22 July 2013Luke 8:1-3
“Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.” (vv. 1-3)
The traditional image is of Jesus surrounded by a small band of male, healthy fishermen disciples. This passage suggests something very different. Jesus was accompanied on his travels by some women, of different experiences and roles in society, who are described as providing for Jesus' supporters "out of their own resources".
Look at the range of women who are mentioned in this passage. Mary, from whom "seven demons" had gone out, would probably be described now as having had episodes of mental ill health. Even though one in four of us today will have a diagnosis of mental ill health sometime during our lives, mental illness can still retain an enormous stigma. Joanna, described as the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, would have been a person of status and means - yet she has left her home to travel with an itinerant preacher. Susanna, is significant enough to be named, but about whom we know nothing. Other women are also present, offering support.
Women played a key role in Jesus' ministry. They are participants in his miracles, present at his death and some of the first witnesses to his resurrection. This passage shows how central they were to his ministry. But it also challenges us in our understanding of community.
This band of Jesus' followers showed the diversity of the community of believers: male and female; respectable and not; wealthy and poor; healthy and those with a history of mental and physical illness. This is a broad and diverse community, who are living testimony's to God's work in action, and as a response choose to share their resources and support one another. This is God's kingdom.
- Think about the people around you. How does your life reflect the diversity of Jesus' band, or do you choose to be with people like you?
- You may have experience of mental ill health, either personally or through someone you know. How welcome do you or they feel in the Church?
- What areas of your life are made easier by others' unselfish support?