Theology Today

             Jesus and Women: Luke's Gospel
                          Jane Kopas
                 Theology Today 1986 43: 192
               DOI: 10.1177/004057368604300205

        The online version of this article can be found at:

                                   Published by:


                                    On behalf of:

                   Princeton Theological Seminary

Additional services and information for Theology Today can be found at:

              Email Alerts:




                   Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011
              JESUS AND WOMEN:
                LUKE’S GOSPEL
                                    BY JANE KOPAS

           “When an action, a cure, an expression of faith, or
           an example in parable is attributed to a man, more
           often than not a complementary model of a woman
           is given. With some exceptions, this is not done by
           way of comparison or contrast, but rather to suggest
           a measure o equality, an equality that was unex-
           pected in the time of Jesus.”

T        HE sensitivity of Luke’s Gospel to women has long been recog-
          nized. The number of times women are mentioned, the contri-
          bution of women to the early life of the church, the kinds of
interaction Jesus allows women, and the special importance and role of
Mary give ample evidence that one cannot deal with the ministry of
Jesus in Luke’s Gospel without giving careful attention to the dynamic
role and value of women in making the Christian message come alive. In
the light of growing attention to women’s ministry today, this Gospel
deserves more careful scrutiny and reflection to see if we can discern
some new resources in the tradition to enhance our present development
of a spirituality of ministry.
   At the outset, it will help to identify a technique Luke uses of pairing
references to men and women. When an action, a cure, an expression of
faith, or an example in parable is attributed to a man, more often than
not a complementary model of a woman is given. With some exceptions,
this is not done by way of comparison or contrast, but rather to suggest a
measure of equality, an equality that was unexpected in the time of
Jesus. For one thing, this pairing, it has been suggested, indicates a
substantial number of women constituting the Gospel audience.’
   In addition to the above evidence of the prominence of women that
suggests some forms of equality, we find another aspect of Luke’s style
that suggests their unique contribution. Luke focuses often on women
who are exemplars of poorness and lowliness before God that finds
expression in barrenness, widowhood, spiritual or actual neediness, or

   Jane Kopas is Associate Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University
of Scranton. She received her doctorate at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley,
and she has also taught at the College of Wooster. Dr. Kopas has published articles in the
Journal o Psychology and Theology, Horizons, and Process Studies. Her article on
“Jesus and Women: John’s Gospel,” appeared in the July 1984 issue of THEOLOGY
   ‘Constance Parvey, “The Theology and Leadership of Women in the New Testament,”
Religion and Sexism, ed. Rosemary R. Ruether (New York: Simon and Shuster, 1974),
pp. 1 1 7 4 9 .

                       Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011
                                        Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel           193
service to the poor. It is the combination of equality and neediness that
will guide our search for a spirituality of discipleship today.

   The first pairing or set of complementary male-female examples in
Luke’s Gospel is found in the birth announcements made to Zechariah
and to Mary. Zechariah hears that his wife Elizabeth, who in old age is
still barren, will give birth to a son ( 1 5 2 0 , RSV passim). Mary hears
that she, though a virgin, will conceive a child (1:26-38). The child of
Zechariah and Elizabeth will be the last of the great prophets of the Old
Law. The child of Mary will bring about a New Law or dispensation
which, we discover slowly through the Gospel, will afford women a
greater role that is only suggested by making her, not Joseph, the
recipient of the message.
   In this pairing, however, we find something else. It is one of several
incidents that contrasts a female response and a male response. It is
Mary who provides a better example of how discipleship works. More
specifically, it is the way that Mary questions the messenger that reveals
how faith is nourished by the search for understanding. Although both
Zechariah and Mary question the messenger, they are answered differ-
ently because their manner of questioning is very different. Zechariah is
struck dumb; Mary is blessed.
   Zechariah’s question is the question df a skeptic, the question of one
who seeks knowledge more than understanding. His first concern is
reason and certainty as he asks how he can be sure a child will be
conceived in their old age. It contradicts common sense. Mary, on the
other hand, asks out of wonder. She wonders how the promise of the
angel can come to pass since she is a virgin. Despite a superficial
similarity to Zechariah’s question, Mary’s question must have been
rooted in a faith that was willing to be moved to a deeper level of
mystery. She is equal to this man in her ability to question, but she
surpasses him in her ability to live with the question and to grasp what is
at stake in the invitation to faith. Elizabeth later tells Mary she is
blessed because she believed, and the two of them stand together as
faithful listeners and hearers.
   The art of questioning is a meditative art, but one which requires
considerable courage if it is to lead to the truth that heals and
transforms. Its fruitfulness depends to a certain extent on the ability to
live with ambiguity or uncertainty, the ability not to settle for quick
solutions or easy answers. How often do we embark on a discernment
process asking the wrong question or asking in the wrong way? How
often do we settle for an answer that will not disrupt the agenda set for
us? How often do we question life or God with some measure of spiritual
insincerity, all too ready to evade the call to a deeper faith or deeper
questions? Mary stands as a model from the history of women who have
learned to live with ambiguity because their role in society has forced
them to develop the subtle art of hearing different questions.

