Mar 10 2019 Luke's Counter-Cultural Elevation of Women
11th March 2019
Lord, thank You for Your love for us – thank You for forgiving us of our sins – we are blameless in Your sight. The enemy tries to get us to doubt Your love for us – but Your love remains forever. Speak to our hearts now. In Jesus Name
This morning is the first Sunday of Lent. Today, I am speaking about the role of women in the life of Jesus. I wanted to make it clear - Apparently, it was International Women’s (History Month?) Day – and people asked if I planned that – Absolutely! I do not have even close to that planning and organization abilities to even know that it was International Women’s History Month (or whatever) – it was just serendipity!
Luke 8: 1 Some time afterward he went on through towns and villages, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and disabilities: Mary (called Magdalene), from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna the wife of Cuza (Herod's household manager), Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their own resources.
Mary Magdalene is associated with the sinful woman who broke the jar of oil and anointed Jesus. The Bible doesn’t explicitly say that.
I’ve read that Mary was the most popular name in Israel at the time – and so there is usually a second name associated with each Mary. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus.
What is the first word in the second verse? AND – and that is a crucial word. In Jesus’ day – women traveling with a rabbi/teacher would have been unheard of. We can know that all was proper – but we can also believe that religious leaders and others would have been suspicious about this. It was so different from what their culture expected.
At the bottom – it says – the women provided for them out of their resources. Women may have been the primary provider of Jesus’ expenses. And it was unusual that women would even HAVE resources.
Joanna – the wife of Cuza would have had resources – maybe she was widowed? But these women were partners with Jesus and the disciples – they weren’t just on the sidelines. Normally, financial support would have come from a wealthy male benefactor. It is possible that Luke was supported by a benefactor to write the gospel – How does Luke start the gospel? To the excellent Theophilus – it may have been someone who was supporting His work.
Luke lists several instances of generous women – like the sinful woman who broke a year’s worth of salary jar of perfume. And the widow who gave her last two pennies to the poor – not a lot of money – but all she had. Generosity is not how much you give – but how much you give in comparison to what you have.
Luke compares and contrasts men and women in the ministry and teaching of Jesus. One commentator says – there are 27 separate times where Luke compares and contrasts men and women. That is more than 1 per chapter. That is significant.
Let me give a few of them – The birth account – an angel appears to a man and a woman – Zacharias and Mary – and Luke compares and contrasts their responses to the angel – and they are different.
In Jesus’ first sermon – Luke 4 – second week of the year – Jesus starts his sermon – and gives two examples from the Old Testament – a widow a Zarapheth – Elijah asks for food and the oil never runs out.
The other, is Naaman – the official who receives grace equally – one is not lifted above another.
The woman who broke the perfume – what she is contrasted with in the story is Simon the Pharisee – this great devotion and respect of the woman compared to the disrespect of Simon.
The teaching on prayer – a man has travelers coming late at night – they have to keep knocking and finally he gets up – in contrast – a woman seeking justice – the judge won’t listen, but she is persistent – and both story is about persistent asking.
The prodigal son – before that, the woman who lost a coin – and a shepherd who lost a sheep – and each are illustrations of God’s character and love.
In Luke 20, Jesus speaks about the equality of women and men in the resurrection.
Then we have the widow who gave all – in contrast to the men who gave a little with great fanfare.
But the most important ones are during Holy Week – we have women at the cross and the disciples who mostly weren’t there.
Then the burial – Joseph of Arimathea who asks for the body – and the women who prepare the body and lay him in the tomb.
And the resurrection – the women were the first to see Him - and then who came later? Peter and John!
Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth."
As we remember what Luke was doing – he traveled around talking to witnesses. Then he writes Acts – and the commission to be witnesses to these events. The first witnesses to these events – and some of the primary ones – were women.
Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you– unless you believed in vain. 3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received–
Paul is giving a brief summary of that which is most important in the gospel
that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, (1Cor. 15:1 NET)
These women these are the three things of the gospel – who are the only witnesses to all three? Mary and the other women! We are all witnesses, I understand that – but physically – at each one of these – were women.
In their culture, in a courtroom, women would not be allowed to be witnesses – but God does!
Luke 10:38 38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me." 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her."
Most believe that Martha is the older sister – mainly because her name comes first – they would be Lazarus’ brother (gospel of John).
