Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. 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 from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. (NLT)
It is one of the sad ironies of church history that women have so often been marginalised, or worse. Women have been told they can’t exercise their God given gifts as men might do because of their gender. The church has often played along with the male dominated ideas of the wider world instead of challenging those ideas. And more seriously, they have been subject to abuse by males who see them only as sex objects.
Such mistreatment is certainly not universal and there have been influential women in the church over the years. But it is still remarkable that Jesus was happy to associate with women and count on them as his valued supporters. And our text reminds us that these women included some prominent individuals, not just the poor and needy female outcasts.
We may not think this is anything of note. But Jesus lived and taught in a very patriarchal society where females were not regarded as important in their own right. Jesus gave them value and dignity. They were not confined to domestic chores or scorned as second class citizens. Jesus recognised, as some of his followers did not, that women are just as much in God’s image as men. Their distinctiveness does not imply inferiority.
Christians today have different views on a woman’s role in church life and society. Whatever our views, we can’t afford to relegate women to some second rate role. If the church has a “women problem”, it certainly didn’t get it from Jesus’ teaching and example.