Who were the first preachers of the risen Jesus in the New Testament? No, it wasn’t Peter on the day of Pentecost. It wasn’t Stephen just before he was stoned to death. It wasn’t Philip the evangelist. It wasn’t even Paul the Apostle. It was women in the Gospel of Luke — preaching to men!
Incidentally, the men didn’t believe the women… because they were women (and Luke is careful to note this! – cf. Lk. 24:11). I’ll let you do the Greek work on that text so that you can see that “it seemed like nonsense” is directly related to their predisposition against women as credible witnesses.
In the first and second posts in this series I have done a survey of the inclusion of women in Luke’s Gospel. I personally divide all of the women into nine categories of women. When boiling all nine categories of women down to a central message, my conclusion is that Luke wants his audience to see women as…
(1) Recipients of the ministry and message of Jesus. – They are recipients in that they are healed, delivered, touched, preached to, included, graciously singled out, provided for, and comforted by Jesus in every way that he ministers to men and children in Luke’s Gospel. They are never excluded.
(2) Facilitators of the ministry and message of Jesus. – They are facilitators in that some of them actually provide financially for Jesus and the men in Jesus’ ministry entourage out of their own money, and Jesus includes women in his kingdom parables, object-lessons, teachings, and even in his warnings. They are never excluded.
(3) Proclaimers of the ministry and message of Jesus. – They are proclaimers in that they are eye-witnesses to all of the words and works of Jesus (just like the men). They are given personal supernatural angelic confirmation of Jesus’ resurrection (unlike the men, who initially only had the proclamation of the women until Jesus appeared to them). Further, they are the first humans to teach the doctrine of a literal bodily resurrection – quoting the words of Jesus himself (which we now see as scripture in our generation) to the apostles, which is a task (i.e., “teaching doctrine to men”) in some traditions and denominations, reserved only for men.
Speaking of proclamation and women…
A Hermeneutical Challenge and Proposition Regarding Proclamation
By way of six questions:
1. What are these women doing in their interaction with the men in the resurrection scene at the end of Luke’s gospel?
2. If these women are not teaching or preaching (by boldly proclaiming the reality of, and quoting angels and Jesus regarding, the doctrine of) the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus to the apostles (i.e., “men,” – Luke. 24:9-10) as first-hand witnesses, then how else might we classify what they are doing?
3. If we want to give this a different classification from teaching or preaching because they are women, why would we do that?
4. Is God “sanctioning” or “blessing” what they are doing?
5. If God will allow them to do this, why will he not allow them to teach men “lesser” doctrines?
And, to provide a framework to answer this question:
6. Should Jesus (via Luke) inform our interpretation of Paul? More specifically, how might appealing to Luke, who is showing us how women are featured in the ministry of Jesus, inform our hermeneutic as a primary interpretive text, when interpreting the writings of Paul on the subject of women teaching doctrine to men?
This is to say; it is often Paul who is consulted first on the question of women in ministry, and not Jesus (via the gospels). Would a reversal of this tendency (by placing the gospels in front of Paul in order to adjust our hermeneutical lenses) help to bring clarity or a change in our conclusions about what Paul intended to communicate?
A Final Personal Application
In my work as (1) the pastor of a church (within a denomination started by a woman), who (2) is leading a church that is comprised of 50% female humans, who (3) according to Luke’s gospel are recipients of, facilitators of, and proclaimers of the ministry and message of Jesus – I must intentionally look for ways to ensure that women continue to be enfranchised into the community of faith in my generation, and “on my watch” in no-less-inclusive ways!
A Survey of The Women in the Gospel of Luke In Chronological Order
1. Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah the priest. (Luke 1:5-25, 36-37, 40-45, 57-61)
2. Mary, mother of Jesus, betrothed of Joseph. (Luke 1:27-56; 2:5-7, 16-19, 22-24, 33-35, 39-51; 8:19-21, 11:27-28)
3. Anna, the prophetess. (Luke 2:36-38)
4. Herodias, adulterous wife of King Herod. (Luke 3:19)
5. The widow of Zarephath / Gentile. (Luke 4:25-26)
6. Mother-In-Law of Simon-Peter. (Luke 4:38-39)
7. The widow at Nain. (Luke 7:11-17)
8. Woman who anoints Jesus’ feet with ointment and washes them with tears (Luke 7:37-50)
9. Mary, called Magdalene from whom 7 demons had gone out. (Luke 8:2)
10. Joanna – The wife of Chuza (Herod’s Household Manager). (Luke 8:3)
11. Susana – A woman who accompanied Jesus and the twelve. (Luke 8:3)
12. Many (un-named) Women with Jesus and the twelve – helping with expenses out of their means. (Luke 8:3)
13. The Daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:42, 49-56)
14. The woman with an issue of blood (Luke 8:43-48)
15. Martha & Mary – Sisters (Luke 10:38-42)
16. The woman in the crowd (who shouts) (Luke 11:27-28)
17. The queen of the South (Luke 11:31)
18. The woman bent over by a disabling spirit. (Luke 13:10-16)
19. Parable of a woman who hid leaven in flour (Luke 13:21)
20. Parable of the woman who finds a lost coin (Luke 15:8-9)
21. Lot’s wife (Luke 17:32)
22. The (parable of the) widow and the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-5)
23. The (Sadducees scenario of a) wife with 7 dead husbands. (Luke 20:28-33)
24. The widow who gave all she had. (Luke 21:2-4)
25. Women who are pregnant in the last days – “Alas for them… great distress!!” (Luke 21:23)
26. A servant girl in the courtyard who tells Peter “You were with him.” (Luke 22:56-57)
27. The women who mourned on the road to the cross. (Luke 23:27-31)
28. The women who had followed him from Galilee (including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James – and other women). (Luke 23:49, 55, 56; 24:1-10, 22-23)