I like reading sermon manuscripts! So, I thought it might be helpful for some if I shared some various manuscripts of messages I have preached from time to time. Now, I am not going to do the work of editing them, so please be patient the presentation, as I type them a certain way to make it easier for me as I preach. You can listen to the audio here. This particular message is about some of what we can learn from Jesus about the role of women in ministry. It’s not the whole story. Jesus also speaks other places in the Bible – for example, there’s what he teaches through Paul. But, this is part of it and it’s a part we need to emphasize as well.
If you will take your Bibles and open to Luke 8 today.
We are going to be looking at Luke 8, verses 1 through 3, and talking, mostly about Jesus and women.
The important role of women in the life and ministry of Jesus.
And actually, at our class on Thursday, at the African Bible Training Centre, we looked at the book of Ruth, I think this woman Ruth is one of the greatest heroes in the Old Testament, and so I guess, God was just giving me the opportunity this week to think a little more about what He has to say about the importance and value of women in the Old Testament, and the New. And so if you are a woman here today, I hope you go away, thinking I am thankful for Jesus, that He takes me seriously, that I have a vital role to play in the life and ministry of this local church, not sort of on the side, or just as an add on, but a real, important role, and if you are a man here today, I hope you are challenged to ask yourself, whether your view of women really lines up with Jesus’.
Because as believers that is what we want most. We want to think like Jesus’ thinks. Not just how everybody around us is telling us to think.
Which takes work, obviously.
In fact, it’s funny, I was telling someone the other day, that one of the things I have heard more, since I have come to Africa, than I expected for sure, or even than I had ever heard before, is people saying, look, we’re Africans.
And it’s usually in the context of, look, you don’t understand, this is just the way it is, we’re Africans. And usually, actually, it’s men who are saying it, so it’s really, look, I am an African male, and this is just the way we are, don’t try to change me.
Now, obviously, living in America, I didn’t hear that as much. Not even the “we’re African” part, but, I mean, actually the same idea, “we’re Americans.” I don’t remember hearing people say, we just do things differently, because “we’re Americans” but we do hear that a lot in Africa, and it’s almost like a conversation ender, actually.
That’s nice for you to say that, but “we’re Africans.”
And I was thinking about that, why do we hear that so much, are there any good reasons people say that, and maybe one good reason people say that, is just because they feel pressured to adopt another person’s culture, on issues that don’t really matter and I know westerners tend to do that, we tend to pressure people on issues that don’t matter, and so sometimes when people say, hey, we are Africans, it might be a way of them saying, listen, buddy, people are different, and there’s truth in that, and I am sure God’s glorified in some of the differences there are between people.
But at the same time, it’s not always quite so simple, as Christians, you know, before we are Americans or Africans or Germans, we’re Christians, and as Christians, we are not our own, our lives belong to someone else, and ultimately, He sets the standards for what we think and what we do, and what He wants is even more than the culture we come from, and there are lot of times, when the standards He sets for us are going to be different than the ones we find in the world around us.
We can expect as Christians there are going to be lots of times when we have to think and act differently than people from our same culture.
And if you want proof of that, you just need to look at the life of Jesus.
Because, as we’ve been studying the gospel of Luke, we often find Jesus upsetting the normal, cultural, ways of looking and thinking about things.
Like for example, the way He related to women.
One of the things that set Jesus apart from the Jewish culture, from the Grecian culture, and even from the Roman culture, was his perspective on women.
He treated women differently than the people around him.
And I could prove that to you in a number of ways.
First off, we could look at the passage right before this one.
We are in Luke 8:1-3 today, but we could go back to Luke, chapter 7, verses 36 through 50, which you remember was the story of the sinful woman forgiven.
And I know I promised I wasn’t going to preach this passage again, because we spent those two weeks studying it, but as we looked at that passage, we looked at it mostly from the angle of the self-righteous Pharisee, when we could also have legitimately looked at it, from the perspective of this sinful woman.
And if we did, we’d see, Jesus is upsetting some serious cultural norms.
