After this, Yeshua traveled about from town to town and village to village, proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God. With him were the Twelve, 2 and a number of women who had been healed from evil spirits and illnesses — Miryam (called Magdalit), from whom seven demons had gone out; 3 Yochanah the wife of Herod’s finance minister Kuza; Shoshanah; and many other women who drew on their own wealth to help him.
4 After a large crowd had gathered from the people who kept coming to him from town after town, Yeshua told this parable: 5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he sowed, some fell along the path and was stepped on, and the birds flying around ate it up. 6 Some fell on rock; and after it sprouted, it dried up from lack of moisture. 7 Some fell in the midst of thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 But some fell into rich soil, and grew, and produced a hundred times as much as had been sown.” After saying this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear with, let him hear!
The first three verses are found only in this gospel, doubtless because Luke thought it was important to record the ministry of woman to Jesus. If as seems certain, Jesus permitted women to travel with his disciples, we can judge that he was conscious of the public disapproval this practice would arouse in a very patriarchal community. Obviously tongues would wag, suggesting immorality or at best, dereliction of household duty on the part of the women, and scandalous unconventionality on the part of the Narareth Rabbi.
This information follows the story of the woman known as a sinner who Jesus defended from the condemnation of his Pharisee host. Clearly Luke wants to insist on the place of women in Jesus’ ministry, doubtless because their place in some assembles of Jesus was contested by men. In this cases we may say that the women mentioned are carrying out the ministry of deacons, offering assistance to Jesus, but later in the gospel we shall see that Luke tells the story of a woman whom Jesus commended as a disciple.
The appalling history of the Christian church since its early days, in refusing the equality and ministry of women, is one of male domination and denial. Perhaps even the New Testament documents that we possess have been doctored to remove references to the ministry of women, and even yet the Orthodox and Roman churches refuse equality to women, and most fundamentalist Protestants are even more prejudiced.
If this prejudice was directed at an ethnic group rather than half of humanity, I have little doubt that many decent churches would view it as a heresy and refuse full partnership until it was acknowledged and rectified. Although I welcome signs that Pope Francis might bring his church to a better relationship with homosexual men and women, he shows no signs of attending to the most obvious and blatant prejudice which is institutionalised in his church, excluding women from the priesthood and the papacy.
The smelly locker room masculinity of exclusively male priesthood is a regrettable result of not listening to the gospel.
I will return to the parable of the sower, that farmer who so carelessly scatters the seeds of the kingdom, but surely, by placing it here, the author wants his readers to see the women who followed Jesus as examples of rich soil. The sower will not decide in advance where to plant the seeds but will be delighted by whatever growth results from his work. There’s no doubt that women ministers have been fruitful and the cause of fruitfulness in others.
if ecumenicity means speaking the truth in love, the truth of women’s equality in Christ should be spoken loud and clear.