Luke 8:1-3 (CEV)
1 Soon after this, Jesus was going through towns and villages, telling the good news about God’s kingdom. His twelve apostles were with him, 2 and so were some women who had been healed of evil spirits and all sorts of diseases. One of the women was Mary Magdalene, who once had seven demons in her. 3 Joanna, Susanna, and many others had also used what they owned to help Jesus and his disciples. Joanna’s husband Chuza was one of Herod’s officials.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to visit an awful lot of churches. My dad worked as a consultant with churches across Canada when I was a kid, and I visited a lot of the churches he worked with at one point or another. I went on a missions trip to Belgium, so visited some churches there; went to Bible school in Alberta and was part of the choir that toured the school’s supporting churches, so that added a bunch to the list. We lived in Europe not once but twice, and did a tour of churches while we were there; and I went with Trevor on some of his Barrie Church Crawl a few years ago, so have also been to a bunch of the churches here in Barrie.
I’m guessing all told that I’ve been to well over a hundred churches over the years. And what I’ve noticed is that in every single church I’ve been in, there have been people quietly working in the corners doing things that are mostly taken for granted, and yet without them, none of the things that go on in that place would run – or at least, none of them would run nearly as smoothly.
Without them the potlucks wouldn’t happen, the files wouldn’t be organized, and at least one pastor wouldn’t know where he was supposed to be or when. Without them the bills wouldn’t be paid, the lights wouldn’t stay on, the roof would leak. Without them the babies would howl through the quiet service everyone enjoys, the kids would be miserable and the teens would leave never to return.
Jesus has a group of these people. In his case they’re women – as, I have to say, they often are – and Luke’s brief three verses today tell us that without them all of this Kingdom-breaking-in wouldn’t really be happening.
Even Jesus needs support for this Kingdom-breaking-in work.
Even Jesus needs people to cook and organize and pay for and go ahead and arrange and stay after and clean up. Even God-in-Flesh could do with some help, apparently.
But I love the help that he has! First off, all of the helpers Luke lists are women in a culture where women were property – not really even given the dignity of ‘personhood’ in terms of their rights or even opportunities. Secondly, they’re women who were ‘healed of evil spirits and … diseases’. They weren’t the rich and powerful; they weren’t married to the rabbi’s of the top synagogues of the day; they didn’t have perfect teeth, weren’t well-educated, didn’t have much to recommend them. In fact, most of their stories had played out under the heading of ‘outcast’, ‘reject’, ‘write-off’. The only one with any access to money or power that we’re told of is Joanna, and she was married to one of Herod’s officials – so basically a sell-out to Rome at best.
And yet this is the help that Jesus has!
This is a big deal!!!
The Kingdom is breaking in, but it’s breaking in through the outcasts and rejects of the day. We already looked at the disciples – how they were kind of a motley crew and Jesus used even them to do something great. But today we get a glimpse of the rest of the group and if anything it underlines our understanding here.
The Kingdom is breaking in.
The Kingdom uses broken people transformed by the experience of meeting Jesus to do its work.
That means that the Kingdom-breaking-in work that we keep talking about here is not just for some fancy guy with a theology degree who wears a suit and carries his Bible around with him every day. It means that the Kingdom-breaking-in work needs us who are ‘outcasts’ and ‘rejects’ and ‘write-offs’ to show up. It needs us to let Jesus meet us in the most broken chapters of our stories, to let Jesus breathe hope and love and life into those places until we are changed into something beautiful, and then to choose to take those stories of transformation and offer them back to the work of Kingdom-breaking-in.
Because apparently it doesn’t work so well without them.
- Have you ever had the impression that you weren’t good enough to serve Jesus? Or that you didn’t have anything worth offering?
- If we’re supposed to follow Jesus’ example, what kind of people are we going to need to join this Kingdom-breaking-in work?
- If the job description includes ‘outcast’, ‘reject’, ‘write-off’ is there space for you?
- It isn’t just the existence of a broken story that makes these women useful to Jesus – it’s the fact that their broken story has been transformed by Jesus’ hope and love and life – changed into something beautiful. Which bit of your broken story is Jesus asking you to let him change?