Mary Magdalene and Some Other Women Supported Jesus Out of Their Own Means

Luke 8: 1-3

DIG: What do you think the Twelve thought of this arrangement? Why did Jesus include Mary Magdalene and the other women? Was He merely trying to be fair? Was this some early form of affirmative action? Why couldn’t the women just listen whenever a crowd gathered or when Yeshua occasionally taught them in private, as He did with Mary of Bethany? How does He treat women generally in the New Covenant?

REFLECT: What made it so unlikely that Mary Magdalene would become such a significant leader among the followers of the Messiah? Why do you think the past has such a strong hold on us, even though we are certain of our forgiveness in Christ? Why is it so hard to forgive others? Why do people even blame God for the misery caused by the Adversary in their lives?

This was the Lord’s third major preaching tour, when for the first time He was not only followed by His twelve talmidim, but also attended to by the loving service of those who owed everything to His ministry.648 After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God (Luke 8:1). This demonstrated that a new stage in the messianic message had begun. It is probable that this tour was preparatory for the next big evangelistic push in Luke 9:1-50.

Mary Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household, Susanna, and many others traveled with them. This was how Christ’s preaching tour was financed. Evidently some of those women had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Mary Magdalene had been demon possessed (Luke 8:2), but the Meshiach had delivered her from that and she owed everything to Him.

Although she was not the Mary who anointed Jesus with pure nard for burial about 28 hours before being laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (that was Mary, the sister of Lazarus) or the woman who had lived a sinful life weeping and wiping Christ’s feet with her hair as she poured perfume on them (Luke 7:38), she had just as much reason to weep tears of gratitude at His feet.

Instead of weeping, Mary and other women turned their gratitude into action. These women, apparently well-to-do, were helping to support them out of their own means (Luke 8:3). The verb were helping is the Greek term diekonoun from which we get the word deacon (Mark 15:41; Acts 6:1-6). Who knows how many lives were touched, how many more people were exposed to the teachings of Christ, how often a weary Yeshua and His fatigued apostles were refreshed and revived because of the kindness of these women? In the process of caring for Jesus, they soaked up His teaching and were on the scene to witness His character, ministry and miracles. Again it is Luke who tells us about women’s roles in the life and ministry of the Messiah.

There was certainly nothing inappropriate about Jesus’ practice of allowing women disciples to be His followers. We can be certain that whatever traveling arrangements were made for the group, Messiah’s name and honor (as well as the reputations of all the men and women in the group) were carefully guarded from anything that might hint of any criticism. After all, Christ’s enemies were looking desperately for reasons to accuse Him. If there had been any way whatsoever for them to drum up doubts about the propriety of the Lord’s relationships with women, that issue would have been raised. However, even though His enemies regularly lied about Him and even accused Him of being a glutton and a drunkard (Matthew 11:19), no accusations against Him were ever made on the basis of how He treated the women in His band of disciples.

These were godly women who devoted their whole lives to spiritual things. They evidently had no family responsibilities that required them to stay home. If they had been negligent with any of their duties, you can be certain Messiah would not have permitted them to accompany Him. There is never the slightest hint of unseemliness or indiscretion in the way any of them related to Him. While most rabbis didn’t allow women to be their disciples, Christ encouraged both men and women to learn from Him. This is yet another example of how women are honored in the Bible.649

Our twenty-first-century perspective makes it harder to detect the drastic changes Jesus was introducing to women’s lives. Within the first-century patriarchal culture, women led more sheltered lives and moved in separate, more confined spheres than men. In Mary’s world, men and women didn’t freely associate together as we do today. Men tended to avoid public encounters with women, which explains why Yeshua’s talmidim were dumbfounded when they found Him talking with the Samaritan woman (John 4:27). Also, education was a male privilege. A woman could pick up a lot from synagogue teachings and from her father, if he chose to teach her. But women never studied under rabbis. Church historians tell us that, it would have been unheard of for women to travel with a rabbi. Also, women didn’t have a voice in legal matters and were not accepted as credible witnesses in a court of law.

