Luke 7:36–8:3; Luke 24:1–12 (read online ⧉)
In Jesus’ day, women held a “lesser” societal role. It’s not that they held no role. In Roman culture, women’s roles were actually in somewhat of a cultural disarray as “free” marriage was opposed by Augustus Caesar who wanted a “traditional” male-dominant marriage. Marriage differed between “noble” and “common” people, too.
In Jewish culture, women did have a lesser role, but today rabbinical tradition holds to matrilineal which is estimated to have begun in Jesus’ lifetime! In other words, “the fathers” that were held in apparent esteem, would no longer be the “line”.
This means that in the time of Jesus’ ministry, there was likely a lot of turmoil regarding women’s roles in both Roman and Jewish societies. Having named (versus anonymous) women listed as Jesus’ followers could either have been a cultural shock or no great surprise.
Currently, the general consensus has been that the women’s presence with Jesus would have been a shocking thing. Yet, even the words of the Sadducees and Pharisees don’t mention the women as followers. In the first of today’s verses, the scandalous (“sinner”) woman was pointed to. Jesus was questioned for pardoning her sins. Her presence didn’t seem overly surprising.
As Jesus continues his story of the debtor, the gender is irrelevant to God’s grace and mercy. We go from hair being used to wipe feet, a parable of the debtors (money), then the jump to the financing of the mission of Jesus. We learn that women appeared to be the financial backers (or at least the mentioned ones) of the mission. Judas Iscariot may have “held” the purse strings (John 12:6), but he obviously was not the fundraiser.
These women had all had (apparently) miraculous healing encounters with Jesus, so they supported Jesus’ ministry. Joanna is culturally the most interesting, as her husband was Herod’s household manager. In some respects, her presence may have caused some to be more hesitant when it came to dealing with Jesus, for who knew what Joanna could have had happen. Perhaps not in reality, but people will invent large stories in their fear, to justify their inaction.
According to Luke, Mary Magdalene and Joanna were two of the women (Mary at the grave of Jesus on the Day of Resurrection. That these two women showed up, which means that they viewed Jesus as family, for they were taking on the role of family caring for the dead.
The transformation of these 2 women, in particular, is a good lesson. Jesus saved them. They responded in gratitude (giving) and following (discipleship). Then they became family (possibly sanctification). What their role was after that is, sadly, unclear. It may not matter in the end. That they allowed Jesus to continue to upend their life is what matters.
God of our transformation, help us to have hearts of peace as you upend our lives. May our lives be continually transformed so that they can display your light. Amen.
1) Other than COVID-19 itself and the general upending of all our lives, what is the biggest thing being challenged and changed in your life?
2) How have you experienced the Holy Spirit initiate, transform, and sustain life change?