Jesus’ Teachings Include Women
The four gospel accounts of Jesus’ earthly ministry contain the mention of more women than virtually any other secular writing of that era. In them we hear Jesus praise women for their faith (the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:28; Martha in John 11:26-27) or for their generosity (a poor widow’s gift, Mark 12:43-44). He included them in his teachings (about a woman baking bread, Matthew 13:33; or a woman hunting for a lost coin, Luke 15:8-10). Contrary to custom, he spoke freely to women in public (John 8:10-11) and taught theology to them (Luke 10:39). He entrusted them with the message of the resurrection while the male disciples hid in fear of the Jewish authorities.
In contrast to some of the disciples, no woman deserted him, betrayed him, or failed to believe his words. Because of their faith, their understanding, and their fidelity, women were often examples to the men. And after his ascension to God’s heaven, these same faithful women were with the men in prayer in an upper room in Jerusalem, waiting for the promise of God’s Spirit to prepare them for ongoing ministry.
Some folks suggest that because we don’t hear of these women later in the New Testament, they were never more than benefactors to Jesus in his earthly ministry. But neither do we hear of all but two of the disciples in the rest of the New Testament. Yet we know the strong tradition that Thomas went to India as an evangelist and church-planter. We assume that all of them (except the suicide Judas) scattered in every direction, carrying the Gospel of Jesus to the ends of the known earth.
The book of Acts carries, initially, the work of Peter as leader of the early church in Jerusalem (with the baton soon passed to James, the brother of Jesus, not James the disciple). Then the story picks up with the apostle Paul, working sometimes with Barnabas, sometimes with Silas. And it is here that we find the fascinating stories of women in a variety of professions who became followers of Jesus and ardent workers in the new churches scattered around the Roman Empire.
This is the true story of five working women, whose original professions were totally diverse, but who ended up in the same surprising position. Our authority for their stories is the apostle Paul. We find their stories in two places: in Luke’s account of the early Christian churches, in particular as he traveled with the apostle Paul, then in the letters of the apostle.