“Women Accompanying Jesus” (Luke 8:1-3)

“Women Accompanying Jesus” (Luke 8:1-3)

Jesus had just finished attending a feast at Simon the Pharisee’s house. While there a prostitute had entered the room and served Jesus as if she herself were the host. She kissed his feet and washed them with a mixture of her tears and ointment.

Here, in this brief passage, Luke provides us with a description of Jesus’ traveling companions: the twelve, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many others.

Read Luke 8:1-3

We can only imagine the blessing it would have been to travel alongside Jesus in his earthly ministry. To witness him preaching to the crowds, discipling small groups of people, healing and casting out demons.

Almost each member of this traveling company had received so much from the Lord that they devoted their lives and their resources to the furtherance of his kingdom.

The right response to the Lord’s healing is to grow in our love for him and our desire to serve him.

This certainly applies to the list of names in this passage. And yet, all of you, who have believed in Jesus have been blessed by the presence of the Spirit of Christ, who ministers alongside us even now and intercedes – in his flesh – on our behalf before his Father. As we reflect upon these characters, let us not forget the tremendous privilege we ourselves have been given.

1. With the Twelve (1)

Luke 8:1 ESV

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,

Who were “the twelve” disciples? Can you list them all by name?

Luke 6:14–16 ESV

Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Jesus was earnest in pursuing his mission and the twelve joined in from various backgrounds. The gospel belongs to people from high and low economic and social positions. No class of people are left unreached by the gospel. This is true of the twelve as well as the women who gathered around Jesus.

› The first of whom is…

2. With Mary Magdalene (2)

Luke 8:2 ESV

and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,

There has been a tradition, possibly derived from Gregory the Great, which suggested that this is the same prostitute we saw in the previous passage. Many artistic portrayals of Mary Magdalene depict a prostitute based upon this misconception.

However, Luke doesn’t make any connection between Mary Magdalene and the forgiven woman in the previous passage (Luke 7:36-50). All we know of the forgiven woman is that she was “a woman of the city, who was a sinner” (Luke 7:37). It says nothing about demonic possession. And after forgiving her, Jesus dismissed her (Luke 7:50).

On the other hand, Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ followers. She is described as suffering from seven demons. And here, as well as every other reference to her in Scripture, makes no mention of her being a prostitute. She was simply someone Jesus had healed and became a prominent woman among Jesus’ followers (which would be why she was listed first).

But let’s not pass by her so quickly. She was possessed by seven demons. She was probably not someone who had episodes of demonic possession, but lived her life under the control of a demon.

This is hard to imagine today. Demon possession seemed so prominent in the new testament. Anything we read about happening today seems quite minor in comparison. We could say the same thing about all of Jesus’ healing accounts. Why is that?

Miraculous gifts often accompanied the giving of new revelation in the progression of redemptive history. Now that we have been given the complete Scriptures, the need for miraculous identifiers is obsolete.

Implication – Show me!

› Several more of the traveling cohort is listed in the next verse.

3. With Joanna, Susanna, and Many Others (3)

Luke 8:3 ESV

and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.

The fact that Jesus included women among his traveling companions is significant since rabbis refused to teach women. For Jesus to allow so many women to gather around him was unique and revolutionary among the Jewish people.

You could imagine the hardship these women would have faced from the Jewish community. They commitment to Christ exceeded any cultural expectations placed upon them. Why were they so committed to Jesus? Because of his great mercy towards them.

As Darrell Bock notes:

The NIV Application Commentary: Luke Bridging Contexts

Texts like this, affirming the role of women in a first-century culture where they were either seen as property or relegated to an almost invisible role, are significant in showing that women play a major role in contributing to the ministry of the church.

We see this in Mark’s parallel account:

Mark 15:40–41 ESV

There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 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.

We also know that some of these same women were there after Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:10). The women are almost universally commended for their faithfulness to Jesus at the end of his life (weeping, remaining at the cross, visiting the tomb).

Why were they following Jesus? Luke emphasizes their provision for Jesus and the twelve “out of their means.” Mark says that they “followed him and ministered to him.”

Although we are only given the background on Mary Magdalene and Joanna, we know that they came from a place of means. This would have not only allowed them to travel for extended periods of time, but it would have also afforded them the ability to provide for the needs of the company.

Joanna was the wife of Herod’s manager. So in addition to having means, she was also one of the social elites. It seems likely that her response to Jesus was not reciprocated by many in her circle of peers. Calvin speculates that she would have had to overcome the opposition of her husband in order to leave her household and perform this service for Jesus.

If her commitment and zeal exemplifies the whole group, then we should honor them for their sacrificial love. They are an example to all of us.

Many in the church disagree over what roles women are allowed to serve within the church (i.e., the PCA doesn’t permit women to serve in the office of elder or deacon, see 1 Tim. 3, Tit. 1). But every church should encourage its members to serve the Lord – and one another – regardless of their gender.

The PCA’s Study Committee Report on Women in Ministry from 2017 affirmed Complementarianism (equal in value, separate in role), while encouraging a robust use of women in ministry where Scripture permits.

So often, the modern debate of women in ministry, focuses on positions of authority. But these women who genuinely wanted to serve Jesus were never seeking authority. They were content to provide generous care.

What about you? We have been given the same privilege of ministering to Christ that these women had.

Matthew 25:40 ESV

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Mark 9:41 ESV

For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

This is indeed the privilege of serving alongside Christ, but Jesus’s teaching also come with warnings about those who do not give, do, and serve. J.C. Ryle notes (causing great conviction):

True love will count it a pleasure to give anything to the object loved. False love will often talk and profess much, but do and give nothing.

How are you ministering alongside Jesus and contributing your resources to his kingdom work?

› In…


Darrell Bock points out something this passage makes abundantly clear:

The NIV Application Commentary: Luke Bridging Contexts

Those who enter the community are not spectators to ministry. Rather, they use their gifts and resources in service to Jesus.

None of this was done in order to receive the favor of Jesus, but it was the response of a heart filled with gratitude because of what Christ had already done for them.

The right response to the Lord’s healing is to grow in our love for him and our desire to serve him.

Let us allow the example of these women to encourage and inspire us to do the same for the body of Christ in our time and place.