Women of the Bible: The first women missionary society for the support of the gospel
In the New Testament times the position of women was not equal to that of men. Women were regarded as inferior to men. In marriages, only men were allowed to dissolve a marriage and in the temple area, women were permitted to go only as far as the court of women and can only share in the synagogue worship only by listening.
The mixture of the sexes in public was an uncommon thing, opposed to the custom of Palestine. The rabbis were not in favour of associating with a woman in public but we read of Jesus that as he went about through the cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good-news of the kingdom that some women provided for him and his disciples out of their means (Luke 8:2-3).
Some of the women mentioned were Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna. These women all had personal grounds of gratitude to Jesus for some of them were healed of evil spirits and infirmities.
In Jesus’ social context, there was a lot of disdain towards women. Women lack influence and power, they were shunned in public and treated as second class citizens. A rabbi in the second century AD said that the Jews should daily utter three Thanksgivings with one of the Thanksgivings being: ‘Blessed be God who did not make me a woman, for a woman is not obligated to keep the commandments’. Such was the hostility towards women in public life that Jesus countered the social hatred by accumulating women to travel with him on his journeys.
These women displayed their gratitude to Jesus by providing for his missionary work out of their own personal resources; we could say that this is the first woman missionary society for the support of the gospel. Another Rabbi may have shunned these women’s support and bid them go back to their own homes, but Jesus, the ever compassionate Saviour allowed these women to be the backbone of his ministry.
We read that in Jesus’s suffering hours that these women were with him. He had them for company from Galilee all the way to Jerusalem. The gospel writers were not misogynist for they included the presence of these woman in the dying hours of Jesus’s life whereas they were completely silent about the whereabouts of the chosen twelve save a few.
These women were loved and cherished by Christ. Jesus also came for them. He came for their reconciliation to God’s society and to God himself.
We see two valuable traits in these woman of which we can all learn. The two traits are service and loyalty.
These women offered their service voluntarily. I am sure that Jesus did not oblige them to provide for his needs just because he had set them free; their debts were for him to pay, but in the view of the mercy and love which Christ had showered upon them, these women responded by giving him their hearts. They offered him that which they could give in whatever heights or depths. One thing can be said, namely, that they gave their service willingly. God loves a cheerful giver and Christ and his disciples must have loved these women for they supported the ministry out of their own means. And when Christ had ascended into heaven the disciples were found devoting themselves to prayer with the Women and Mary the Mother of Jesus.
Daughters of God and sisters of Christ, is your heart melted by Christ as these women’s once unclean souls were? Are you quick to offer your service, money and time to Christ, supporting the work of his ministry or are you still lingering in your struggle to conquer Adam and fight your rights of equality? Will you not be like Christ who considered equality with God, not as a thing to be grasped but emptied himself and was found as a servant? Will you not be a servant? Will you not go quickly because of your gratitude and in your great joy sell all of your ambitions to gain Christ? O will you not be one of the Mary’s?
I pray that you render your service to Christ and to his Church for the joy and salvation of the world.
The beloved Apostle tells us that standing by the cross of Jesus was his Mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas and Mary Magdelene. The loyalty of the other women were recorded for us by Matthew when he writes, There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.
These women were faithful to their Christ, there was not a Judas among them – they did not pick up the cause of Christ, putting their hands to the plough and then turn back like some of the disciples at Capernaum who turned back and no longer followed Jesus. These women endured the hard teachings, they suffered the fear of being thrown out of the synagogues because of their association with Jesus. These women were seeds planted on good soils, they yielded the fruits of faithfulness.
These women’s loyalty was like Uriah’s loyalty for his fellow soldiers when David had taken him away from them. Uriah refused to go back to his own home to sleep in comfort but he slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord’s and did not go down to his own house. Although David may write that the faithful have vanquished from among the children of men, we can say of these women that the faithful have not perished from among the daughters of Eve. These women stood and watched the crucified Christ from a distance although powerless to do anything yet they showed their support for the suffering Messiah by being there and standing near the foot of his cross.
In all truths of heaven, women are not second-class citizens of the Kingdom of God, they are first class, highly honoured and crowned with beautiful gems decorated with a special name which God their Father has given to each that belongs to him. They enter the kingdom of heaven like all men namely through the effectual calling of God, who justifies them and then glorifies them conforming each to the character of his glorious Son who carried their sins on the cross.
My dear Ladies, be Women who are full of gratitude because of what Christ has done for you. Hold nothing back, live for Christ, serve his church, love your family, use whatever gifts Christ has given you, be a good daughter, seek his kingdom, be loyal, be faithful, provide for the ministry like the Women mentioned in the gospels who provided for Jesus out of their means.