26. Women in Jesus' Traveling Band (Luke 8:1-3)

Gospel Parallels §84
Audio (16:16)

James J. Tissot, detail of 'The Holy Women' (1886-94)
James J. Tissot, detail of 'The Holy Women' (1886-94), gouache on gray wove paper, Brooklyn Museum, New York.

Let's meditate on just three verses in this lesson verses that have much to teach us by inference and example.

"1  After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2  and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3  Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means." (Luke 8:1-3, NIV)

An Itinerant Preaching Ministry (Luke 8:1a)

Luke gives us a very interesting insight into the nature of Jesus' traveling band of disciples. At this point in time, Jesus was moving continually.

"After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God." (Luke 8:1a)

The verb translated "traveled," Greek diodeuō, "go, travel through, go about,"217 is in the imperfect tense, and carries the idea of continued action in the past. He didn't just travel from Village A to City B, he was continually on the move. We also see another interesting Greek construction here: "kata Town kata Village." The preposition kata, "along, over, through, in, upon," when repeated as it is in verse 1, carries the idea of "from one to another," further emphasizing this period of travel. He preached in both the larger communities, Greek polis, "city, town," but also the tiny communities, Greek komē, "village."

Jesus' action is expressed by two verbs: kērussō, "announce, make known" by a herald, then "preach, proclaim."218 and euangelizō, "bring or announce good news,"219 from which we get our word "evangelize." The content of this preaching is "the kingdom of God."

Can you imagine how exciting it would be to have Jesus come to your village with his band of followers? The farmers are leaving their fields, the women are ceasing their labors with food and clothing, the children are deserting their play, and they are gathering around to listen to the Master, this famous visiting teacher, whose reputation precedes him. In many of these villages there is no building large enough to hold all the hearers, so Jesus teaches outside in the fields, on a gently sloping hillside so all can see him. They see instant, wondrous healings of cripples they have known all their lives. Crazy people who have been confined to darkened rooms for years are now restored to their right mind.

And Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God, not as a faraway place, but as present and powerful, as small but growing like a mustard seed or leaven in dough. Jesus speaks of the Reign of God in ways so real that you can feel it. And when you see miracles of deliverance and wholeness, Jesus calls them "the finger of God." It is real and close up and powerful. And you know you will never be the same.

Jesus' Travelling Companions (Luke 8:1b-3)

But if the impact of a sunny afternoon is powerful and life-changing, think of the impact on the people who travel with Jesus during these preaching trips. They hear the same message day after day, week in and week out. Though Jesus preaches with some variation in each town, his followers get so they can recite his teachings word for word, they have heard them so many times. If you are one of his band of followers, you've seen so many people healed that you've lost count. Day after day, week after week it is the same. You get so you believe that nothing is impossible to Jesus -- and, indeed, Nothing Is! What a wonderful school of discipleship, to be in on these teachings, and the "debriefings" around the campfire that follow the day's teaching. You get to listen to the Master explain why he does certain things, and how he sees people, and what his parables mean.

We're trying to recreate that atmosphere of continual study and constant discussion in our JesusWalk experience, so that we disciples might be able to live and breathe Jesus' ministry through our own lives and contacts and journey-adventures.

Luke gives us unique insight in verses 1-3 into the make-up of his traveling band that we find nowhere else in the Gospels.

"The Twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod's household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means." (Luke 8:1b-3)

Here is the roster:

  1. The Twelve Apostles (Luke 6:1-16)
  2. Healed women
  3. Many others

Often we visualize Jesus travelling the dusty roads with just Twelve Men, a fairly good-sized group of travelers to find provisions for night after night. But as Jesus approached the town of Nain, Jesus' party was considerable, "his disciples and a large crowd went along with him" (7:11). The verb translated "went along with" in 7:11 is Greek sumporuomai.220 The word appears again in Luke 14:25: "Large crowds were traveling with Jesus...." In both cases the imperfect tense is used, conveying the idea of continued action in the past. This isn't just a once-only trip. These people travel with Jesus habitually, continually. The Twelve may have been the only Apostles, but the others are surely disciples, "learners," and they stay with Jesus, learning, watching, witnessing from these early days in Galilee until they gathered after his ascension. In the upper room in Jerusalem, 120 strong (Acts 1:15), they pray and then select one from this larger group of disciples as a replacement for Judas to bring back the number of Apostles to Twelve:

"Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection." (Acts 1:21-22)

Mary from Magdala (Luke 7:2-3)

Location of Magdala, on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee. (larger map)

Mary Magdalene, the first witness to the Risen Christ (John 20), is one of this larger group of disciples. We know little about her early life except what Luke tells us in 8:2-3. We learn three or four things about her:

  1. She was from Magdala, which was probably on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, the modern Migdal (meaning "watchtower"), about three miles northwest of Tiberias along the coast.221 It was a strongly Hellenized town with an important dried-fish industry. Josephus refers to it by its Greek name Tarichaea, meaning "drying and salting." Archaeological digs in the early 1970s revealed a small 26.5 x 23.5 foot synagogue from New Testament times, and confirmed its urban character.222 Rabbis criticized the immorality of its inhabitants.223 It was a prosperous city that by AD 60-70 had a hippodrome (stadium for horse races) and 40,000 inhabitants.224
  2. She was from a wealthy family, since she helped support Jesus and his disciples from her personal fortune.
  3. She was troubled, and had been healed by Jesus from seven demons which he had cast out of her. Some paint Mary as a prostitute or loose woman, but the New Testament clearly distinguishes the demonized from sinners and prostitutes. How this demonic activity manifested itself, we don't know. Perhaps in some kind of mental illness or self-destructive behavior.
  4. She was single. We are not told anything about her husband, as we would have been if she were married. She was either unmarried, or, more likely, a widow.
  5. She was devoted to Jesus. She traveled with his party throughout Galilee, and was with him in Jerusalem at his crucifixion and resurrection. She was one of those who followed Jesus because her life had been so remarkably changed by his healing power.

In my short story "I Have Seen the Lord" (www.joyfulheart.com/easter/seenlord.htm) I have sketched a fictional portrait of her, but the facts we know are few. What portrait would be drawn of you, O disciple of Jesus? What facts, some proud, some rather tawdry, would make up your background before you met Jesus? What would be said about your relationship with him these days? Of your service to him?

Jesus and His Women Followers (Luke 8:2-3)

Luke mentions Mary Magdalene along with two others: Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod Agrippa's household, Susanna, "and many others." Susanna, too, is mentioned with no husband, so she may have been a widow. Joanna's husband had a very prominent position in the Galilean king's court. That she had the freedom to travel with Jesus while her husband was still living and active is remarkable. Our general view of women's place in Judaism stresses the patriarchal power structure, and, by the rabbis at least, a misogynist view of women. There are, however, indications of a place for women in Judaism, especially, evidence that some women held the office of ruler or president of synagogues.225

But the way Jesus treats women, ministers to their needs, and allows them to travel as a regular part of his team is unparalleled in ancient history. Though the New Testament doesn't tell us, doubtless the scandalous presence of women travelling in Jesus' group was a theme of his critics. In Jesus we see a strong denunciation of sexual immorality, adultery, and lust (Matthew 15:19; 5:28), and the command to an adulteress to "go and sin no more" (John 8:11). But there is no indication that within his band there was any immorality whatsoever. It is probably no coincidence that Luke places this explanation directly after an incident where Jesus and the sinful woman were misjudged, when in fact there was purity of motive and heart. His team of disciples prefigures a church in which men and women worship and minister together in purity, a church in which "there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). "But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people" (Ephesians 5:3).

I have little doubt that the women who have been healed by Jesus and travel with him play an important part in ministering to the throngs of suffering women who come to him. I would expect they do a lot of encouraging, counseling, and instruction with those of their gender, as part of Jesus' ministry team.