Because here he’s at the home of this respected, middle class, businessman, who had devoted much of his time to studying God’s Word, and had invited Jesus over, I am sure, to ask him questions and to get to know him.
When this woman whom everyone knows as a sinner, as a prostitute, starts making this scene, weeping and wailing and kissing Jesus’ feet continually.
I mean, imagine that happening in Africa.
A meeting of men who were like the leaders of the community, getting together to discuss important issues, regarding the community, when a woman breaks in, and becomes the center of attention, through crying and doing some things, that even culturally, were frowned upon, like letting down her hair.
You could say it was me.
I was a visiting missionary and the leaders of a community were hoping to get to know me, and some lady who is known as a bad kind of lady, comes in and starts paying me too much attention.
You’d expect me to say, hey, no get away.
And of course, I am not Jesus, so I don’t deserve that, and also I am not Jesus so I don’t know people’s hearts, so the illustration doesn’t quite work, because there are some factors going on with me, that aren’t going on with Jesus, but still the point is, that Jesus isn’t embarrassed by how this woman acts, he knows she is a woman, he even knows she is a prostitute, he knows she is making everyone uncomfortable, and yet instead of chasing her away, he actually uses her as an example for the Pharisee.
In fact, instead of criticizing the woman, Jesus criticizes the host.
You don’t get it.
And the way you are acting proves you don’t get it.
But look at this woman, she does.
Which of course, is shocking.
It’s actually kind of like Jesus is looking at this woman and saying to the Pharisee, you are so wrong, where you think what makes a person matter is their background or their status in society or even their gender, when what God is looking for, is humble faith.
And you know, even if we take a step back, and just look at way Luke is using this story, it maybe gets even a little more shocking, because you remember up in verse 35?
“Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”
That’s the verse that comes before this whole story.
It’s Jesus saying there were a lot of people who were foolish and rejected him, but at the same time, there were some who were wise, and declared God’s way of salvation right, and then it’s as if Luke here wants to give us an example of one of wisdom’s children.
And so he talks about this sinful woman who was forgiven.
She is one of wisdom’s children.
Which is really pretty awesome.
Because can you imagine a religion that wants to give an explanation of what it’s about, people are interested and they are like what’s this religion about, and so they write a document, in which they bring forward some of their wisest people as examples, of what that religion teaches, or how it is supposed to be lived out, and one of the first examples they bring up, is a woman, who used to be a prostitute.
This is one of the people that declared this way of salvation right and I think that obviously in and of itself, the fact that Luke does that, without blinking, gives us an idea that the way Jesus thinks about women, and even just life in general, is going to be radically different.
Than most of the people around us.
And so honestly, does, what we find next in Luke 8:1-3.
Which is our text.
That we are looking at today, and while it maybe is not quite as dramatic as the story that goes before it, in terms of Jesus’ attitude towards women, it is probably just as important.
“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, and also some women, who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided from them out of their own means.”
Now if you didn’t get chills the first time you read that, I am not going to give you too hard a time, because this is one of those passages as you are reading your Bibles, that is very easy to skip over.
In terms of how it functions in Luke, it’s really kind of a summary statement.
As Luke is writing all these stories about Jesus, you’ll see, he pauses every once in a while, as he goes along, almost as if to catch his breath, and certainly to help us slow down and reflect on exactly what Jesus was doing.
You know how a preacher might be talking and talking and then suddenly, slow down and say, here’s my point, or maybe, even before doing all this talking and explaining, he’ll just start off by saying, this is what I want you to see, which for example, is what Luke does, after describing the temptation of Jesus, in Luke chapter 4, verses 14 and 15, when he says,
“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues being glorified by all.”
That reads almost like a headline for what follows, and it is, because from there Luke goes on to show how Jesus preached in synagogues and why the report about him kept on spreading everywhere.
Or in chapter 6, verse 17-19, you’ll see, Luke does it again.
“And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the sea coast who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.”
