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God’s Word for You

Luke 8:1-3 doing whatever was necessary

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

In this chapter, Luke presents four of the Lord’s greatest miracles and one of his most important parables. In the middle of all this comes an attempt from the Lord’s mother to interfere with his ministry.

8 After this, Jesus traveled from place to place, going through cities and towns, proclaiming and bringing the good news about the kingdom of God. With him were the Twelve, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases:

Did it occur to Luke to mention these supporting women because of the sinful woman in the previous account? Jesus’ movement is described as going to towns “in their order,” whether cities (polin) or towns (komen). Jesus did not go according to a set pattern; he simply visited whatever cluster of houses was next along the road, from one place to the next.

His preaching is described in two ways: “proclaiming” and “bringing the good news (gospel).” The proclaiming was as a herald, telling people that the kingdom of God was here. This was the theme of Jesus’ preaching from the very beginning: “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15; cp. Luke 4:43; John 3:3). The other kind of preaching Jesus did was explaining what the gospel was, bringing the good news of salvation through the forgiveness of sins. Perhaps we could think of the one kind as announcing the news to people who were looking forward to it, and the other as explaining to people who didn’t know and were not looking. He adapted his preaching to his audience, meeting them wherever they were in their faith, as we must.

Luke mentions the Twelve (this is the first time they are called by that title in Luke’s Gospel), and also “some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases.” It makes sense that these women would follow the Lord. They were grateful, but in some cases it might also show that although they were women of means, they were not required to be anywhere else (i.e., at home with their husbands or children) since, having been diseased or especially for those who had been possessed. Probably they would have been shunned or driven away by their families (although Joanna was probably a widow). In each case, they were free to follow the Savior.

Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;

Magdala was a fishing city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It is not mentioned by name in the Bible. Today it’s identified with Tarichea, a fortified city guarding the road to Tiberias (John 6:23) near a place called the Valley of Robbers.  It was known for shipbuilding, and since it had a hippodrome (horse racing track) it probably had a largely Gentile (Greek and Roman) population. A later Jewish tradition says that it fell because of its great sinfulness (Midrash on Lamentations 2:2).

The facts about Mary Magdalene are these:

  1. Jesus drove seven demons from her (see also Mark 16:9). Either this was a terrifying single possession by multiple evil spirits (cp. Luke 11:26), or a succession of demons attacking the same poor woman.
  2. She contributed money to Jesus’ ministry (paying, we would assume, especially for his food and other expenses).
  3. She followed Jesus on his final trip to Jerusalem (Mark 15:41).
  4. She was present at the crucifixion (John 19:25).
  5. She came to the tomb on Sunday morning to anoint the Lord’s body (Luke 23:55-24:1).
  6. She reported to the disciples the news of the empty tomb (John 20:1-2)
  7. She received the very first appearance of the risen Jesus Christ (John 20:14-18).

Surely these seven “graces” given to Mary counter the seven demons which plagued her. She is a wonderful example of a person who was troubled severely by God in order to place her in the path of the gospel and the forgiveness of her sins. She was so very lost that the Good Shepherd went looking for her in particular, doing whatever was necessary to find her and to bring her back to the flock (Luke 15:4).

There is no justification is associating Mary Magdalene with Mary of Bethany, since Mary Magdalene was a Galilean and Bethany is on the eastern approach to Jerusalem. Also, their personalities are very different. The demure sister of Martha who sat at Jesus’ feet was not very much like the bold Magdalene who went with spices to anoint his dead body and ran to the city to tell Peter about the empty tomb.

3 Joanna the wife of Cuza, the manager of Herod’s household;

The appearance of this woman is remarkable. The is no extant record of this Cuza outside this mention in the Scriptures; probably he had died, leaving Joanna free to follow and support Jesus. She is mentioned again later with Mary Magdalene taking spices to the tomb of Jesus (Luke 24:10).

For which Herod was Cuza the household manager? We can’t say with certainty. If it were Herod the Great, then Cuza and Joanna might have been present when the Magi came to ask about the Savior’s birthplace (Matthew 2:1-2). In fact, Cuza might have been the man who took the question from the Magi to Herod. This would make Joanna a woman in her sixties or so. If, as is more likely, Cuza was the manager of Herod Antipas’ household, then Joanna could have been much younger. She might have been present for some of John the Baptist’s preaching when he was interviewed by Herod on more than one occasion (Mark 6:14-20). Either way, Joanna had heard the gospel, and she sought out the Savior to do whatever she could for him.

Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.

Susanna means “lily.” This name appears in the Apocrypha, in a story supposedly set in the days of the exile in Babylon. The story is told in the book of the same name. We know nothing about the Susanna presented here other than that she, too, was healed by Jesus

Healed of diseases or cleansed of demons, they devoted themselves to doing whatever was necessary and helpful for the ministry of Jesus Christ. This is a reminder that being a Christian is about more than having faith in Christ. It also means putting our faith into action, which Jesus himself asks us to do within the church (Matthew 16:18-19). The church possesses the keys to the kingdom of heaven, giving what Jesus came to give: the forgiveness of sins. Each of us has a role in this ministry, large or small. These women who helped Jesus had a very important role even though it was behind the scenes. Consider what role you have in the kingdom of God and in the church, and pray for God’s help and strength as you do whatever you can to support the spread of the gospel in the world.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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