Throughout Luke’s gospel we read stories of the unlikely elevation and inclusion of people that would have stood out as significant to early hearers of the gospel, but 2,000 years later can be easy to miss. As this series has noted, people who are poor and people who are prisoners, people with infirmities and disabilities are lifted up. Foreigners like Samaritans and the Centurion are not only invited into the promise of the kingdom but are pointed to as paragons of faith.
Sunday we explored the well-known story of Mary and Martha hosting Jesus in Luke 10. We sometimes boil the lesson of this encounter down to what is sometimes called the Martha syndrome—that is, being a workaholic who doesn’t know how to take a break, especially when something more important demands our focus (and that’s a good lesson). But more is happening in the story. By sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him teach, Mary is taking a position of a disciple traditionally reserved for men (Acts 22:3). What Martha was doing was good, but Jesus says, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:42).” Jesus not only affirms her action, but her position and place at his feet as his disciple.
Yet these easy to miss moments of elevation and affirmation of women are all throughout Luke’s gospel. Luke 8:1-3 informs us that women disciples were a part of Jesus’ traveling party. What’s more, Luke goes out of his way to let us know that they were funding it, paying for it. They were the benefactors. That is a highly respected, highly honored position of prominence and influence in the ancient world.
But wait, there’s more. Elizabeth and Mary are held up in the opening chapters while Zechariah and Joseph fall short of full faith, In chapter 2 when Jesus is presented at the temple at 8 days old, Luke highlights a righteous man at the temple named Simeon and a long-serving widow, named Anna, who is a prophet—one who speaks words of God to the people of God to inform, enlighten, encourage, and challenge.
Skipping to the end of the gospel, it is women (and John) who remain at the cross while the rest scatter. And it is women entrusted as the first witnesses of the empty tomb and the angel declaring that Jesus has risen. This is remarkable that it is a group of women when Jewish women at the time couldn’t serve as witnesses in trials because their testimony was considered unreliable. Yet God entrusted these faithful women to serve as witnesses to the turning point in history and the hope of all the world. And I could go on and on about how Jesus in Luke repeatedly puts stories and parables of faithful women right beside those of faithful men.
Though their stories are sometimes overlooked, their stories need to be told. Their voices need to be heard. That’s something we can’t afford to miss.