Which isn’t like a story, as much as it like a quick ministry report, this is what Jesus was doing, and while these ministry reports seem kind of simple at first, they actually play an important role, as Luke is using them to highlight what was important to Jesus and also to transition us to what he’s going to be showing us about Jesus next.
Take what he says here, in the beginning of chapter 8.
He tells us first of all, soon afterwards that Jesus went on through cities and villages.
In a sense, that was the scope of Jesus’ ministry.
At the direction of God the Father, Jesus went all over the nation of Israel, which, in the verses that follow, Luke’s going to describe more specifically, as he tells us a number of different stories that help us see what happened as Jesus was going from here to there, in these villages and cities.
Specifically, as Luke says, he was preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God.
Which I guess you could say was the content of Jesus’ ministry.
Jesus was going around announcing the good news of the kingdom of God, which is a phrase we’ve heard before, actually.
You remember how in Luke 4, verse 43, Luke says,
“I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to other towns as well, for I was sent for this purpose.”
In other words, Jesus says, this is what I came to do, tell people about the kingdom of God, and in the verses that follow, we’re going to see, that he tells the disciples, verse 10,
“To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing, they may not understand.”
It’s like Luke then is taking us one step forward in our understanding of how Jesus went about his ministry. He was going around at God’s direction teaching about the kingdom of God, but we’ll see he was doing it in parables or stories, which some people understood, and others didn’t.
This summary statement is telling us a little about the scope of Jesus’ ministry, the content of his ministry, and then also about some of the other participants in Jesus ministry.
That’s what comes next.
“And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.”
Apparently as Jesus was going around preaching the kingdom of God, he wasn’t going around by himself. There were a number of people who had heard his message and been touched and transformed by His power, who were now traveling and ministering along with him.
First of all, the twelve, whom we have met already, back in chapter 6.
“And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.”
And though, we haven’t heard much about them in chapters 6 and 7, Luke reminds us that they were with Jesus here in chapter 8, because we are going to see Jesus sending them out as his representatives in chapter 9.
“And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.”
Then secondly, besides the Twelve, Luke tells us, there were also these women.
Which is where things start getting a little radical.
We are going to learn something here about Jesus and women, that I think, Luke especially wants us to see.
I think this maybe the main point.
Because, as you are reading through a summary statement like this, obviously, you are thinking why exactly did Luke puts this here, what was he wanting us to especially to understand, and while I think he definitely wanted us to know about where Jesus ministered and what Jesus preached, the fact is, as we’ve seen, he’s already told us those things before.
Those are repeats.
He already told us Jesus was preaching the kingdom of God. And we have already seen Jesus going from city to village, doing that.
But while it’s true we have known a little about Jesus healing people and casting out demons, we haven’t seen what’s happened to many of those people afterwards, and what Luke is wanting to tell us, is that some of the women in particular whom Jesus healed, ended up becoming a vital part of his ministry.
That’s the unique element as I see it in this summary statement.
It’s sort of what stands out in bold print.
It wasn’t just the twelve who were traveling with Jesus, there also were some women who had been recipients of Jesus’ healing ministry who then became participants in Jesus’ ministry. They were with him, Luke tells us, as he traveled around preaching and teaching, providing for them, out of their own means.
And you notice, Luke names a few.
First, there was Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out.
Her name coming first might mean that she sort of stands at the head of the list, like Peter. I think even now, she’s pretty famous, Mary Magdalene, though some of what people know about her, isn’t actually true.
For example, her surname wasn’t Magdalene, actually. It’s just that her first name was very common. It was the name even of Jesus’ own mother. This was the most popular Jewish girls name in fact, in Jesus’ day. And so to distinguish her from the other women named Mary in the New Testament, the writers added Magdalene, because apparently she came from a small fishing village named Magdala.
Now, some people think she was the sinful woman that Luke’s told us about in Luke 7, but there’s no indication that Mary was a prostitute or anything like that before she became a disciple of Jesus. In fact, if we look closely at the text, we see her problem was different. She was a woman Jesus delivered from demonic bondage. Specifically, as Luke says, she was a woman from whom seven demons had gone out.