In these matters, and many others Rabbi Yeshua radically broke with tradition. He didn’t isolate Himself from women like other rabbis. He taught them openly, engaged their minds, recruited them as His disciples, and counted them in important matters. He gave His male disciples a lot to think about when they heard Him teaching women the same deep theology He taught them. Also, instead of dismissing women as legal witnesses, Christ affirmed them as key witnesses to the most crucial events of human history – His own death, burial and resurrection (see Me – Jesus Appears to Mary Magdalene).650

Miryam (called Magdalene): Of the women who knew Jesus, only Mary of Nazareth is mentioned with greater frequency than Mary Magdalene. She was born in the booming city of Sepphoris, home to some forty thousand residents, an hour’s walk north from Nazareth. It was walled, just like Jerusalem, and donkey caravans appeared at the city gates each week begging for entry so they might sell their wares. It was a city unlike any other in Galilee. Since Herod Antipas rebuilt it, it experienced a rebirth. It was home to doctors, lawyers, craftsmen, tax collectors, and entertainers who performed mime and comedic plays at the theater. But the building of that wondrous metropolis came at a great cost. Thanks to Antipas, Sepphoris had also become home to many people who had lost their farms due to excessive taxation. With no fields to till or homes to call their own, they crowded into the poorest sections of the city, making a life by stealing, begging, or selling their bodies.

Sepphoris was called Magdala – “Magdalena” to the Romans and Magdalene in Greek, the language of the Gospels. And as Jesus of Nazareth walked the streets of Sepphoris, a vibrant young girl named Mary was there also. In the Bible, she became known as Mary Magdalene because she came from the town of Magdala. Her parents had nothing. Miryam’s life would inevitably be shattered by demon possession. We don’t know how or when.

All four gospel writers identify Miryam as one of Messiah’s most devout followers. She appears in nine different lists of women (Matthew 27:55-56, 61, 28:1; Mark 15:40-41, 47, 16:1; Luke 8:1-3, 24:10 and John 19:25), and in all but one, her name heads the list. This points to her prominence. Not only that, but among the followers of Jesus, Mary’s name occurs more often in the Bible than most of the twelve Apostles.

Miryam had started on the wrong side of the spiritual war. She was an enemy stronghold, providing food and shelter for the devil’s troops – seven in all, because she was a woman from whom seven demons had come out (Luke 8:2). The Bible gives us no hint as to how Mary became demon possessed, how long she lived in that desperate state, or the circumstances surrounding her encounter with Yeshua that led to her deliverance. From what we know of other demoniacs in the Bible we can safely assume that until she met Messiah, she lived a deranged existence that pushed her to the fringes of society.

We can only imagine how many times Mary experienced erratic episodes when, driven by the dark powers within, she screamed, foamed at the mouth, convulsed, and thrashed around on the ground. Normal people tend to avoid someone like that. Perhaps, like the infamous Gerasene demoniac, she lived naked among the tombs or possessed abnormal strength that frightened away any who attempted to help her. But such strength was useless to break the grip of the seven demons that held her captive. Miryam needed Yeshua to set her free.

We know of no demon-possessed person who even went to Jesus for help. The sick desperately wanted His help. They traveled for miles, disrupted His work, pulled up roofs, badgered Him, and generally made nuisances of themselves just to get to Him. But no demonic ever sought Yeshua out. Usually someone else – a desperate parent or a compassionate friend – went to Messiah on their behalf. Sometimes, without being asked, Jesus simply intervened. Around Him, the demons were helpless.

Mary didn’t seek Yeshua out. Her story isn’t about a lost lamb who found the Shepherd, but of the Shepherd who searched and rescued this lost lamb despite her demonic state. It is possible Miryam had no family or friends pleading for ADONAI to deliver her. The strong arm of the Lord reached into the black darkness that engulfed her and pulled her out to safety anyway.

What a powerful encouragement for those of us with loved ones who have no time for God, who resist the Good News and want to be left alone. Most people hold out little hope for someone like Mary. But Jesus doesn’t give up on seemingly hopeless cases and neither should we. There’s no telling what He will do. Miryam’s descent into hell ended that day she met the King of kings. He brought a sudden end to her savage bondage, restored her to her right mind, and freed her to follow Him. Never in her wildest dreams could she have imagined where her walk with Him would end.651

 

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