Women Follow Jesus
“Come, follow me,” he said. (Matthew 4:19)
All month we have been talking about Jesus and his followers. The focus of this week’s lesson is that women were among Jesus’ followers. From our vantage point in the twenty-first century, it may seem odd that there is a need to emphasize that Jesus’ followers included women as well as men. To us and to the children in your class, it’s a given that women follow Jesus. Of course they do! Women attend church. Women participate in ministry—teaching, preaching, and leading. Though it’s difficult for us to imagine, this hasn’t always been the case.
In biblical times, women were often treated as property. Fathers could sell their daughters or arrange for them to be married without their consent. Polygamy was the norm, and men were allowed sexual freedom outside of marriage. This is not to say that women didn’t play a prominent role in Jewish history. The Bible recounts stories of strong and influential women such as the judge Deborah, Moses’ sister Miriam, and Ruth. However, overall the Bible remains male centered in its perspective and authorship. Of the many names mentioned in the Bible, only a small minority of them are women. All biblical authors identified by name are male. This was the culture in which Jesus lived.
It was not unusual for Jewish rabbis to have followers. It was unusual, however, for any of those followers to be women. Therefore, in his Gospel account, Luke felt it necessary to say that although Jesus’ twelve disciples were all men, his followers included women—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and other women. Throughout his ministry, Jesus treated women with respect, sometimes to the surprise of his disciples.
Although it may not be surprising to us that Jesus’ followers included women, consider that it’s only within the last 100 years that women have been allowed to attend seminary. Today there are still countries where women are treated as inferior.
Jesus calls us to follow Him.
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