Women Disciples

This is part 1 of 2 of Lesson 5: Gender and Discipleship. Click here to go back to the introduction to this lesson.

We’re going to have a look at three sets of female disciples that Jesus had:

1. Mary the sister of Martha.

The study guide this week points us to the story of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, which can be found in Luke 10:38-42.

From the study guide (teachers’ edition p60):

Mary heard His word. No one can be a true disciple who does not hear His word. The text said, too, that she sat at His feet. First-century teachers sat on high stools while their students sat at their feet on lower stools or the floor. To sit at one’s feet means to adopt the posture of a disciple or learner. That she sat at Jesus’ feet meant that she was His student (compare Acts 22:3).

In contrast was her sister, Martha. The Greek text says that she was drawn away” by much serving. In one sense, this could be understandable. After all, the Master had come to their house, so it was their responsibility to tend to their guests’ needs. At the same time, her plea that her sister help also echoed customary conventional values and expectations. Mary’s place was in the kitchen—the part of the household designated for women—not in the dining area with the men.

Yet, Jesus did not rebuke Mary; He chided Martha. He named her twice, perhaps showing concern. Martha’s complaints were justified, but Jesus’ rebuke reminds us there are issues more important than other necessary things. We all need to take heed, for sometimes we allow the urgent to crowd out the important or the good to exclude the vital and necessary.

A great question to consider:

How can you find the proper balance in your own life between things that must be done and spending time at the feet of Jesus? What adjustments might you need to make? At the same time, can one ever be too much like Mary and not enough like Martha? If so, how? (ibid p.60)

Like me, you’ve probably heard the expression ‘That person is so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good!’. Do you think this can be true – or is it an excuse used by those who don’t want to be or appear to be ‘heavenly minded’?

2. The female followers of Jesus:

Besides the twelve original disciples, there were many women who travelled from town to town with Jesus.

Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance. Luke 8:1-3 (NKJV)

It’s interesting that some of those committing to the itinerant lifestyle of Jesus were those who had been the recipients of Jesus healing and grace. These people showed their gratefulness in return by giving their time, energy and ‘substance’ to support Jesus’ ministry.

As the teachers’ guide points out, it’s interesting to see that Joanna was connected with King Herod’s court – the wife of a court official of some prominence. I hadn’t picked up on this before this week. Following the strange rabbi around may have been seen as brave thing to do for Joanna, given her profile, as well as the potential for it to reflect ‘badly’ on her husband. Clearly though it was a labour of love for Joanna.

3. The Woman At the Well

This story is found in John 4:4-30. Jesus’ discussion with the woman at the well was perfectly crafted to get beyond the ‘chit chat’ and get to the heart of what the lady really needed to change in her life.

The study guide highlights four stages in the way Jesus crafted his discussion:

(1) The awakening of a desire for something better(vss. 7–15);
(2) The awakening of a conviction of personal need (vss. 16–20);
(3) The call for a decision to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah (vss. 21–26);
(4) The stimulus to action appropriate to the decision (vss. 26–30, 39–42).
Sabbath School Quarterly Study Guide p 62 (teachers’ ed)

Of interest is the fact that after bringing up the subject of her five husbands, and her current umarried lover, Jesus doesn’t berate her, but ‘picked up on her conversation and used it to point to more truth, ultimately leading back to Himself…’ (ibid p.62).

Wonderfully, the woman responded so positively to Jesus’ chat with she became an instant evangelist. She:

…left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Then they went out of the city and came to Him.

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” John 4:28,34  (NKJV)

It must have been an unusual and wonderful day for her to leave her waterpot behind in all the excitement!

Question: The Lord changed this woman, apparently no bastion of purity and piety, into a powerful witness for Himself. What lessons can you draw from this story about (1) not judging the hearts of others and (2) forgiveness and grace even for the worst of sinners?

As always would be interested to hear your thoughts on the topic this week. But that’s all for now…see ya again next week!


One response to “Women Disciples

  1. Michelle

    It is good to catch up with the lesson again. We have been in transit so long. I didn’t know about Joanna, so thank you for that small piece of research. Her little story does raise questions of courage, power and choice.

    Gender discussions are often about the power dynamic between the sexes. Jesus demonstrated clearly that he valued both men and women and did not raise one above the other. This is one of the biggest messages I take from this lesson.

    Thanks for your work and happy Sabbath

    Michelle (in Mongolia – finally)

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