                    Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011
194   Theology Today
          Mary’s subsequent encounter with Elizabeth, her kinswoman, intro-
      duces another example of a distinctive contribution of women in Luke’s
      presentation. They identify in a special way with the lowly and
      oppressed. In some ways, this identification simply seems to reinforce
      the stereotype of women as passive, humble, and subservient. The
      traditional masculine assessment of the human condition as tending
      toward pride, self-assertion, and greed has resulted in a glorification of
      the passive virtues as correctives to this condition.* It is women who have
      taken this most seriously and in so doing have failed to get in touch with
      their own root tendency toward sin. Yet, in Luke’s Gospel, and in
      particular in the instance of Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat, the
      experience of lowliness and oppression is in no way passive or self-
      deprecatory, but is rather a hymn of human solidarity both with others
      who have cried for deliverance and with the compassionate God
      ( 1 ~46-56).
          The God who lifts up the lowly and casts down the proud and powerful
      is not the warrior God who fights against enemies who dispute his (sic)
      power, but the God of compassion who is known more through identifi-
      cation with the poor than with the powerful. “For behold, henceforth all
      generations will call me blessed. . . . He has filled the hungry with good
      things and the rich He has sent empty away. He has helped His servant
      Israel in remembrance of His mercy” (1:48, 53-54). Mary’s song
      celebrates the solidarity of all who seek justice, especially the women
      who share her hope. Zechariah’s song which follows this (1:68-79),
      echoes the same theme with greater emphasis on the role of John the
      Baptist in preparing the way for the reign of peace.
          How much we can learn of prayer from the example of Mary? Our
      individualistic prayers for needs or fears, or even prayers for others in
      need, appear narrow and non-transforming in the face of a prayer that
      comes from the heart of a person who prays consciously as a member of
      humanity suffering and graced. The character of our prayers would
      change radically if, instead of praying for others, we prayed with them;
      if we left our privileged positions of freedom from certain needs to stand
      in solidarity with the suffering with whom we pray.

         We find another example of pairing in the dual examples of Simeon
      and Anna (2:25-38). Both are in the temple when Jesus is presented
      shortly after his birth. Both speak their prayer of praise for what God
      has accomplished and allowed them to see. Both gave witness to the
      fulfillment of the promise, and both have shown themselves in their lives
      to be faithful listeners and waiters. Anna’s testimony is valued no less

        ’Valerie Saiving, “The Human Situation: A Feminine View,” WornanspiritRising, ed.
      Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow (New York: Harper and Row, 1979), pp. 2 5 4 2 .

                            Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011
                                        Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel           195
than Simeon’s because she is a woman. In fact, she is described as a
prophetess, a woman of religious stature who speaks God’s word for
   How often has this Gospel passage been read with little or no
attention given to what it means that she is the prophetess? How often,
for lack of imagination and appreciation, has the faith of our mothers as
leaders been discounted? How often has their equality in faith been
ignored? This lack of appreciation goes deeper than the failure to
appreciate individual achievements. It extends to the failure to develop a
sense of history and to recognize the richness of women’s tradition in
forming all of us as disciples.
   As soon as Luke presents the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he
introduces a pair of cures (4:33-39). The cure of the man who was a
demoniac emphasizes the thoroughness and ease of the work by stating
that the demon leaves without harming the man. Luke also notes the
effect that the cure has on the belief of those who witness it. When the
example of the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law follows, the description is
more sparse but the effect shows more clearly in her own life. She
immediately rises and waits on the disciples. Her evidence of disciple-
ship of service is wholehearted. Whatever Luke’s reasons for describing
it as he does, the impact on the reader is unmistakable. If gratitude is
sincere, it gives rise to action, and the action is a way of returning the
gift. The challenge of our own discipleship is to recognize the less
dramatic ways we are healed and restored, healings that call us
constantly to return the gift.
   Luke tells another set of stories about cures that involve an expansion
of compassion beyond physical curing to an enlargement of attitude
toward those in need (7:l-17). The cure of the centurion’s servant draws
into Jesus’ grace a person who is not a member of the Israelite
community. The centurion’s faith, apparent when he says it is not
necessary for Jesus to come to his house, enables Jesus to do the works of
faith in him. The centurion deserves to be considered among the
anawim, the poor in spirit who have a capacity for God.
   Soon afterward, Jesus meets the widow of Nain whose only son has
died. She represents another example of a group of those in need, widows
who are among the most oppressed or neglected of society. One would
wish that she were able to attain dignity on her own without needing to
be identified with a son or a husband, but that is not possible in her
society. Since she has no other means that would enable her to come to
fullness as a human being, her son’s life is restored to her. The widow is a
kind of silent witness. She doesn’t speak and she doesn’t act, but she
stands as a model of all who are deprived of personal worth. At the same
time, she is, by virtue of the loss of her son, made “barren.” Here we
learn again that the plight of the oppressed and needy evokes a response
of compassion from Jesus and by implication from those who are

