Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.
(Lk. 8:1-3 NASB)
From the very beginning of my religious education, I opted to focus on Biblical languages. My intent was to understand the problems and arguments of thorny issues within my denomination and Christianity as a whole. I never thought I’d resolve the issues, but I figured I’d at least be able to come to some sort of answer for myself. As opinionated as I am, I found I was right, I did come to conclusions. I also found that, each time I approached a Scripture, I felt compelled to change my conclusions.
All my education really did for me was widen my understanding of how much I don’t know. Now I know more about what I don’t know, and know there’s a lot more that I don’t know I don’t know. It’s a basic consequence of thorough religious education, especially graduate work, that you become less intelligent. At least you have a better appreciation of how little you really know anyway. If you let that inform your life with your Master, you gain wisdom. If you opt to look around you at everyone else, comparing how much you know that they don’t, you drop both I.Q. and in wisdom, becoming a true idiot. Education can be a dangerous pursuit.
The Issue of Women In Ministry
Enter the issue of women in ministry. I hail from a Christian denomination where women in ministry are severely restricted. In my opinion the “Emperor has no clothes” but no one wants to be thought “unwise”, therefore they’re a lot of fools. But that’s my opinion. I witness that pretty much every denomination has women in ministry, so what’s the problem acknowledging and honoring them?
Anyway, I didn’t start to rail on a denomination. I did want to point out Luke’s commentary here though. He’s the only Gospel writer who mentions these women. For Luke, there’s an important element in Jesus’ ministry missed if nothing is said about the women who were with He and His disciples. Luke put these women in a category along side the Twelve. Verses 1 through 3 are really one sentence, so read it that way. What I see is that Luke mentions the Twelve, and then these women, but no one else. The only thing Luke says they do is contribute out of their own means. So, beyond that, we can assume that the rest of what they do is much like the only other “category” of followers, the Twelve.
Ministry of Giving?
Now, I’m not saying these women were designated “apostles”. I’m not saying that because Luke doesn’t say that. We’re not told exactly what their status was, except that they were included along with the Twelve in Jesus’ travels. So, what is Luke’s point here? I suspect that Luke is actually wanting his readers to notice the giving of these women. They were with Jesus as He traveled, but they gave out of their means. Some probably had a lot of means (like Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward), but not all. But what they had they used to support Jesus’ ministry.
Now this is not to say that the disciples didn’t. Peter and the Sons of Zebedee probably did as well. Matthew seems to have resources still, and who knows about the others. But I assume the disciples did what they could to support (except for Judas who took rather than gave). Luke is certainly pointing out to his readers that these women who followed and gave were to be an example to them to both follow and give to support the ministry of the church. I believe that has to be an element of what he’s teaching here.
A Cursory Oversimplified Solution
I suspect that women in ministry was not as big a problem for the early church as it has been for the denomination to which I referred earlier. Women were in ministry. Paul simply assumes it in multiple letters, Luke points it out in Acts, and even John’s letters make it clear that the leader to whom he writes is a woman. So, any argument against women in ministry, as a general rule of thumb, has a huge job ahead of them. And I’m I’m certainly not going to help to them.
Well, it’s not necessarily the brightest view through the knothole this morning, so please chime in. More views are probably necessary here.