Some Women Accompany Jesus
Reflection on the Gospel of the Friday In The Twenty-Fourth Week Of Ordinary Time
In today’s gospel, Luke presents Jesus as an itinerant preacher travelling in the company of the Twelve and of the Galilean women who are sustaining them out of their means. These Galilean women will later accompany Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem and become witnesses to his death (Lk 23:49) and resurrection (Lk 24:9-11), where Mary Magdalene and Joanna are specifically mentioned. The association of women with the ministry of Jesus is most unusual in the light of the attitude of first-century Palestinian Judaism toward women. Women in Jewish society at the time of Jesus were given a very inferior position. They were classed with children and slaves as not fully adult, and so incapable of being entrusted with civic or religious responsibility. Women could not become disciples of a Jewish rabbi, nor would a rabbi speak to a woman in the street.
Jesus did not adopt the inhuman traits of his culture; nor did he accept the prejudices of the Jews of his time with regard to women or public sinners. This challenged Jewish custom, which discouraged men from associating with women in public. Among Jesus’ women disciples, Mary Magdalene is a most important person confirmed by the fact that she meets the resurrected Jesus in all four Gospels and proclaims the news to the others.
Jesus’ larger group of disciples included women. Jesus placed women on an equal plane with men before God since He proclaimed Himself the Saviour of all (Gal 3:28). Because of this tradition set by Jesus, the Apostles allowed wives to accompany them (1Cor 9:5), and women disciples were allowed to carry out important missions, as in the case of Phoebe who carried St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans to its destination (Rom 16:1). Many of the woman disciples who funded Jesus’ ministry (Lk 8:3) must have been widows who controlled their own wealth, but at least two of the women disciples were married “Joanna the wife of Herod Antipas’ steward and Salome Zebedee, the mother of James and John. They could only have supported Jesus’ ministry financially with the approval of their husbands.