By Dn Deborah Lim
In the “Book of Kells” (Folio 27v, c.a. 800. Dublin, Trinity College Library), a beautifully illustrated Celtic cross depicts the four gospels: a man (Matthew), a lion (Mark), an eagle (John) and an ox (Luke). Perhaps the book of Luke is symbolised by an ox because it is really a book of action. The Gospel of Luke contains the largest total number of parables (24) and 18 unique parables (e.g. prodigal son, unjust steward, good Samaritan, lost sheep, lost coin, persistent widow). Jesus is seen as a people person, talking to lepers (17:11-19), “sinners” (5:8-10, 27-32; 19:1-10), and the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35).
What stood out for me was the prominence of women in Luke. Luke mentions many women, and mentions some of them by name.
Elizabeth and Mary (1-2)
Simon Peter’s mother-in-law whom Jesus healed (4:38-39)
A widow who had lost her only son (7:11-17)
The woman who anointed Jesus with an alabaster jar of perfume (7:37-50)
Women cured by Jesus of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene), Joanna (manager of Herod’s household), Susanna; and many others (8:2-3)
Jairus’ only daughter whom Jesus raised from the dead (8:41-42, 49-56)
A woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years who was healed instantly when she touched the edge of Jesus’ cloak (8:43-48)
Mary and Martha (10:38-42)
A woman crippled by a spirit for 18 years whom Jesus healed on the Sabbath (13:10-17)
A widow, whose offering of two small copper coins was recognised by Jesus (21:1-4)
‘Daughters of Jerusalem’, whom Jesus tried to comfort even as he was being led away to be crucified (23:27-31)
In events leading to Christ’s resurrection, the women prepared spices to anoint Jesus’ body (23:55-56) and they were the first to find Jesus’ tomb empty (24:1-3). Angels told the women that Jesus had risen (4-8), and the women were the first to tell the other disciples (9-11).
There are many feminists who claim that the Bible discriminates against women. Indeed, the cultural context of first century Palestine and the Graeco-Roman world often minimise the importance of women. However, during Jesus’ time on earth, His interactions with women challenged these norms. Luke also portrays women as good examples in the early church.
While women in some societies today are still in a long-standing battle for equality, Scripture is very clear that women have equal rights in God’s eyes and God’s purposes for us are equally significant. Luke records for us the interaction between Mary and Elizabeth, seeing them as playing an important role in the fulfilment of God’s plan. Jesus goes out of His way to minister to the widow whose son had died. He sees a mother’s tears for her children and knows her heart. Jesus knows of the struggles of many women who serve in the home, and assures us to “not be anxious and troubled about many things (like Martha),” but to be like Mary who “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” Jesus also has compassion on those of us who hold leadership positions in the workplace but continue to struggle with gender inequality.
I am heartened that many women in our midst have taken on roles in our church in areas such as teaching, worship leading and as chairpersons of ministry teams. At the same time, the men in our church have readily served alongside us, showing encouragement and support. I pray that the examples of women in leadership positions in our church will inspire younger women to see that they have a role to play in God’s kingdom work and to come forward to serve.
Like the song, ‘Alabaster Jar’ with these lyrics:
“The sum of my desires and the fullness of my joy
Like You spilled Your blood, I spill my heart
As an offering to my King.”
Let’s be unafraid to be extravagant in our displays of affection for our Lord Jesus. Let’s spill our time, energies and heart as an offering to our King!