Jesus went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
Luke’s gospel has a special sensitivity to women. Today’s gospel passage is unique to Luke, and so are all of the following: the passages about Elizabeth (1:5-39), the prophetess Anna (2:36-38), the sinful woman (7:36-50), Martha and Mary (10:38-42), the crippled woman (13:10-17), the woman with the lost coin (15:8-10), the woman and the judge (18:1-8). This may not seem a big thing to us today, but in its own time and place the female following of Jesus was out of the ordinary. The power of the revolution unleashed by him is seen at one remove in St Paul, who (though he never knew Jesus in the flesh) could write, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
Strict rabbis would not speak to a woman in public, very strict ones not even to their own wives. But what is remarkable is not only the presence of women in that list of followers, but their variety. Mary Magdalene, whom he had healed, became his most faithful follower. (From the time of Gregory the Great she was identified with the sinful woman of Luke 7, but there are no grounds for this identification.) Joanna was the wife of Herod’s steward, Chuza, who was a major political figure. If it had not been for their friendship with Jesus they would have had nothing in common. There were not just two or three women; the text says, “and many others.”
It has to be said: at crucial moments Jesus was better served by his women disciples than by his men. A little-known Cork poet, E. S. Barrett, wrote:
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