Now that’s obviously hard to imagine, seven demons, but it must have been awful, as demons invaded individuals for the purpose of doing them damage. As we look at demon-possessed people in the Bible, it’s always portrayed as an affliction more than it is a sin. I suppose it might be that a person’s engaging in sins opens them up towards demonic possession, but a person actually being possessed looks a little more like them being tortured, then tempted.
And while the Bible doesn’t tell us exactly how long Mary had been demon possessed or even when exactly she met Jesus, it must have been, one of the times as Jesus had gone out preaching, that someone had brought her to him, and he rescued her, and as a result, she devoted herself to him.
The next place we hear of her actually, is all the way at the end of the gospel story, in Matthew chapter 27, verse 55. As Jesus is dying on the cross, Matthew tells us, “There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene.” And that’s important, because it shows us this woman had been serving and learning from Jesus, for a long time.
And then there’s, Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, who is a little less well known, I think. But her story is pretty sweet, if you think about it. I mean her husband was Herod’s household manager, which some people describe as Herod’s financial manager, which obviously would have been a big deal. At first, her following Jesus must have seemed pretty risky, in that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist.
It would have been interesting to hear the conversations between the two of them as Joanna began considering the claims of Jesus. Joanna, I was there, when they chopped of John’s head, and now you want to do what?
Some people think that Chuza might have been the official mentioned in John 4, where we read about Jesus’ healing an official’s son who was at the point of death, and that would help us understand of course why he let Joanna go with Jesus, but the reality is, while we don’t know all the specifics as to how, it’s obvious that whatever Jesus did must have made a big impact in her life, as, like Mary, she didn’t only follow Jesus for a little while, but all the way through his resurrection.
Luke 24:8 through 10.
An angel appears to the women as they come to the tomb and reminds them of how Jesus told them, while he was in Galilee, that he would be crucified and then rise, and Luke says in verse 8, “they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all these things to the eleven and the rest.” And who were these women, who had been with Jesus since Galilee, who had been there when he said that he would be crucified and rise again, verse 10, now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women who were with them who told these things to the apostles.
And I guess, I am not sure what picture you have of Jesus as he’s going around from city to city, in terms of the group who was with him. If you were going to have Jesus over to your house say, who do you think would show up? It wouldn’t just be Jesus, it would be Jesus and his disciples. And as you think about his disciples, I am not sure what image you see, but most of the time it probably wouldn’t just be Jesus and the twelve. If you had Jesus over for dinner, you would have to set a lot of places at the dinner table, because it would likely be Jesus, the twelve and then also these women, like Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Luke goes on to say, “Susanna, and also, many others, who provided for them out of their means.”
Now, maybe to help you get an idea of how shocking this is, it would help to get some cultural perspective.
Let’s start with Jews.
And it’s always dangerous to share an entire culture’s perspective as if it were all the same, like if I said the Congolese attitude towards women is, you would probably have lots of examples of individuals that were different, and yet, there still could be a basic general pattern, and I think there was with the Jews and it wasn’t a very biblical one.
“Let the teachings of the Law be burned” one Jewish teacher said, “but let them not be handed over to a woman.”
Another religious teacher taught his followers a prayer they were supposed to repeat every day, which basically said something like, “Blessed art Thou…who has not made me a woman.”
For many, a woman’s place was pretty much exclusively in the home. And I mean, literally. It was longer after Jesus lived that “respectable women were expected to stay within the confines of the home. The terminology for a prostitute was literally ‘one who goes abroad.’ The woman of the first century did not even do her own shopping, except possibly to go out, accompanied by a slave, to buy material which she would use to construct her own clothing at home.
I don’t know that we could say it was just like Muslim countries, but it certainly leaned that way, especially in the cities. Because, unlike today, the cities like Jerusalem were even more conservative than out in the country.
