Volume 33, Issue 17
What is Ministry? It is Serving and Giving.
Soon afterwards, Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources. – Luke 8:1-3 (NRSV)
As we’ve studied the Gospel of Luke on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings, we have become familiar with Jesus’ transformational power and his upending of established societal and class norms. And if we look closely at Luke’s gospel, Jesus depended on women to help him in his work more than any other gospel. In fact, in the story immediately preceding this text, Jesus commended a woman who had anointed his feet and washed them with her loving tears. Jesus scolded a critical Jewish leader and told him that this woman had shown great love and that her compassion had made her whole.
In the eighth chapter of Luke, we see three women of faith. And each of these women were diverse in their backgrounds, resources, and gifts. It is clear that Jesus drew people from a wide range of qualifications and experiences. Mary, the Magdalene, for instance, seemed to have many spiritual and emotional struggles, the presence of seven demons. It is assumed that Jesus cast out those demons, giving Mary a reason to follow him on the way. Jesus’ message spread to the sick and possessed and also to the lofty and influential people. The presence of Joanna, thought to be the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, reveals that Jesus’ message had made its way into the palace and the places of power.
These extraordinarily equipped women responded to Jesus’ work and gave of their resources because they were changed by the Word of God. That good news revealed that following Jesus and giving to his work spanned every gender, station, and social scale. And not only did this affirm the justice and inclusiveness of the Gospel of Luke, it also showed the wide reach of the kin-dom of God that Jesus brought to the world.
I think these first three verses in the eighth chapter of Luke reveal some important things about ministry. It is important to contribute our resources to the mission of Jesus and the work of God. The text is clear that all of these women provided for Jesus out of their financial resources. Mary, the Magdalene, probably had little money after seeking to get rid of all of the emotional, physical, and spiritual demons in her life. But what little she had, she gave to Jesus. Yet, Mary had a personal and powerful story of health and healing. That story was an important element to sharing Jesus’ justice and God’s love with the world. Joanna, on the other hand, was the wife of the king’s financial advisor and treasurer. Luke mention’s Joanna’s spouse because it is likely that Luke was highlighting her social stature and economic status. Joanna had the financial resources of the king at her disposable. Although at different levels, both Mary and Joanna gave generously to the work of Jesus.
Every woman who followed Jesus was personally involved. We can’t simply be spectators to ministry, spectators to Jesus. It is important that we actively contribute. It doesn’t matter what our stories are or what we’ve done in the past. Jesus relies on us to be providers and servants (deacons) just as he relied on these strong women who closely followed him. It is vitally important that we learn to lead like these women who decided to get involved and give!