There once was this woman who was deathly ill. If something didn’t change soon, she was going to die. She knew it; she could feel it. Along came this traveling man. He walked into her village and he calmly said, with a smile on his face, “Rise up!” And all of a sudden, she felt better. Strength and wellness surged through her and she leapt to her feet. She went to the man and fell at his feet and cried out, “Sir, please let me do something for you! Let me show my gratitude!” The traveling man said, “Well, I am pretty hungry.” Does the woman shake her head and say, “I was thinking of something more significant; something that will wow others with how grateful I can be.”? Or, does she thankfully get busy and make the traveling man who just healed her the best meal she has ever made? Oh, and this story works for men as well.
Some will want to use Luke 8:1-3 in support of feminism. Others will want to use it in support of the opposite. It is neither. It is, pure and simple, the story of grateful service. Luke begins the passage with, “And it happened, afterwards . . .” The emphasis is not that this took place soon after, but that he is telling the story in order like he promised in 1:3 where he used the same word. So, sometime after the incident in Simon’s house Jesus toured Galilee announcing and preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. He went to the cities and the villages. I like that. He didn’t consider the small villages as beneath him or his work. His mission was to let people know the good news that the kingdom of God was breaking into their reality. This was a message for the poor and the rich alike; the farmer and the statesman; the fisherman and the tax collector. He was the quintessential itinerant preacher. And his disciples were traveling with him, learning what ministry ought to look like.
Oh, and there were these women; woman who had been healed. The word “healed” is the word from which we get our word “therapeutic”. It can mean to cure through serving or taking care of a person. Some of these women had been plagued with evil spirits and others with an illness that left them weak or incapable. Some people confuse these two things and name them as the same thing. They are often mentioned together, but they always seem to be distinguished one from the other. The most likely way people became demon possessed was by playing with magic. There are many ancient magic books all full of instructions on how to get a demon to serve you. There was this belief that if you could discover a demon’s true name, you could control it. Yeah, I’m thinking that was the bait. And the hook? You don’t control a demon – it controls you.
The first named lady was Mary of Magdala. Many sources will tell you exactly where Magdala was, but the truth is, we really don’t know. It most likely was on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Unfortunately, Mary has been given an unfounded reputation. There is absolutely no evidence that she was punished with seven demons because she was a prostitute or immoral woman. Again, demon possession didn’t work that way. There is also no connection between Mary and the unnamed lady who came into Simon’s house. All that we know about her is that she had been healed of seven demons. The number seven often represents completeness. It is possible that Luke is saying that Mary was WAY demon possessed. Or she might have had literally seven demons possessing her. Either way, can you imagine being set free from that kind of control? Can you imagine the gratitude?
The second woman mentioned is Joanna. What we know about her is found here in this verse. She was the wife of Chuza who happened to be a steward in the employ of Herod. She was a woman of means. Some have tried to connect Chuza with the nobleman whose son was healed by Jesus in John 4:46-54. And that would be a pure guess. All that we need to know is that Joanna, a woman of some standing, became a supporter of Jesus. The third lady mentioned is Susanna. We know her name.
These ladies are said to have served Jesus with their own possessions. Did they provide and make meals? Don’t know. They served Jesus because he had healed them. However they served him, I’m guessing they didn’t complain about their role. Service is not about getting noticed. It is not about people acknowledging how significant your contribution is. Service is about love and gratitude. These women traveled around serving Jesus because they loved him; because they owed him their very lives, in more ways than one. Fully realize what Jesus has done for you and serve. Even when no one notices, serve!