of salvation. Whether the person was young or old, male or female, Jew or Gentile, God’s loves all kinds of people and seeks to save them. The radical nature of Jesus ministry is not in Him deliberately setting out with a political agenda but because of His persistent love towards sinners. He was not issue driven, but gospel driven. He did not have a single target group who He hoped to serve at the price of others like what Black Lives Matter are doing today. No, the universal problem of sin and the need for all sinners to be saved by grace caused Christ to cross lines of prejudice and transgress social norms.
Our verses come to us in the final stage of Jesus Galilean ministry. So you can take 8:1-9:50 as a section before Jesus ministry turns Him towards Jerusalem, 9:51, ‘When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.’ 8:1 gives us a quick summary of Jesus circuit ministry, ‘Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him.’ The places are the usual places, the cities and villages of Galilee, both important and unimportant; the message was the usual message of the good news of the kingdom of God, and how all those who are poor can be included, how all sin can be forgiven; the method was the usual method, Jesus proclaimed/preached the message; and the company was the usual company, the 12 disciples were with Him. Verses 2-3 are the unusual verses that Luke puts forward for special mention, ‘and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.’ Among the disciples were some women and they ministered to Jesus and the other disciples out of their means. Luke has various emphases that he weaves into his writings. He talks more about the Holy Spirit then other writers, more about Jesus prayer life, he emphasises Jesus ministry to non-Jewish people, but also the the outcasts like the demon possessed, the lepers, and in particular the women. There is a lot of material that is exclusive to Luke’s gospel which emphasises the role of women. Some of the birth narrative materials with Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna are exclusive to Luke. The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law; the resurrection of the son of the widow of Nain; the sinful woman who anointed Jesus feet; this reference we are dealing with today of the women who travelled with and ministered to Jesus; the woman with the issue of blood; certain stories to do with Mary and Martha; the story of the crippled woman of 13:10-17; the story of the widow’s mite; and various events around the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Not only that Jesus used women in His parables like in the parable of the woman and the lost coin, and the parable of the woman and the judge. This material is exclusive to Luke along with all the other mentions of women in the gospels. There are also 13 mentions of women in Acts. This window into the women’s involvement with Jesus is part of an overall emphasis showing how Jesus was different in the way He related to and ministered to women.
Let us get into the message. Firstly, we want to look at the 3 women who are listed, and in particular at Mary Magdalene. Then we want to look at the ministry of these women and of women in general.