And that’s Jewish culture, but believe it or not, Grecian culture was even worse, and you know, the reason I am even bringing up Grecian culture at all, is because Greece was a little like the America of its day, in terms of how its culture kind of spread everywhere. I’ve always been impressed how you can be in the craziest out of the way place, and you’ll hear American music or see someone wearing a t-shirt with an American city on it, and in Jesus’ day, Grecian culture was kind of like that, and that’s part of why there even where Pharisees actually, they were trying to stop the Jewish people from becoming too much like the Greeks, but the point is, it was a temptation, and the Grecian culture, had a really, super-low view of women.
“In ancient Greece, a respectable woman was not allowed to leave the house unless she was accompanied by a trustworthy male escort. A wife was not permitted to eat or interact with male guests in her husband’s home, she had to retire to her woman’s quarters. Men kept their wives under lock and key, and women had the social status of a slave. Girls were not allowed to go to school, and when they grew up they were not allowed to speak in public.”
Basically, women were used rather than treasured.
They served two purposes fundamentally in the man’s mind, to produce sons and to enable the man to have pleasure.
Women were expendable. Divorce was encouraged. They say people looked at you kind of funny, if you hadn’t been divorced a few times.
And then Roman culture, as well, and you remember Israel was under Roman rule, the Romans, typically had a pretty low view of women as well, a little less so when it came to rich women, but poor women at least were under the absolute control of their husbands, he had ownership of her and all her possessions.
And what I am saying is that as we look here at Luke 8, verses 1-3, I know it kind of sounds ordinary at first, with these women following Jesus, and participating in his ministry the way Luke describes, but if you just look at the culture of the day, it was really pretty shocking.
Because, these women were followers of Jesus, with a role to play.
And rabbis just didn’t have women disciples.
That wasn’t done.
But Jesus did.
This was actually kind of scandalous.
Maybe they might give some money towards a ministry, rabbis would tolerate that, but Jesus is actually traveling through cities and villages with a band of men and sometimes women who were naturally known to be his students.
In other words, he had a place for women to be real, legitimate, learners and disciples.
In fact, one of the stories we’ll see later, is found in Luke chapter 10, verse 38, and you need to see this, at least I saw it in a new way this week.
Because Jesus goes over to visit with his friends Mary and Martha.
And Martha, Luke tells us welcomed Jesus into her house.
“And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.”
Now, to sit at Jesus’ feet, that’s specific kind of language.
To sit at the feet of a rabbi basically meant you were acting like a disciple of that rabbi.
You remember how they talked about Paul, as having sat at the feet of Gamaliel.
While Mary is being discipled by Jesus, Luke tells us Martha is distracted by getting dinner ready.
And that’s important.
“But Martha was distracted with much serving.”
Because, distracted from what?
From sitting at the feet of Jesus.
From being discipled by Jesus.
And what was she distracted by? She was distracted from being discipled by Jesus by her cooking.
Now, think about this.
Because Martha gets upset as she’s looking at Mary, but what is she getting upset about. It’s likely honestly in the cultural context not just that Martha is frustrated by all the cooking, but that she’s also a little bit embarrassed by the way her sister acts.
Like, in Martha’s mind, this is not Mary’s place.
At Jesus’ feet.
Like a regular disciple.
What is she thinking?
She needs to be in the kitchen with me.
That’s what women do, and so she actually gets up the courage to go up to Jesus and say,
“Lord do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?
Tell her then to help me.”
In other words, Jesus, are you seeing what I am seeing, doesn’t this bother you?
And you know any first century reader, would assume Jesus would agree.
That’s the thing.
They would assume Jesus would be like what are you doing, and yet instead Jesus says the opposite.
Instead of rebuking Mary, he tells Martha, actually you are the one who is worried and bothered by many things, when only one thing is necessary, and Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her.
I am not going to stop her from taking her place at my feet and learning from me.
In fact, there’s a surprising scene, over in Matthew 12, where someone comes and tells Jesus that his mother and brothers are outside, and Jesus responds by saying, “Here are my mother and my brothers,” as he’s stretching his hands towards his disciples. And in case we don’t get the point, he says, “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
And it’s that addition of the word sister that shows Jesus assumes women were among his disciples, because if you were looking at a crowd of even say African men, and you waved your arm and you said here are my mother and brother and sister, how do you think they would respond, sister, what are you talking about, there had to be women there, is what I am saying.
