(Click here to read Luke 8)
Luke 8:1-3 (ESV)
Luke 8:1-3 (ESV)
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Luke has more references to women among Jesus' company than any of the other four gospels. In John 4, Jesus simply speaks with a woman at a well, and the text regards the story as unusual. This is just one example from the gospels that illustrate the attitude of the day and time. Women were not as highly regarded as men. It isn't surprising that they show up less often in the story of Jesus' life.
In Luke, however, it seems that stories of women are highlighted. This may fit the theme of Luke that Jesus is present for the less fortunate and marginalized. For example, Matthew records the story of rich wise men from the east coming to visit Jesus after his birth, while Luke does not mention them. Instead, Luke is the only gospel to describe the story of lowly and unimportant shepherds coming to visit Jesus at his birth. While Matthew records the expectation of Jesus' birth from Joseph's perspective, Luke gives us his mother, Mary's perspective, and tells us more about her than any other gospel account.
Luke also came from a different culture than the other three gospel writers. It may be that his more "progressive" urban Greek background gave him a different perspective on the story of Jesus as well. Perhaps it was no special intention, but simply a product of his worldview. I personally believe that Luke was intentional and observant enough to recognize the cultural differences, and probably used his unique perspective to point out an aspect of Jesus' ministry that may have been more likely overlooked by someone more culturally similar.
In any case, this portion of Luke gives us many opportunities to see this unique character in this gospel. At the beginning of chapter 8 there is a brief but significant mention of women who join the company of Jesus' disciples. We notice that the writer mentions them by name. Not only that, but he makes special mention that one is the wife of a man who serves the king. She is a woman of high regard, power, and means. When so many women highlighted in the gospels are widows or prostitutes, it is important to notice the diversity of women among Jesus' company in the book of Luke. Women are not necessarily powerless, needy, or sinful in this book. In fact, these women are listed as the financial supporters of Jesus' ministry. There is no protest by Jesus or the disciples on this point, it is simply a matter of fact. One should consider this story when studying a biblical perspective on gender roles and men as the necessary provider.
But women are not only shown as equal in their power or finances. Such a perspective would be as classist as the other would be sexist. In Luke 7:1-17, two stories are paralleled. The first is the story of a powerful and influential Roman soldier seeking healing for his servant. The second is a poor and powerless woman whose only son has died. She is in dire straits, economically hopeless in that culture and time. Jesus heals both the son and servant, and the stories are told in such lock step that the reader cannot place any greater importance or preference on the high ranking soldier over the broke widow. Luke preaches equality across all lines.
In Luke 7:36-50, Luke compares a woman of poor reputation to proper religious folk as Jesus is confronted with both at a house party. The woman is portrayed as courageous, generous, and faithful, while the religious men are stingy, apathetic, and judgmental. Jesus identifies with the woman at the expense of his own reputation with the religious men.
At the end of the eighth chapter, Jesus performs two healings, one is to raise a girl from the dead, and the other is to heal a woman with an "issue of blood", a uniquely feminine problem. In both cases, he touches the women in need of healing. In both cases, the law of Moses would have declared Jesus ceremonially unclean for doing so. But just as he is willing to touch a leper, his touch causes both women to become whole. In both cases, the text uses the Greek word "SOZO", meaning "saved". He tells the woman healed of bleeding that her faith has "sozo" her. He "sozo" the daughter of Jairus. The word is a holistic and complete one, meaning salvation of one's entire being, sins forgiven, bondage broken, and body whole.
Jesus' ministry was and is not limited to an abstract or psychic renewal of a religious elite or a privileged few. The story of Luke shows a complete and universal gospel, one that brings wholeness and rightness to everything and offered to everyone, everywhere. From the centre of one individual's being, to our body, our finances, our relationships, Jesus brings a message of wholeness in the power of the Holy Spirit. From the highest throne to the lowest gutter, all races, genders, and cultures are included. From the life of one child, to the order of government and the expression of power between people, the gospel promises a complete renewal to justice that changes the order of everything.
Jesus stands up for a sinful woman right before this chapter, two women are mentioned at the beginning, and he heals a woman of a feminine issue, and raises another woman from the dead at the end of the chapter.