                    Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011
196   Theology Today
         At the end of the chapter that includes the preceding pairing is
      another kind of pairing that is more clearly an opportunity for compari-
      son (7:36-50). The several versions of the story of the woman who
      washed the feet of Jesus have caused untold confusion regarding the
      exact action, the meaning of the action, and the identity of the woman
      (Mark 14:3-9; Matt. 26:6-13; John 12:l-8). Whether she anointed his
      head or his feet, whether she did it for his burial or as an act of
      repentance, whether she was a sinner or not, and her later unfortunate
      identification with Mary Magdalene are all interesting, but not the point
      at issue here. What we are asking is how, given Luke’s perspective, she
      uniquely embodies his emphasis on the discipleship of love and service.
         The passage contrasts the attitude of the repentant woman with the
      attitude of the Pharisee at whose house Jesus dined. He sees himself as
      righteous, and she sees herself as unworthy. The object of the contrast is
      not to celebrate unworthiness, but to show the relationship between
      forgiveness, gratitude, and love. Jesus says her sins must have been
      forgiven already, because she shows such great love. She has tran-
      scended the fear of appearing foolish or self-conscious, because her
      gratitude and repentance are strong enough to let her act in love. Her
      gratitude gives her the spiritual freedom that characterizes disciple-
         We find evidence of the relationship between recognition of sinfulness
      and grateful service in the third chapter, which describes the message of
      the Baptist, in the fourth chapter, by default, where the people cannot
      follow Jesus because they do not recognize their sinfulness, in the fifth
      chapter, where Peter confesses his sinfulness after the great catch of fish
      and also where the cure of the paralytic links a physical cure with
      freedom from sin, as well as in other places in the Gospel. The telling of
      the story of the loving service of the repentant woman is one more bit of
      evidence in the case that women were swift in their perception of Jesus’
      message and their ability to accept their humanness.
         This moving account of the footwashing expresses one woman’s need
      to find a way to speak through action what cannot be expressed
      adequately through words. Few of us ever find the right words to express
      so powerful an emotion. Most likely there are no right words. But can we
      grow to learn more and more freely in action profound truths that are
      within our relationship to God and other human beings? The repentant
      woman speaks to us the silent lesson of learning to speak the truth more
      and more freely through action.
         Luke identifies another form of service that demonstrates the equality
      of women with men in a larger context (8:l-3). While the twelve
      accompany Jesus as he preaches the kingdom, a number of women of
      means exercise a discipleship that includes financial support of the
      others. We need not assume from this that they merely provided