Financially Supporting Jesus' Mission (Luke 8:3b)

Verse 3 is fascinating:

"These women were helping to support them out of their own means." (Luke 8:3b)

The Greek verb here is a familiar one, diakoneō, "to serve, minister," from which we get our word "deacon." In this verse, it is found in the imperfect tense, meaning continual and habitual activity in the past. They supplied his financial needs again and again. Luke is recounting the typical way that Jesus' ministry was supported. We are told of no other supporters of Jesus' mission than these women. They were Jesus' first supporters, and I am sure they did more than tithe. They generously met the needs of Jesus and his band out of their own family fortune. The Greek word is the substantive of hyparchō, "what belongs to someone, someone's property, possession, means."226 They demonstrated what Paul called the spiritual gift of "contributing to the needs of others" (Romans 12:8).227

I wonder how much it cost to support Jesus' food, clothing, and accommodation expenses, along with those of his Twelve disciples, and the incidental costs of his preaching mission over a period of two or three years? Certainly, in many towns and villages there was an outpouring of hospitality. But these women gave of their financial means time and time again. Whenever there was a need, Jesus could rely upon them. What a rare privilege they had!

How about you? Can Jesus rely upon you financially? When there is a poor person he wants to bless, or a Christian work he seeks to strengthen, does he turn to you? Or has he found that it's no use? That you've given him your heart, but your wallet and bank savings are off-limits?228 Being a true disciple means that everything we have must be at Jesus' disposal.

What a powerful lesson in the example we see in these three verses!


Lord, when I study your life, I find there is no room for me to keep MY things. Everything I own is yours, and must be yours for me to be more than a phony disciple. Take away my selfishness. Take away also, Lord, my gender blinders that keep me from seeing how you include women in your mission, and entrust them with important roles, even when some count it scandalous. Forgive our churches, too, for the ways in which we have sometimes marginalized the women you have sent to us for ministry. In your strong name, I pray. Amen.

Key Verse

"These women were helping to support them out of their own means." (Luke 8:3b)


Click on the link below to discuss on the forum one or more of the questions that follow -- your choice.

  1. According to Luke 8:1, what was the content of Jesus' message?
  2. Why didn't he skip the smallest villages?
  3. What do you think Jesus' critics said about the women who traveled with Jesus' band continually? Why do you think Jesus allowed it? Do you think he encouraged it? Why?
  4. Why did the women respond as they did to healing?
  5. What was the women's chief motivation for contributing financially to support Jesus' mission?
  6. How can we be responsible to save for retirement and still give generously to Jesus' work?
Discipleship Training in Luke's Gospel, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Lessons compiled in 805-page book in paperback, Kindle, & PDF.


Abbreviations and References

[217] Diodeuō, BAGD 198.

[218] Kērussō, BAGD 431.

[219] Euangelizō, BAGD 317.

[220] Sumporuomai, BAGD 780.

[221] Green, Luke, p. 320.

[222] Avraham Negev (ed.), "Magdala, Migdal Nunayah, Taricheae," The Archaeological Encyclopedia of the Holy Land (Revised Edition; Thomas Nelson, 1986), pp. 225-226. Edersheim, Life and Times 1:571 cites Midrash on Eccl. x. 8., ed. Warsh, p. 102b. Edersheim, Life and Times 1:572, suggests that it might be a suitable location for a dyeworks using shell-fish that abound in these waters for the purple and scarlet dye, but gives no evidence that that such an industry actually existed here.

[223] Rainer D. Riesner, "Archeology and Geography," DJG, pp. 37-38, citing Strack and Billerbach, I, 1047. Edersheim, Life and Times 1:571 cites Jer. Taan. u. s.; Midrash on Lam ii. 2., ed. Warsh. p. 67b middle.

[224] Josephus, Wars of the Jews, ii, 21,3-4. During the rebellion against Rome Taricheae was fortified, and finally taken by Vespasian.

[225] David M. Scholer, "Women," DJG, p. 881, citing Kraemer. See B. Brooten, Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue (Chico: Scholars, 1982). See Ross S. Kraemer, "Sampler of Inscriptions Documenting Jews and Judaism in the Greco-Roman Diaspora," University of Pennsylvania, 1995.

[226] Huparchō, BAGD 838.

[227] More on this gift in C. Peter Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow (Regal Books, 1979), pp. 92-95.

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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