Names. They appear in the Bible a lot, and when they come in lists they’re easy to dismiss. They rarely are something we should dismiss and this case is no exception. The is a transitional passage, here, to be fair. Luke is moving us from one story to another, but within it is something significant, and something which no other Gospel writer does quite like Luke does: That is, pay attention to women. Have you noticed how he continually places women at the center of many of his stories? It’s quite beautiful when you place that in its cultural, which was oppressively sexist. The degree to which Luke pays attention to and highlights women is revolutionary and it speaks to the degree to which Luke’s Jesus is concerned with including the excluded.
This three verse passage is no different. It seems merely transitional, but did you notice how upstaged “The 12” (all men) are by Jesus’ female disciples? In this transitional passage, Luke takes time to say, “yeah the 12 were with them, but let me tell you about Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Susanna, and a whole bunch of others” (my paraphrase). Luke wants us to know that women count in this following Jesus revolution too. When he says, “The 12 were with him, as well as…“, he is essentially saying, “don’t forget about these women. They matter, they have a role, and they count just as much as any.”
It’s a shame that today some churches still restrict women in leadership. It’s a real shame. I’m not saying my denomination gets a gold star for inclusion- we have long way to go, yet. But we do work hard for gender equality. A light turned on in me about the importance of this issue about eight years ago. Being a man, growing up in a progressive home with a single mom in a progressive town and school systems, I just never really thought about how marginalized women still can be today. Eight years ago I was on a mission trip and for some reason a young Southern Baptist pastor was with us on our team. He and I ended up rooming together, and I guess he was struggling with the role some women on our team were playing- roles like leading Bible studies. One night as we were talking in our room he said to me very honestly, “y’all got women preachers up there in Minnesota?” I chuckled and said, “our Bishop’s a woman, and she can preach as well as anyone I’ve ever heard.” It hit me that night, just how far we have to go and how much I often don’t see it. Luke saw it 2,000 years ago. He didn’t see all of it, but he saw it. When you think about the disciples, don’t forget Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna.