Thursday, January 31, 2008

This week's Sabbath School lesson: the call to women

After Jesus was anointed by the woman at Simon's house, he "traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene)from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means" (Luke 8:1-3, NIV).
We often picture Christ's disciples as a kind of spiritual Marine Corps -- as a lean, tough, band of twelve superheroes who bravely followed Jesus into the jaws of death.

In reality, Christ's followers probably looked like a meeting of your local PTA. If the Last Supper was a Passover Seder, for instance, then women and children were present; that's because it would have been unthinkable for the disciples to celebrate this festival without their families.

Likewise, passages such as Luke 8:1ff and Mark 15:40f indicate that women were not marginal to Christ's ministry -- in fact, they paid the bills!

And when all the other disciples had fled, who remained with Jesus?
As Jesus died, "some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there" (Mark 15:40f, NIV).
It's no wonder that Christianity proved to be so popular with women -- in fact, church historian Philip Jenkins calls it "the world's first feminist religion." As Christians, after all:
  • women gained some protection in a society that sanctioned female infanticide and divorce-at-will by men.
  • women were allowed to lead out in churches (cf. Phoebe and Junia in Romans 16).
  • And at a time when philosophers debated whether or not women had rational souls -- a time when Jewish men thanked God in their daily prayers that they had not been born a slave, a Gentile, or a woman . . .
No, even in times like those, they had a Savior who welcomed women and counted them among his closest followers.

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