Sunday, September 6, 2009

Women Were Disciples, too!

September 6, 2009
Labor Day
Luke 8:1-3, Luke 24:1-12

Today we meet Joanna in the gospel of Luke. Joanna is the wife of Chuza, a steward of Herod. Chuza was high up in power in the Roman government, so he is a person of means because of his position.

Joanna is one of the named women who followed Jesus. Luke says she and others had been healed of some form of sickness. We don’t know what that was for Joanna, there are no other details. She was one of many women who provided for Jesus and the other disciples. She likely used her husband’s means to support Jesus’ ministry. Now that’s an interesting thought, as her husband would have had to have been agreeable to this. Perhaps initially he was agreeable out of his gratitude for whatever healing Joanna experienced from Jesus.

Luke says these women travelled with Jesus and the other disciples while Jesus ministered and taught. We don’t know much about the details of Joanna’s time with Jesus. She was with him in his ministry. She had a place in that ministry, though we don’t exactly know what place. She was remembered by name, like the other disciples were.

The other story we have about Joanna comes at Jesus’ death & resurrection. Presumably she is one of the women who’s looking on at the death of Jesus, one of the women grieving that Luke mentions, though she nor any of the others are named.

She is also there on the first Easter. The women are named here. They have come to prepare the body for death, perhaps as one last time to provide for Jesus out of their means. There at the tomb, they experience the two men in dazzling white, who tell them of Jesus’ resurrection. And the women are also reminded of something Jesus taught…that he would rise from the dead. The women believe and run to tell the “others” – i.e., the other disciples. And while the “other” disciples think what the women are saying is “an idle tale”, eventually the “other” disciples learn that what they say is the truth.
That’s what we know about Joanna through scripture

Joanna was a disciple. There were women disciples in Jesus’ day. Writings other than the Gospel of Luke speak to this fact. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala, for instance, tells of Mary teaching and preaching to the disciples after Jesus’ death, trying to encourage them to believe.

The gospel of Luke indicates that these women were disciples for two reasons: they followed Jesus and they learned from Jesus.

These women followed Jesus. They were with Jesus and the other disciples as he taught and healed. They didn’t admire him from afar. They were with Jesus, following where he went.

These women also learned from Jesus. When they are at the tomb, the two men in dazzling white speak to them. “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that…” they say to the women. These angelic figures knew that the women had been around when Jesus taught. They knew that the women would remember Jesus’ teachings. These women learned right along side of the disciples who were men.

The question I have for you today is: Are you a disciple like these women were? Do you follow Jesus? We cannot literally walk with Jesus today. But being a disciple, as a generic term, meant “imitating the one whom you follow”. How are you doing at that? How close are you to the original? Are you staying near enough the teachings and the stories of Jesus to remember what the original is all about? Being a disciples isn’t about admiring from afar. It’s about getting an up close look at Jesus and imitating his ways. It’s about caring for the sick. It’s about preaching good news. It’s about standing up when you see injustice. It’s about giving voice to the voiceless. It’s about welcoming everyone and excluding no one. How are you doing at following Jesus?

Do you learn from Jesus? As I was reading this week on topic of discipleship, I read a question for discussion for a small group I thought was interesting. Have you read the “guide book” (The Bible, of course) all the way through? Being a disciple involves studying the words of Jesus. Digging into them and learning them. Reading everything in the Bible. Studying to know the character of the one we want to imitate. Studying enough to be able to follow. So how are you doing at studying the “guide book”?

Being a disciple is a choice. Joanna had a choice. She had to have had a comfortable life before Jesus. She had money and position from her husband. She probably had no wants or needs. But she chose to follow Jesus. Something about him intrigued her. Maybe it was the healing Jesus did for her. Maybe she was impressed with the words he said. Perhaps it was the way he treated the outcasts, women included. Who knows what it was that intrigued Joanna. But whatever it was, she had a choice. And she chose to follow Jesus. She chose to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

You have a choice, too. Will you follow at a safe distance? Getting a nibble of the Bread of Life now and then in worship? Sipping the Water of Life now and then in a thin devotional? Catching a glimpse of the Messiah as he passes by in the life of someone else?

Or will you be a disciple? …following Jesus closely…soaking in the word day and night…delighting in the things of Jesus…and doing the things he commanded.

You’re here on Labor Day Weekend. That already says something about your choice. You want to be a disciple.

The question is, are you going to take it all the way?

Rev. Becky Jo Thilges, Lead Pastor
Homestead UMC, Rochester, MN

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