23 Apr 2023

Luke, “The Women,” and the New Creation

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: A Gathered People, Christian hope, Church, Luke, resurrection, Women

We just celebrated Easter, known as “Pascha” to most non-English speaking Christians around the world. We joined these disciples of the King around the world, and throughout history, in remembering the culmination of God’s “Passover plot” to liberate enslaved creation from sin and death seen supremely in the Jubilee ministry, the crucifixion and resurrection in the flesh of a Jew named Joshua/Jesus. It is the single defining moment since the dawn of creation. Creation’s redemption began that day through the dawn of God’s renewed creation. In fact we remember gratefully this every Lord’s Day. The resurrection from the dead is the pivot of time.

Have you noticed that in the Gospels, all four, this singular event rests upon the testimony of a group of rather oppressed and ostracized people, women. The Gospel of Luke goes out of its way, literally, to stress this rather stark fact. And it was, in its time, an embarrassing fact at that.

Several years ago biblical scholar Russ Dudrey published an article in a scholarly journal called “What the Writers Could Have Done Better.” It was about the reception of the four Gospels in the Greco-Roman world. He documents how controversial it was among non-believers (and even some believers!) that Christian claims rested upon the testimony of women. Women were often regarded as sub-human and extremely inferior.

What the writers could have done better, in the ancient world, was obscure, hide, or just omit references to women much less that they are the ones who knew which tomb was Jesus’s in the first place, that they are the ones who went to the tomb on that fateful day, that they are the ones who received angelic visitation, that they are the ones who preached to the apostles themselves. Pagan critics, like Celsus, mercilessly chastised Christianity as absurd religion of ignorant women. So when Luke speaks of the women he does so purposefully. And it was not even necessary as a look at Paul’s summary in 1 Cor 15 makes crystal clear.

But Luke (again all the Gospels bear witness) rather than hiding it stresses the women, to the point that he appears to be smacking us with a bat to get our attention. He does this in fact throughout his Gospel, but I begin with the cross in chapter 23 and go to the resurrection in chapter 24. Note these texts. By this time the Twelve male disciples of Jesus had already fled and abandoned the Lord.

A great number of the people followed him, and among them were THE WOMEN ...” (23.27)

those who knew him, including THE WOMEN who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance and watched these things” (23.49)

THE WOMEN who had come with him from Galilee followed, THEY [the women] saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then THEY [the women] returned, and prepared spices and ointments.” (23.55-56)

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, THE WOMEN, … they found the stone rolled away … but when they went in, they did not find the body.” (24.1-3)

THE WOMEN were terrified [angel speaks to the women]” (24.5).

When they [women] returned from the tomb, they [the women] told these things to the Eleven, and to the others.” (24.8)

Luke then goes out of his way to name the women.

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the OTHER WOMEN who told these things to the apostles. But these words seemed to them like an idle tale and they [the apostles] did not believe them” (24.9-11)

Moreover some WOMEN of our group astounded us” (24.22)

Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as THE WOMEN had said” (24.24).

In the space of chapter, Luke stresses “the women” nearly a dozen times. Why? Because through the Jubilee ministry and resurrection of Jesus the curse has been removed. Men, not God, declared women to be inferior, unfit, unreliable, less than rational … and Luke comes along and says the Gospel message itself rests upon the faithfulness of women!

The same women that embraced the scandal of following Jesus camping around Galilee (8.1-3 contains the same names as 24.19) are the ones who were faithful to the bitter end.

Peter ran away, but Mary Magdalene did not.

John did not go to the tomb but Joanna did.

Matthew did not talk to the angels and find the empty tomb but a whole troop of faithful women did.

Paul was nowhere to be found.

It was the WOMEN who preached, who announced, the resurrection, to the apostles themselves. All four Gospels testify to this but Luke is the one who rubs our noses in it. And while the pagans scoffed, because women supposedly could not be entrusted with such earth shattering authority and news, the writers tell us that Christian faith itself rests upon the Easter morning experience of WOMEN from Galilee.

The end of the Gospel of Luke bears witness to Luke’s inspired understanding of the Hebrew Bible … women, old ones and young ones, will become prophets in the new world along with men. Men and women are equal in the grace saturated new world.

One page away, in Luke’s book, we read this amazing quotation whose emphasis is actually on every page of the Gospel.

I will pour out my Spirit upon ALL flesh,
and your sons and your DAUGHTERS
shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit
and THEY shall prophesy

(Acts 2.17-18 quoting Joel 2.28-32)

This is why Luke goes out of his way to stress “the women” because even two thousand years later some men still hold the same cursed view of women that dominates so much of human relationships. Luke even begins his Gospel this way. The beginning of the Gospel is dominated by a young woman, Mary; an old man Zechariah and Simeon; and old women Elizabeth and Anna. Anna is explicitly called a “prophet.” Luke has been warming us up to Joel 2 from his first word. When the Messiah comes, the Spirit comes. When the Spirit comes, the curse will be reversed.

Jesus in his resurrection brought a redeemed world into existence. The church is supposed to be the first fruits of that redeemed world on display before the fallen world.

Welcome to God’s Brave New World.

See Also

A Biblical Register of Roles God Has Called Women

Women, Caricatures and Lady Wisdom (Thoughts inspired by Daughters)

Women and Didactic Teaching: A Note on 1 Timothy 2.12

One Response to “Luke, “The Women,” and the New Creation”

  1. Robert Says:

    No comment necessary. Just an emphatic !

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