The women around Jesus

 18 July 2020 |

The traditional view of Jesus has him carrying out his ministry surrounded by twelve male disciples. Less emphasis is put on the fact women also followed Jesus. As a man, it makes me uncomfortable to read that when Jesus was in danger, the men around him fled and denied they had anything to do with him. And yet, on the other hand, it was women who remained loyal and were there at the crucifixion and who went to the tomb on that first Sunday resurrection day to take care of his body. If you are prepared to look for them there are hints aplenty to indicate how important the women who followed Jesus were.Forty years ago, Elizabeth Moltmann-Wendel wrote an explosive book, “The Women Around Jesus”, and I’m still not sure the church has caught up with her insights.

Most people have heard of the two Marys and the one Martha; but what about Joanna? Moltmann-Wendel has an intriguing chapter on Joanna who, she writes, has been ignored by theologians and biblical scholars. A close reading of the Gospel of Luke uncovers that Joanne is the wife of a distinguished man whom she left – in that society, it was ok for a man to leave his wife but when it was the other way round, it was a scandal! She followed Jesus and cared for him and his disciples by making sure they had enough food and drink. And we read, on the Sunday after Jesus was crucified,this woman, Joanna, was again one of the women who went to the tomb to discover the body was gone.

Still today, when woman have to fight so hard to achieve a place in society, I have read a good number of articles reflecting on the different ways countries have responded to the pandemic. It doesn’t take much to see countries with women in leadership positions have had greater success in beating the virus than those led by so called strong men, who have seen the numbers of people affected in their country escalate and out of control. Is there a common theme, I wonder?