Do you ever feel tempted to discount yourself? To assume you’re not competent enough for a certain task, or that others don’t want you around? As a ministry leader, I’ve talked with a lot of women across the nation, and I’ve noticed something I’m certain saddens our heavenly Father. A tendency I’ve practiced as well.
We ladies are often quick to dismiss our strengths, to focus on our weaknesses or past mistakes, and to assume we’re insufficient and unwanted. This is especially true for those of us with shameful pasts. It’s easy to allow those sins, which Christ paid for through His death, to overshadow His love and grace, and prevent us from living like the called, chosen, and redeemed daughters of Christ we are.
Like I said, I’ve been there. Though God always reserved a seat for me at His table, shame and insecurity often hindered me from showing up. Perhaps that’s why I’m so drawn to the opening of Luke 8, where we’re told about some of Jesus’ rather unexpected benefactors. Through this small section of Scripture, only three verses, we see God’s heart for you and I and find some important truths we can hold on to the next time we feel uninvited or pushed aside.
Here are 5 things we learn from the women who supported Jesus.
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1. We’re all invited to God’s table.
Do you remember in elementary school when the “cool” kids started a game of kickball or tag during recess? Maybe you were one of them, guarding who joined and who didn’t. Or maybe you were one of the excluded who watched from the sidelines or busied yourself with another activity in an effort to convince yourself you didn’t care. At some point, we’ve probably all found ourselves on the outskirts as well, and we might bear the scars to prove it. But Jesus, the Great Physician, came to heal our hurts and to proclaim, to the most wounded hearts, “Come closer, friend. I’ve saved a place just for you.”
Our Creator and King invites us to dine, walk with, and learn from Him, just like those mentioned in Luke 8:1-3. Scripture tells us “Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (Luke 8:1-3, NIV).
Jesus and His entourage would have created quite a stir wherever they went, and not just because of His miracles. Not because of the largely uneducated, working-class men He chose to accompany Him, either. I imagine that was surprising enough. But to allow women, who were seen as little more than property at best, to join Him? Learning right alongside His disciples? That did not happen in the first century where Rabbis regularly instructed men to limit their interactions with women lest they fall into adultery. One compilation of Jewish texts known as the Avot Rabbi Natan states, “A man should not speak with a woman in the market, even if she is his wife, much less another woman, because the public may misinterpret it.”
Can you imagine, then, how shocking it must have been for people to see these women traveling with Jesus and His men? Mary Magdalene’s presence must have appeared especially scandalous to anyone who knew or had heard of her past. And yet, I imagine that was part of why Jesus was so quick to welcome her—to demonstrate that everyone was welcome, the rich and poor, man and woman, those with respectable and shameful backgrounds included.
This applies to you and I as well. Regardless of our past, present, gender, social or economic status, we are invited into God’s family. We receive that precious gift of adoption through faith in His Son.
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2. It takes courage to follow Jesus.
I wonder what internal and external challenges these women in Luke 8 faced. Did people whisper as they passed or give them snide looks? Did anyone ask them who they thought they were to insert themselves into such a prominent ministry role? Considering the societal expectations, I wonder if some of the disciples struggled with their presence?
I imagine these faith-filled women had to overcome a lot, including sneers from onlookers and the religious elite and their own insecurities. Yielding to societal expectations, the less courageous would’ve stayed home. But not these women. When they sensed God’s tug on their hearts, they responded and followed Jesus “from one town and village to another” (Luke 8:1, NIV). They had to bravely overcome their fears—of rejection, ridicule, and for Joanna, maybe even retaliation.
She may have risked the most out of them all. Scripture tells us she was “the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household” (Luke 8:3a, NIV). This was the same Herod who had John the Baptist imprisoned (Matthew 11:2) and then beheaded (Matthew 14:3-12). And while Herod’s anger appeared to remain centered on John, I imagine his execution evoked fear throughout his household. Coupled with the growing tension surrounding Jesus, it must’ve taken a great deal of courage for Joanna to step outside societal norms and religious expectations.
But she did, and she and her female companions followed Jesus wherever He led. In this, they’ve inspired countless others, from the first century to ours, to do the same.
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3. Everyone has a role in expanding God’s kingdom.
I don’t know if the ancient Jews expected the Messiah to have disciples, but if so, they probably did not expect Him to choose the group He did. Tax collectors, uneducated fishermen… women from diverse backgrounds. As mentioned previously, no respectable first-century Rabbi would even consider inviting a female to learn from him, let alone follow him from town to town. No Rabbi, that is, except Jesus, the Savior who died for all and calls everyone, male and female, scandalous sinner and the religious elite, to give their lives in service to Him.
When we think of God’s eternal mission, our minds might jump to the pastor or missionary or perhaps a well-known evangelist. By including the names of these ancient women in the Gospel of Luke, however, God makes it clear: We are all called to share His truth and love. Some of us do this by praying with a friend over coffee. Others through teaching children or by launching neighborhood outreaches. Our assignments vary, but our mission remains the same: to learn from Jesus so that we can point others to Him and His truth, as, most likely, the group of women from Luke 8 did. In fact, commentators suggest it was from them that Luke received a good deal of his eye-witness information.
In other words, not only were women vital during His earthly ministry, but they played a significant role in the Scriptures that have led countless to salvation.
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4. We radiate light simply by following Jesus.
As a woman, I’ve read and gained encouragement and inspiration from Luke 8:1-3 numerous times. I imagine countless others have as well. Through this passage, I catch a glimpse of God’s heart for me, as His beloved, called and chosen, daughter. I’m reminded that His grace is big enough to cover my most shameful sins. But more than that, I’m motivated and moved to action.
I imagine numerous wives, mothers, and little girls who saw these women pass were touched in similar ways. In seeing Christ welcome Joanna, Mary Magdalene, Susanna, and other females so readily, did they think, “I wonder if He’d welcome me as well?” Did their thoughts trigger the question: “Would He teach me such deep truths of God?”
And then there were those who knew, or had heard of Mary Magdalene, the One from whom Christ had cast out seven demons. How awed they must have been to see her walking, not only in her right mind, but so confidently beside the One who’d freed her. As if she belonged with Him.
Because she did, as surely as you and I do. These women memorialized in Scripture remind us that God always welcomes us close and longs to share with us His deepest, most life-changing truths.
5. Discipleship comes at a cost.
Consider how much it would have cost to feed twelve hungry, physically active men who probably clocked more steps before lunch than most of us will all week. Can you imagine their typical calorie intake? Granted, they often stayed, and therefore were fed by others. But their travels still came at an expense, one these women gladly paid.
They gave of their funds, their time, comfort, and perhaps even sacrificed their reputations to join the Messiah’s teaching and healing tour. But they willingly laid all that down to grab hold of something far greater: spiritual intimacy with Christ and the eternally abundant, beyond-expectations life only He can give.
Discipleship always comes at a cost. Some Christ-followers might lose their lives, others their jobs or their family’s respect. God calls all of us to surrender our time and agendas for His bigger and better plans.
He invites us to live with courage, seeking His kingdom above all and radiating His love to everyone we encounter. Our faith journeys won’t always feel easy or without loss, but we will gain something of intimate value. With every obedient step, we’ll experience ever-deepening fulfillment and peace as our relationship with the Prince of Peace grows.
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Originally published Tuesday, 31 August 2021.