Luke 8:1-3 is one of those passages from the Gospels that receives relatively little attention. But when you read it carefully, you may be surprised by what you learn.
The passage begins by describing Jesus’ kingdom ministry. There’s no particular surprise here. We know that Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God in the region of Galilee, and that he took his twelve disciples with him (8:1). But then Luke describes a crucial group of Jesus followers, people who were essential to his ministry but are rarely remembered: “[Jesus took his twelve disciples] along with some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples” (8:2-3).
There are several surprises in this text. The first is that Jesus’ traveling entourage included many women. Not only did most rabbis in the time of Jesus exclude women from their teaching, but also the inclusion of women among Jesus’ traveling companions would have led to suspicion and criticism.
Why did these women follow Jesus? Luke says that Jesus had healed them and cast out evil spirits from them. This implies that they followed Jesus out of gratitude and love, an implication that is supported by the passage in Luke that precedes this one (7:36-50).
Among those who followed Jesus were Mary Magadalene, who is mentioned for the first time in Luke. Another follower was a woman named Joanna, who was “the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager” (8:3). Now that comes as a bit of a shock! We would not expect such a woman to follow Jesus, both because of her connection to Herod Antipas, who was no fan of Jesus, and because she was surely a person of financial means. Her experience of God’s love through Jesus was powerful enough for her to leave her comfortable and safe life in order to support Jesus.
And support Jesus she did! Luke notes that Joanna was one of those “who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples” (8:3). But using their own savings, and perhaps by earning money along the way, the female followers of Jesus provided the financial base for him and his followers to focus on proclaiming the kingdom of God.
The presence of these women among the close followers of Jesus serves as an encouragement to women today, who can sometimes feel like second-class Christians. Moreover, it underscores the fact that all Christians have a valuable and necessary role to play in the ministry of the kingdom. Some, those who are gifted for preaching, should preach. Others, who are gifted for making money, should provide financial support to the mission of Christ. The church of Jesus Christ will be what God intends it to be only if each and every person—every man and every woman—faithfully utilizes the gifts and opportunities God has given.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you picture the traveling entourage of Jesus, do you include the women who traveled with him? Why or why not? How does the presence of these women who supported Jesus and the twelve encourage you in your discipleship and Christian service?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for those women who followed you faithfully and served you sacrificially. Thank you for how their experience of grace led them into service. May the same be true for me!
Lord, may your church today be a place in which all of your people are welcomed and empowered to serve. May the gifts of each and every woman and man be treasured and utilized. May we follow you out into the world, serving you by serving others in your name, bearing witness to you in word and in deed. Amen.