In verse 39 – Mary was seated at the Lord’s feet – listening to His word – a saying used for a disciple and a rabbi – Like Paul sitting at the feet of Gamaliel. It was a posture taken to show that one is a disciple. There is nothing wrong with this – Martha we see as the busybody serving – and Mary getting up and having a long quiet time – but that is not what this passage is about. Mary has chosen to take a discipleship relationship with Jesus – and Jesus has accepted her as a disciple. Jesus continues to do things throughout the gospel to do things that were not done – it happens over and over again – He is trying to make a point.
Let me say this – there is nothing wrong with Martha’s serving – the problem Jesus had was that she was distracted and anxious and upset with Mary for not helping. You can serve and maintain your relationship with God!
This is about space and place. In their culture – Martha is in the traditional role and space for women. The men would have been listening to Jesus – and the women would come in and out serving – but Jesus welcomed Mary into a space that was not normally for women. Jesus would have welcomed Martha into the same space. Discipleship for all of us begins at the feet of Jesus, listening to His word. This needs to be part of all of our lives.
This decision of Mary’s will not be taken away from her. Becoming a disciple is something that goes on - we can’t lose it. And this place that was reserved for men – will now always have access for women.
In our world – a way to look at this – how this relates to us. Let’s be honest – there is a lot of stuff going on in our world – not just men and women stuff – but race. We cannot ignore it.
Tuesday, there was a seminar about race relationships – there were black and white ministers there – as we talked – I think what – a conclusion – within the church – people don’t want to be racist – we want to bridge the gap – but it feels hopeless – because we don’t understand the gravity of the problem – it is ENORMOUS – we think it is pretty good – but when we listen to our black brothers and sisters – we say – WHAT? That is happening in the church? In America?!
In the Christian world., there are all kinds of books about marriage and relationships and children – a lot of those things focus on roles of men and women and husbands and wives – and those are important things that need to be discussed – but Jesus is saying that there is one role that really matters – BEING A DISCIPLE! That is what will not be taken away – that is our one necessary role. We cannot allow our culture to define discipleship. We cannot allow our CHURCH CULTURE to define discipleship. Most allow church culture that they agree with and like to define things – rather than Jesus – and I would rather agree with Jesus.
If Luke continually points this out – it must be something to pay attention to.
This is an explanation – of the liberating nature and aspects of the Kingdom of God.
Starting with the beginning of the year – From Luke 4 – the Spirit of the Lord is upon me – to declare the gospel to the poor – release to the captives – sight to the blind….
This concept of liberating people -the poor - the blind – the captive – socially – Jesus does this! And Luke wants to highlight that. And in their culture – and in many cultures across the world – it would have been women that were oppressed.
Galatians 3: 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Many will say - He is talking about our oneness – standing in Christ – fully saved children of God, equal in that – but there is a lot more. If you go back to chapter 1 – there were huge divisions between the Gentile and Jewish Christians – they don’t like one another – like Peter was eating with the Gentiles – and then changed the way he was eating when the Jewish Christians came. Paul says he opposed him to his face – because this is also about community oppression – Jew and Gentile – Slave and Free – This was RADICAL! Even just a little over a century ago – blacks were counted as 3/5 human!
Where Paul had power – in the church – Philemon was a wealthy Christian – who had a slave named Onesimus – and Onesimus gets saved and finds Paul – and Paul sends him back:
For perhaps he was for this reason separated from you for a while, that you would have him back forever, 16 no longer as a slave, but more than a slave, a beloved brother, especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. (Philemon 15)
Paul is saying here – Philemon is in the church – no longer slave and free – but brothers – and then – male and female.
I think Luke emphasizes this much more than the other gospel writers because he is correcting things that are wrong in his community. There are views – when it comes to male and female – that don’t line up with the teachings of Jesus and he wants to make that clear.
It is our job - to discover what views we hold that don’t line up with the teachings of Jesus and the way of Jesus- and then to correct that – starting in our own lives.
Thank You, Lord, we just ask that You would give us the ability to see – to look into our own hearts and to see the deficiencies – we all have them. Help us to understand that. Help us to see where we treat people – and even though we would never say this out loud, we believe ourselves to be superior. Help us to see that for what it is – an injustice against You – the One who liberated the oppressed. In Your Name we pray.