Women were real, legitimate, disciples of Jesus.
And they played an important role in his ministry. Back here in Luke 8, we see that they sacrificially provided for Jesus and the disciples out of their own means.
Which to me, is a beautiful statement first about the humility of Jesus, because this is the son of God, he could have made money for himself out of dirt, he fed the five thousand with a couple of loaves, he definitely didn’t need support and yet he voluntarily chose to rely on the sacrificial giving of others, specifically some women, not for himself, I don’t think, but for them, to allow them the opportunity to participate in his mission, and it’s also a real testimony to these women as well, because again, even if they were wealthy, which I am sure not all of them were, but even if they were, as women it wasn’t like they easily had access to lots of money.
This involved a sacrifice.
And it wasn’t just money either.
It was also care, concern, and personal involvement.
If you turn over to Mark 15:41, Mark speaks about these same women, towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, and he says, “When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.”
And the word there is ministered.
They were helping Jesus.
Now listen I don’t want you to misunderstand what we are saying, as we look at Jesus and women. Because, obviously, we believe here at Living Hope the Bible teaches God has some different roles for men and women.
Men are not women and women are not men.
And in God’s great design, He has a special plan for the way women are to serve Him, and while there are some ways that plan is similar there are also some ways in which that plan is not and I am sure it would be good for us to talk about that at some point.
But and this is really what we are emphasizing today, that doesn’t mean we believe women are less in value to God than men, or that men have the right to act as if they were superior to women, or that women can’t be great heros of the faith, or that women can’t learn from Jesus or that men can’t learn from women.
And I think honestly here in Africa, we’ve got to look at Jesus, and allow him to strip us of some cultural ways of thinking, that just don’t match up with what the Scripture teaches.
If we just sort of put women to the side, if we act as if we are spiritually superior to women, and that they don’t have an important role to play here in the life and ministry of the church, we are going to be really ineffective as a church.
I mean, if we don’t see that from studying the gospel of Luke, we are not really looking at what Luke says very carefully.
Because it’s not just here in Luke 8. I mean, let’s just think about what Luke has to say about women a little more extensively.
First, right off, they are held up to us as examples of what it means to have faith.
Luke assumes we all have something to learn from women.
If you go back to the infancy narratives, and that means the stories about the birth of John and Jesus.
You see in Luke 1:4, what does Luke say is his whole purpose in writing this gospel?
He says it is that you might have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
And the very first story he tells, is about the angel who was announcing the birth of John the Baptist, and how does his father, this holy man, Zechariah respond, he doesn’t believe.
In a sense, he’s a bad example of how to respond, and you know, who his bad example is contrasted with? With a young teenage girl, who responds to an announcement made by an angel that is even more difficult to believe, with faith.
And in case you wonder, if that’s the point. Zechariah’s wife confirms it in verse 45 of chapter 1.
“And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”
Which means for those of you who might think you can’t learn from a woman, you are in trouble, because Luke’s holding a woman up to all us as an example of what it looks like to have biblical faith.
Unfortunately, obviously there have been lots of men throughout history who haven’t taken what women had to say seriously, simply because they were women.
But, at the beginning of Luke, we see God’s different.
In fact later on in chapter 2, we find the story of Anna, who was a prophetess, and in Luke’s gospel, along with an old man named Simeon, she serves as a witness to the redemptive ministry of Jesus. Now, since women weren’t allowed to even testify in court, it’s pretty amazing that God chooses her out of the many others he could have selected to stand up and testify that Jesus is the Christ, and I think He does to make a point.
In spite of anything the world might say, women really have a role to play.
They are to be treated with respect.
As we look at the way women are treated in the gospel of Luke, we see who they are, what they think, and what they have to say, matters.
That certainly is the way Jesus treated women.
For example, he spoke directly to them.
