A commentary on the Sabbath School Lesson for May 9: “Women in the Ministry of Jesus”
It is the exuberance of the women in Jesus’life that I find so refreshing. After being visited by an angel and being told that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and that she will give birth to a child, Mary goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. “I’m bursting with God-news;”she says. “I’m dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me, and look what happened—I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!”(Luke 1:46-47 Message)
When one thinks about the situation in which the pregnant Mary finds herself as an unmarried woman, the joy is particularly striking. One could imagine a very worried Mary going to visit her cousin Elizabeth asking for advice on how to break this news of pregnancy to Mary’s finance Joseph. But Mary knows what God has done for her. She is focused on “the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.”(v.48)
Praise was also on the lips of Anna the prophetess in the next chapter of Luke. She showed up and “broke into an anthem of praise to God“when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple to be blessed. She talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 Message)
Then there was the town harlot who went to the house of the Pharisee who was hosting Jesus at dinner. She came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood before Jesus weeping, raining tears on his feet. As for the Pharisee, whose hospitality was being put to shame, all he could muster was a snide remark about “what kind of woman this is”.
This story of Mary Magdalene pouring out her love in tears and perfume is followed by the revelation that it was the women who had been healed of various afflictions who used their considerable means to provide for Jesus and his disciples as they traveled from town to town preaching God’s kingdom. (Luke 8:1-3)
Look around and watch closely. You meet these women at churches today, too. Deaconesses chipping in to pay for a used car after a church sister loses hers in an accident. Volunteers taking care of children while a mother goes through wrenching therapy. Anne Lamott wrote about such women in her book “Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith”in which she tells her conversion story. Church women who came up to her when she was pregnant and pressed money in her hand to help her out.
The spontaneous joyful response to Jesus’good news makes women very effective evangelists. The woman at the well who converted her whole town continues in the tradition of the prophetess Anna in talking to all who are waiting to hear.
To understand the enthusiasm of these women, one need only look at how Jesus treats them. His heart goes out to the widow of Nain whose son has also died. He sees the true worth of the offering given by the widow with two mites. He values them, has empathy for them.
As the book of Luke comes to a close, it is again women who carry the good news of a risen Savior. “They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn’t believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up.”
Amidst the skepticism of the Pharisees, the doubts and misunderstandings of the disciples, thank goodness for the joy of the women described by Luke. Their example of how to respond to the love of the Savior is a gift.