Read Luke 8:1-3
ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened.” (Luke 24:10, NLT)
When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.
Part 182: The Other Women. One of the truly remarkable aspects of the Gospels is Jesus’ interaction with women. His willingness to teach and engage, let alone permit, women followers distinguishes Jesus from all the rest of the sagely rabbis and philosophers of his day and age. Not only that, but he is honestly distinguishable from all of the teachers and philosophers of years gone by leading up to his age. It was truly unique to Jesus.
Even more remarkable is that the Gospel writers themselves were not scandalized by it; rather, they included that detail in their accounts. I love when people bring up the “inconsistencies” between the Gospel accounts as “proof” that the texts are not reliable historically. Of course, we don’t hold the same standard with differing biographies on JFK or Abraham Lincoln, all of which have discrepancies in them too; however, with the Gospels, modernists like to hold the Gospels to a “higher” standard.
Yet, what makes the Gospel accounts credible to me is that they include things that would be scandalous and even embarrassing for the people they are seeking to account for. For instance, Jesus hanging out with prostitutes and tax collectors would have been a shame on him and an embarrassment to his family, yet that is included in the accounts. What’s more, Jesus having female followers would have been scandalous. Women knew their place in that society and their place was in the home, not learning and debating with sagely teachers. Only men were permitted to do that.
Yet, the Gospel writers include the fact that Jesus had faithful women followers and, even more importantly, that some of them were prominently supporting his ministry financially. On top of that, the Resurrected Christ is first seen and witnessed to by the women and, in a twist of epic proportions, those women become the apostles to the apostles. If the Gospel writers were making up fanciful stories to promote some sort of agenda (as cynical modernists like to imagine), why include those “embarrassing” moments? That makes absolutely no sense at all.
What’s more likely is that women were absolutely VITAL to the spreading of the Jesus movement following his death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven. Jesus had built a culture of inclusion among his disciples that carried on long after he’d gone to heaven, and the earliest Christian writers accounted for that. Some of those women I have already written about, others I will write about in future devotions; however, each of the women (named or unnamed) were vital parts of the Jesus movement. Jesus would have had it no other way.
Unfortunately, we live in a man’s world, and the church fell prey to ideologies that reflected the world’s view of women as opposed to Christ’s view of them. As such, things crept into the Christian tradition and even into the Bible that countered Christ’s acceptance and inclusion of women’s role in ministry. Even to this day there are “complimentarians” in Christianity who are staunchly opposed to the kind of radical inclusion of women in ministry that Jesus first initiated.
As a pastor, in every church I have served at I have had at least some people come up and tell me how happy they are that they now have a man serving as pastor. That always makes me feel uncomfortable and, honestly, offended. What about my anatomy and physiology makes me any better of a pastor than a woman? When one stops and thinks about it, the science is not there to back up any sort of superiority, nor is reason or logic! What’s more, Jesus is not there to back that up as Jesus valued women in ministry and he sent a woman, Mary Magdalene, to preach the Good News to the Apostles who were hiding in fear of their lives.
The challenge for us is to begin to see things as Christ saw them. The challenge for us is to begin to become more and more inclusive of others. Men and women are equally called to serve Christ and who are we to stand in their way as their adversary? Let us begin to bring the church back to the place where it first started, a place of radical inclusivity and hospitality. In doing so, we will draw even closer to Christ than we already are.
THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“No doubt [women of faith in the past] were reproached for His name’s sake, and accounted mad women; but they had a faith which enabled them at that time to overcome the world, and by which they climbed up to heaven.” – Rev. George Whitefield
Lord, I thank you for the women of faith in my life and for the women who boldly preach your Gospel so that others might turn and be saved. For such women in the past, now and in the future, I give you thanks. Amen.