St Luke 8: 1 – 10
Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.
When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: ‘A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.’ As he said this, he called out, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’
Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that “looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.”
Women healed of ‘evil spirits and infirmities’ figure regularly in the Gospels – the woman with an issue of blood, Peter’s mother in-law, the woman who’d had seven husbands, the girl who’d died. Probably today they’d have specific diagnoses and diseases that could be treated, both physical and mental: but even today there are conditions we live with rather than cure. Here we have three named women and others unnamed but touched by Jesus in some way so they trusted him, remained loyal to him and provided for the whole group, in gratitude and recognition both of their own healing and all of Jesus’ teaching and ministry.
Joanna is interesting. The wife of a powerful official, she had been healed by Jesus and followed him. She stayed faithful long-term, as Luke also names her as present at the cross with Mary Magdalene, and as one of the women who went to the tomb on Easter day, thus one of the first witnesses to the resurrection who went to tell the disciples. Apostellein in Greek means ‘go and tell’ so we can establish her as an apostle. Luke may be working to correct the impression of Jesus’ followers as a rebel mob by showing that he was supported by well-connected, law-abiding people such as Joanna as well. Some commentators think she may have helped Luke with his research about Jesus’ trial, as a woman of status who could have had access to information. Surely she and the other faithful women are examples of the good soil that produced a hundredfold.
There are countless ‘Joanna’s in the world, women and men who keep on faithfully supporting, being there, giving their love, time, energy and money in myriad ways, and perhaps not even recognising that they are the good soil of the parable. Let’s encourage and be thankful for them today.
Lord Jesus who said ‘Just as you helped one of the least of those in need, you did it to me’
Thank you for the women and men who supported your mission
Thank you for all those today who work for your kingdom, and whether they know it or not are bringing goodness into this troubled world. Amen