We saw that already as he approached the widow who lost her son.
He addressed her specifically, and that was actually a little surprising. That he would talk to a woman directly. Even towards the beginning for some of the disciples. You remember John 4:27, when Jesus was evangelizing the Samaritan woman, and the disciples saw him, and John says, “they marveled that he was talking with a woman.” And he wasn’t just talking with her, he was teaching her gospel truth.
Jesus talked to women directly because he expected women to have their own individual relationship with him.
I know sometimes in Africa we think if a husband’s a Christian, the wife has to be a Christian, but it doesn’t work that way. Jesus doesn’t see women as merely an extension of a man. They are individuals, and as individuals they are going to be judged by God on their own.
You remember for example how Lot escaped Sodom, but his wife didn’t.
And look, you are not honoring what the Bible teaches about the role of men and women, by acting as if wives are saved by their husband’s faith.
If you think, the Bible teaches because you are a man, you can’t ever learn from women or you shouldn’t listen to women or women don’t have a real, genuine accountability before God themselves, you are not clearly understand what the Bible actually teaches.
As we look at Jesus in Luke, we see, women were real, legitimate disciples, we can learn from the example of godly women, women can learn and must actually be theologians, people who know God and who know His Word, Jesus expected that, He taught women.
It might sound a little radical to say it, but as we look at the people following Jesus in the gospel of Luke, it’s actually the women who turn out to be some of the greatest heros.
As we saw in the gospel of Matthew, it was the women who were there as Jesus was dying on the cross, and it’s actually the women who went to the tomb the day he died to see how his body was laid, and then returned home to prepare spices and ointments, and their service to Jesus didn’t end there, they were so committed, they took those spices and ointments back to the tomb on the first day of the week, only to discover that Jesus had risen from the dead, and it was these women that the angel first entrusted this great message of Jesus’ resurrection.
They were the very first to believe in the resurrection of Jesus, and you know, their faith stands out, because even when they take this message back to the apostles, Luke says, “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.”
This is one of those things that many say points to the truthfulness of the resurrection accounts, because if someone was making this story up, in the ancient world, they never would have had women be the first to hear that Jesus had risen from the dead, because the ancient world just did not take women seriously, but it’s clear God does, and if as a church, we are going to really think and live as Christians, not just Africans or Americans or whatever culture we come from, we need to take women seriously as well.
In the middle of Jewish, Greek and Roman cultures that viewed women as basically property, in Luke 8, and throughout the gospels, we see Jesus showed love and respect for women. They even became his disciples, and ministered to him.
And while practically this definitely doesn’t mean that women and men always have the same role to play in the family and the church, it definitely does mean that women have a big and important role to play in our families and here in our church.
So, I want you to hear this loud and clear, women, you are important.
It’s important you have an individual relationship with God and it’s important you work hard at coming to know God.
God wants every one of you to be a theologian.
He wants every one of you to think about Him, to think correctly about Him, to study and read your Bibles, to understand what it teaches, and to have the ability to identify truth and error.
And not only does God want you to know Him, He wants you to serve Him. It’s important as a woman you find opportunities here to use your gifts to serve God.
I read somewhere that 75 percent of the world’s population is either a woman or under the age of 15, so I know there are some women who say that if God doesn’t want me to preach on Sundays, what can I do, there are about a million different things you can do for the cause of Christ.
In fact John Piper, and he’s someone who has written many different very helpful things on some of the differences between men and women, writes,
“For men and women who have a heart to minister—to save souls and heal broken lives and resist evil and meet needs—there are fields of opportunity that are simply endless. God intends for the entire church to be mobilized in ministry, male and female. Nobody is to be at home watching soaps and ballgames while the world burns.”
There’s much to do outside the church, of course.
“With half the world’s population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost people in those societies that have heard the gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses, and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make His grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world.”
And there are many things to be done within the church, as well.
If you are a woman, the question is not whether or not you can have a ministry. The question is whether or not you are willing to pursue all the ministry opportunities God has given you.