                          Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011
                                        Jesus and Women: Luke’s Gospel           197
domestic service and picked up the bill, for, as we see later on in the story
of Martha and Mary, the service of doing for others is rooted in
attentiveness to the word, in the ability to listen. Though we do not see
them preaching in word, we do see it in action. The message is illustrated
a few verses later when Jesus presents the true challenge of equality.
   Jesus is told that his mother and kinsfolk are looking for him
(8:19-21), but they could not get through the crowd. Unlike chapter
three of Mark’s Gospel, where the relatives seem to think Jesus is out of
his mind, Luke’s Gospel omits reference to their perception of Jesus and
simply states that true relationship to him is rooted in attentive listening
to the will of God. Such attentive listening is the basis for a new kind of
equality. It is equality not just between men and women (or slave and
free, Greek and Jew, as Paul would put it), but even an intimacy with
Jesus that suggests a form of equality. Those who hear the word of God
and do it know him and share his blessedness.
   If we allow ourselves to absorb the significance of his statement that
his mother and relatives are those who hear the word of God and do it, it
slowly becomes apparent that a frightening responsibility faces us. It is
not so much that we accept our equality with all other human beings and
then will live out the will of God. Rather, if we truly seek to live out the
purposes of God, we will in the process discover our equality in solidarity
with others and much more besides. Equality is not an end in itself, as
women realize who seek to redress the discrimination exercised against
them. Equality is one of the end-products of a search for truth and
common well-being. When that truth is actively sought by women and
men, it brings with it an even greater spiritual freedom.
   Luke concludes the eighth chapter with another pairing of cures
(8:26-56). A Gerasene is cured of possession by demons and two women
are cured of physical ailments. For some reason, the people of the region
were overcome with fear (perhaps because the driving out of the demons
results in destruction of a herd of pigs) and want Jesus to leave the area.
Jesus left, but did not invite the man to follow him because his gratitude
was to be expressed in service to the people of the territory.
   The two women cured do not follow him either, but their cures, which
mirror the episode above, demonstrate a more far-reaching effect on
society. The older woman who has been hemorrhaging for twelve years
and the girl of twelve who is dying are individuals whom a Jewish man
would avoid touching. One is menstruating and the other might be.
While they do not suffer material deprivations such as widows or women
who are barren, they do suffer another kind of deprivation-they are
deprived of fully wholesome human contact simply because they are
women. Jesus again demonstrates that his healing overcomes all divi-
sion. While the faith of the hemorrhaging woman and the faith of the
official whose daughter is ill are equally important, what is most
interesting is Jesus’ attitude toward the two females that completes the
picture of what discipleship means. It is not just faith that makes a

                    Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011
198   Theology Today
      disciple, but behavior modeled on that of Jesus who approaches all in
      need as equals of one another whether they are men or women.
         In the great journey up to Jerusalem, which provides the structure for
      Luke’s presentation of Jesus’ commitment to his mission, women are
      mentioned in a number of episodes that are highly significant. First,
      there is the story of Martha and Mary, which is reported exclusively in
      Luke’s Gospel (10:38-42). Though it stood for a long time as evidence
      for the superiority of the contemplative over the active life, it has more
      recently been understood to demonstrate Jesus’ serious acceptance of
      the education of women. Even beyond these possible meanings, however,
      when we take this story in the context of all the other stories about
      women on the journey, we find that it reveals to us a fuller picture of the
      thoroughness of women’s commitment to discipleship and Jesus’ accep-
      tance of their participation.
         Martha does many things and worries about many things. She is not
      faulted for this, but for failing to root her actions in a basic awareness of
      why she does what she does. It seems not to be her actions, but her
      intentions (and her comparisons) that create her dissatisfaction. Mary,
      on the other hand, listens to Jesus to appreciate and develop the
      singlemindedness that integrates the diverse activities of life. She lays
      the groundwork for a spirituality of wholeness, integration, and reconcil-
         We might ask ourselves why we so often settle for the approval of
      doing, without understanding that the action must be worthwhile even
      without approval. Why do we fail to discipline ourselves to take the
      leisure that enables us to assimilate the various aspects of our life? Why
      do we so often neglect to sink deeply into the roots of our own
      relationship to God to be reminded that, when all is said and done, we do
      not need to justify our own existence by our actions? The satisfactions
      we derive from our productivity, as worthwhile as they are, can never
      substitute for the basic relationship that nourishes our truest identity, a
      relationship that is the foundation of discipleship.
         Lest one think that Mary’s attentiveness to Jesus implies passive
      listening, in the next chapter a brief encounter of Jesus with a woman
      clarifies the way discipleship is rooted in relationship. As he was
      speaking, a woman in the crowd cried, “Happy the womb that bore you
      and the breasts you sucked” (1 1:27-28). In response, Jesus corrects two
      erroneous notions. One is that mere association imparts some kind of
      blessedness, either through physical descent or even by virtue of being
      part of a group around Jesus. The other notion he corrects is that women
      derive their status or worth from their relationship to their husband or
      children. Important as these relationships may be, in the last analysis
      one’s fidelity to the responsibility of being a child of God by acting as
      such confirms the value of the person and motivates discipleship.

