Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. —Luke 8:1-3 (NLT)
I retired about eighteen months ago. For the forty-three years prior to that my wife and I worked as fulltime missionaries. Our call by God to missionary work began during our engagement; our work began a few weeks after we were married, when we loaded all of our earthly belongings into my Dodge van and drove to our new home in Mexico City.
Missionaries are supported financially in a variety of ways. Some are salaried, like a pastor of a church. Others are required to raise their financial support from friends and acquaintances who catch a vision for the work and want to get behind it by praying, encouraging, or sometimes, writing monthly checks. Some of our financial donors contributed $5 a month to help us with our expenses, others gave more. A few contributed faithfully for our entire 43-year-long careers.
Churches, synagogues, charities, and missions organizations all have something in common: they can’t exist without generous gifts of time, labor, prayer, and money.
The New Testament doesn’t say much about how Jesus and his disciples lived over the 3-year course of his ministry. There are mentions of them staying as guests in the homes of relatives and friends. There are stories of them as invited guests at dinners. Others talk about their gathering food from the countryside as they walked from town to town. And we can’t overlook the way God miraculously provided a meal for the thousands who came out to hear Jesus speak by multiplying a couple of loaves of bread and some fish. (Matthew 14:15 and 15:32)
In Luke 8, Jesus goes on a road trip to preach, teach, and heal. In addition to his 12 disciples and other followers, he invited a group of women to go with him, and Luke writes: “[These were women] who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.“
We can guess that Joanna, “the wife of… Herod’s business manager,” may have been well off. We know little about the others, but it’s likely that these women were of very limited means. They “contributed from their resources,” not necessarily money, though we can be certain that money was part of it. They likely contributed food as well, labor, supplies (bedding, clothing and the like), and they may well have sold off family valuables to be able to provide money for Jesus’ work.
In every church I’ve attended, much of the volunteering is done by women. In every talk I’ve given about missions work, most of the interested attendees have been women. In fact, over the years of our missionary service, we’ve noticed that the majority of those who accept a call to missionary service are also women. These are facts, but I’m not going to advance any theories about why this is true.
What Luke 8 makes clear is that Jesus welcomed women, and in fact, he specifically wanted these women to accompany him on his travels. You see throughout his ministry that women were every bit as responsive to the movement of God as men, and we never see Jesus treating women as inferior, or as less able to understand and respond to the call of the Good News than the men in his audience.
Rather, we see a glimpse here of the reality that women were underwriting his work, caring for and providing for his disciples, taking risks and making sacrifices because they believed in him. Their loyalty and service went all the way up to the bitter end, when it was the women who dared go to the tomb to prepare his body for burial, and the women who first received and then announced the Good News that he had risen from the dead.