I am intrigued at Jesus’ command that we are to be in the world but not of the world (John 17:16, 18). It forces us to determine where our loyalty lies; and not to run from the lost in favor of our own holy huddle with other believers. Our primary fellowship is changed from old friends to new believing friends, but we cannot forsake our old friends. Our relationship changes from one of fellowship to one of evangelism. While going alone to reach out to old unbelieving friends may cause one to revert back to old patterns of behavior, going with a strong fellow believer may provide the strength and security needed to reach out to lost friends. After all, Jesus sent the first missionaries out in teams of two (Luke 10:1, 2-3).
But before he sent out the 70 (or 72) take a look at those who were closest to Jesus:
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 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. (Luke 8:1-3).
This 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, which is no surprise. 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 (Luke 8:1). But then Luke describes an interesting group of Jesus followers, people who were essential to his ministry but are rarely remembered: some women he had healed and from whom he had cast out evil spirits like 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. (Luke 8:2-3).
There are several surprises here:
1. 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 associating with women 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 (Luke 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 (Luke 8:3). To me, this 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.
2. Luke notes that Joanna was one of those who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples (Luke 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 in our male-leadership dominated church culture. It emphasizes 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 for the mission of Christ. The church of Jesus Christ will be what God intends it to be only if each and every person, male and female, faithfully utilizes the gifts and opportunities God has given.
Application: 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?What are some things that you have given up to follow Jesus? What may be keeping you from following Jesus and you sense God may be asking you to give up. In what ways has God called you to support the mission of Christ? Tithing? Giving to missions? Serving in missions? Impacting your community, school or office? Have you ever taken a spiritual gifts inventory to discover the areas of ministry that would best suit your wiring, talent and personality? [ Take a free online inventory here ]