                          Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011
                                        Jesus and Women:Luke’s Gospel            199
  Another incident along the journey is the cure of the crippled woman
on the sabbath (13:lO-17), which may be seen as coupled with the
sabbath cure of the man with dropsy (14:l-6). The cure of the woman,
which takes place in the synagogue, reflects two significant things about
her dignity. Jesus not only cures on the sabbath to the dismay of the
synagogue official, but he cures a woman on the sabbath. This is the only
place in the Gospels where this double conflict takes place. As if this
were not enough, Jesus refers to her as a daughter of Abraham, and thus
indicates a participation in the religious life of Israel that may be beyond
their imagination.
   Speaking of imagination, the remaining references to women in this
section of Luke’s Gospel are precisely exercises in imagination that
expand his listeners’ understanding of God as much as does his
universalizing of salvation to the Gentiles. The parable of the yeast as
descriptive of the kingdom of God shows forth a world in which the
images of women are as valid as those of men (13:20-21). The kingdom
of God is like the yeast a woman took and mixed with flour. God’s
kingdom is not one of power and glory, but hiddenness and insistent,
gentle influence on people whether they know it or not. Our slowness to
discover non-patriarchal images of the kingdom is itself as much a
failure to recognize God’s presence where it is, as it is a failure of
   The parables of mercy, the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son
open up another opportunity for visioning God (15:3-32). Each of these
parables says something about God. The exclusive representation of God
as male has no place in Luke’s Gospel (or in the Bible as a whole, for that
matter), and here the point is made by putting the feminine dimension of
God side by side with the masculine, thereby opening up a fuller, more
adequate representation of the God who is Spirit. The woman who
searches for the lost coin and rejoices with others when it is found is no
less an image of God than the shepherd who seeks the lost sheep. We
may be tempted to look upon the ordinariness of the example as evidence
of its comparative insignificance, but the simplicity may come closer to
capturing the presence of God in Jesus than examples that are more
   The pairing of women and men as examples occurs again in the
description of the last things (17:34-37), where women are expected to
be prepared as men because they are as likely to be taken by surprise.
“There will be two men in one bed: one will be taken and the other left;
there will be two women grinding together: one will be taken and the
other left.” The challenge of responsibility for oneself as an individual
could not be stronger.
   Responsibility surfaces again in the example of the importunate
widow (18:l-8). This parable succeeds perhaps better than any other in

                    Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011
200   Theology Today
      uniting the themes of equality and oppression. The widow who seeks to
      have justice done has no status compared to the judge she pleads with
      (and probably compared to others who plead with him). Yet, her
      persistence results in her cries being heard. Despite her lowliness in
      society, she recognizes a deeper claim to recognition, her equality as a
      human being. Thus, she is raised up as an example of what can happen
      when one speaks up for herself. The parable concludes with the
      observation that God will see justice done to the chosen who cry out day
      and night even when there is a delay in their deliverance. Oppression and
      lowliness are states which call for deliverance, but the deepest liberation
      comes from a paradoxical combination of weakness and strength in
      which self-worth and equality is wedded to solidarity with others
      oppressed. The weakness without the strength would lead to despair and
      worthlessness, and the strength without weakness would lead in the end
      to insensitivity and oppressing others.
         We are tempted to gravitate toward one or the other-to go along in
      confident superiority without noticing the cries of the poor, or to become
      so absorbed in our incapacity to effect change that we do not try. The
      paradox of strength in weakness and weakness in strength keeps us
      attuned to our unceasing need for God and our power to side with others
      in need.
         The theme of equality surfaces again as Jesus nears Jerusalem and
      the Sadducees question him about the resurrection of the dead (20:
      27-38). These aristocratic conservatives do not believe in the resurrec-
      tion of the body, and they interrogate him about the law of Levirate
      marriage and how it will be fulfilled in a future heavenly state. In
      answering their question about who will be husband to a woman who has
      been widowed seven times, Jesus also undermines the ultimacy of the
      accepted role of women as extensions of their husbands. The children of
      the resurrection forego their material existence and values. Perhaps
      Jesus was also saying that those who are still alive forego some of their
      materialistic attitudes toward other human beings, including women.
         Shortly after this discussion, there follows a contrast between the
      Pharisees who wear their religion ostentatiously while taking advantage
      of the plight of widows and a poor widow who herself exemplifies true
      religion. The poor widow contributes two small coins out of her meager
      resources, while the rich contribute out of their surplus. The message is
      clear, but its implications need to be underscored. Because of her status
      among the lowly and the needy, the widow is better able to understand
      what constitutes her dignity, as did the widow who pleaded with the
      judge. Her wholehearted response is a more authentic expression of a
      true self than the face-saving of the Pharisees.
         Do our most penetrating moments of truth come when we are faced
      with decisions that lay claim to an area of ourselves that lies hidden in
      our true selves because of habits of half-heartedness and the preserva-
      tion of status? Has our need for security become so comfortable that we

