Thoughts from daily Bible reading for today – May 15, 2020
By Guest Writer: Jill Foley Turner
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, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. Luke 8:1-3
Jesus’ female disciples both followed him and are credited with financially supporting him and the 12. Not only that, they followed him to the cross and remained when all the others fled. Who were these women, and what can we learn from their example? The Gospel of Luke tells more stories about women than any of the other synoptic Gospels. In fact, Luke’s first letter to Theophilus contains 23 stories that are never mentioned in any of the other Gospels. In Chapter 8, we meet a group of women who consider their high status less than important in contrast to the blessing of being able to serve alongside Jesus.
These patronesses of Jesus’ ministry weren’t just following. They were actively involved in his ministry. In fact, the word used for their activity in Greek is diakoneó – where we get our modern word “deacon.” They weren’t just supporting Jesus with their finances. They were following him as disciples and ministering alongside him.
In part 1 of this devotional, let’s take a look at the women themselves.
What do we know about these women?
Luke seems to assume that Theophilus has heard of these women. They were likely known because of their status, and also because they had been healed – of both physical and spiritual sickness. The whole group of them. Most prominent among them were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Chuza, and Susanna. There were many others, and we can’t underestimate what these unnamed women did for Jesus’ ministry. Though some downplay their service, the context and the details of the verses lend strong support to the assumption that these women were independent financial patrons, helping Jesus’ ministry function.
Mary Magdalene is mentioned by name 12 times in the Gospels – more than most of the apostles. Her epithet may just indicate that she was from the fishing village of Magdala, in Galilee. Though the city of Magdala (sometimes also called Migdal or Magadan) may have had a connection to prostitution, there is no mention anywhere in the Bible that Mary was a prostitute. More likely, she was a prominent woman and a leader. Every time her name is mentioned in a list of women, she is always first. Mary had a history of demon possession, maybe a brutal one. (Using the number seven in biblical writing can be something like saying “completely.”) But Jesus had healed her. And so deep was her gratitude, that it seems she never left him, not even after his death.
“So deep was Mary’s gratitude, that it seems she never left him, not even after his death.”
Joanna means “God is generous.” Her husband, Chuza, had a position of authority in Herod’s household, and because people generally married someone of like social status, Joanna probably belonged to a prominent Jewish family that supported Herod as well. Since she was of high social status and out of place in Galilee, rural Galileans could have held her in contempt and rejected her. But it seems this was not the case and that this cohesive group of women worked together to support Jesus’ ministry. Separation by class among them is never mentioned.
It’s uncommon for a husband and wife to both be mentioned by name, but in all biblical references where they are, both are believers. Together, Joanna and Chuza may have lent their influence, as well as their own possessions. Think about how this might have benefited Jesus and the 12, especially in Jerusalem. Her connections may have helped smooth over tense political situations for the group.
Susanna is mentioned less often, but she was also likely from a prominent family and well known. This may be the reason why her name is listed, rather than her being included in the group of “many others.” She was probably also part of the group that followed Joseph of Arimathea to Jesus’ burial site (Luke 23:50-56).
“Many others” Though they may not have been as well known or had as much wealth as the named supporters, cumulatively, the contributions and work of these other women (“many others” is expressed in the feminine gender) were substantial enough to merit mention. When Mark is remembering them at the crucifixion, he also looks back on how it was known of all of them that they had supported him throughout his ministry (Mark 15:40-41).
These women are an example of what it means to follow Jesus, to give freely, to join him on mission. And though we don’t walk with Jesus in the flesh, as they did, there are probably a lot of lessons we can learn from them. Join us next week as we unpack the lessons they can teach us!
Dear Lord, I praise you for the faithful women who love you and others with their whole hearts, in Jesus’ name, Amen!
Who do I know who needs my love, time and prayers, because they seem depleted from their selfless service of others?
Here is a helpful resource during these days of grief, sorrow and uncertainty: A Little Book of Comfort
When we have been with Jesus, we are marked by the love of Jesus. #WisdomHunters #women #truth #Jesus
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