Faithful Women and Unbelieving Men — The Bookends of Jesus’ Life

Faithful Women. Unbelieving Men.In The Gospel According to Luke, Jesus’ life is bookended by faithful women in contrast to unbelieving men. I touched on this a bit in my Holy Saturday meditation, but I want to outline it a bit more here.

Before Jesus’ Birth

Luke opens with a man—a priest serving the Lord in the temple—responding to an angel’s message with unbelief (Luke 1:5ff).

In contrast, Luke records two women—a barren, aged woman and a humble “servant of the Lord”—responding to an angel’s message with belief (Luke 1:24-63).

Faithful Women. Unbelieving men.

At Jesus’ Arrest, Burial, and Crucifixion

Of the Twelve, Luke records the betrayal by Judas, the disciples sleeping, Peter’s denials (Luke 22:39ff). He records nothing the Twelve at the cross.

In contrast, Luke records “the women who had followed him from Galilee” (the female disciples in Luke 8:1-3) going to his burial, preparing spices and ointments, and resting according to the commandment on the Sabbath (Luke 23:49-56). (The centurion and Joseph of Arimathea are exceptions that prove the rule. As a Roman officer and a member of the council, respectively, they fit the motif of the Kingdom being revealed to the unexpected.)

Faithful Women. Unbelieving men.

After Jesus’ Resurrection

Luke records the women disciples finding the empty tomb and responding to an angel’s message in belief.

In contrast, Luke records the apostles responding to the women’s message with unbelief (thinking it was an idle tale).

A side note: Especially interesting is that one of “women who had come with him from Galilee” was “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager” (Luke 8:3). Consider Joanna’s courage! Her husband managed Herod’s household. Herod was interested in seeing Jesus because he had heard much of him (likely from his wife). But, in the end, Herod treated Jesus with contempt and mocked him—and then became friends with Pilate (Luke 23:6-12). Risking the enmity of Herod (and her husband!), it appears that Joanna followed Jesus to the cross, saw him buried in the tomb, saw the empty tomb, and proclaimed his resurrection to unbelieving apostles.

Faithful Women. Unbelieving men.

The Whole Bible

This might be a good place to point out that the whole of Scripture is similarly bookended.

The first recorded words of faith in Scripture are those of Eve; her confessions of faith bookend Genesis 4. Moses contrasts Eve’s faith (and her Yahweh-worshiping offspring) with Cain’s unbelief (and his increasingly wicked line). The seed of the woman. The seed of the serpent.

The last recorded words of faith are those of the Bride of Christ in Revelation 22.

I could say more about that, but this is a blog post (and, also, this).

So What?

Faithful Women. Unbelieving men. What’s Luke trying to say?

Luke is not telling us that women are inherently more spiritual or prone to belief than men.

Luke is telling us something about who the Kingdom is revealed to—the unexpected and overlooked. In first-century Jewish society, women were generally viewed as a lower class than men. (For more on this and how Jesus treated women in contrast to his culture, see Chapters 8-10 in Worthy: Celebrating the Value of Women.)

Responding with disbelief is a Jewish priest in the temple and Jesus’ closest companions—the Twelve apostles.

Responding with faith is a servant girl and the women (of unexpected demographics) who followed as disciples.

Perhaps you don’t fit the “expected” demographic of a Jesus-follower. Don’t let that stop you! The Kingdom of God is for all who see Christ as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.


Bonus Study

Read through the rest of the Gospel of Luke. Look for the contrast between those who believe and don’t believe.

For that matter, read through the rest of the Bible, looking for the contrast of who believes and who doesn’t believe.