                          Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011
                                        Jesus and Women:Luke’s Gospel            201
can rationalize any neglect to respond to the invitation to wholehearted-
   As the Gospel draws nearer to the critical events of Jesus’ last hours,
three incidents with women shed light on the search for a truthful
expression of spirituality and discipleship. The first is Peter’s encounter
with a servant woman who recognizes him as a follower of Jesus
(225-58). His untruthfulness and her truthfulness set the stage for the
hours of decision. Will those who follow Jesus do so with courage and in
truth, or will they be threatened by the encounters that call for
extra-ordinary truth-saying? The woman is the first to call for truth. It
is not Peter or, for that matter, the other disciples who respond in truth.
The woman who calls them to truth has nothing to lose because she is not
a disciple, but she sets the tone, and it is the women who appear in the
remainder of the Gospel who respond.
   First, it is the women along the way of the cross who lament Jesus’
suffering (23:28-31). Unlike Simon of Cyrene, who was forced to carry
the cross, they bear Jesus’ sorrow willingly. Jesus tells the women that
their mourning must be a mourning over the failure of the people around
him to recognize the gift of God. The daughters of Jerusalem who weep
for themselves and for their children are the keepers of the vision of what
might be, but at this moment they must face the truth in darkness and
the darkness in truth.
   Strangely, in this Gospel, which so strongly accents the role of women
in the life and ministry of Jesus, they are not depicted standing under the
cross as they are elsewhere. Instead, Luke notes that after the death and
claiming of the body, they followed behind and observed where he was
laid (23:55-56). What is perhaps more significant is their role as the
first to receive the news of resurrection (24:9-11). Unlike the Gospels of
John, Mark, and Matthew, Luke’s Gospel does not record that it was a
woman who first saw the resurrected Christ. Nevertheless, they are here
the first to receive the message of resurrection and to act as disciples who
spread the good news to others. The group of women consists not only of
Mary, the mother of Jesus, but also Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and other
women with them. Perhaps, Luke is telling us that the women who have
been in need of deliverance themselves, who have accepted their own
neediness and have identified with others in need to the extent of
following Jesus to the tomb, have by virtue of that insight and fidelity
become the first true disciples of the new dispensation. That the others to
whom they bring the message greet them at first with doubt, is part of
the continuing ambiguity they will live with.
  We cannot get away from the fact that whatever responsibilities
women had in Jesus’ company, they still found themselves in a male

                    Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011
202   Theology Today
      society. Whatever equality they did enjoy as recipients of the Christian
      message, this dignity still needed to be matched in social structures.
        The attitude of Luke’s Gospel toward women is not so much a totally
      revolutionary picture of their discipleship as it is an appreciation of their
      inner resources and ability to center themselves to receive and act upon
      the word of God in truth. Elisabeth Moltmann Wende13argues that, for
      Luke, women are not the favored disciples they appear to be in certain
      passages of other Gospels, but are functionaries in a pragmatic ecclesi-
      astical setting where they largely serve Jesus and the disciples. Peter’s
      mother-in-law, Martha, Joanna, and the other women support this view.
      But we cannot lose sight of the dimension of discipleship they exemplify
      again and again, even in the absence of a call to exercise power-
      solidarity with those in need, receptiveness to the Spirit in prayer,
      gratitude and service, and, above all, the ability to live with uncertainty,
      ambiguity, and others’ lack of belief. In this exercise of discipleship, they
      image the God of compassion who brings good news to the poor, does not
      break the bruised reed or extinguish the smoking wick, and gives hope to
      those who wait in darkness. This remains the challenge of discipleship
      for women today, along with the added challenge of not losing hope in a
      world that still fails to recognize fully their gifts of leadership.

        ’Elisabeth Moltmann Wendel, The Women Around Jesus (New York: Crossroad,
      1982), pp. 142-44.

                           Downloaded from by guest on March 24, 2011

To top