LUKE 8:1-3, 23:49, 55-56; MARK 15:40, 47-16:1
Bolivia, the country where I came from, had a marvelous visitation of God in 1974. Christian historians call that time the revival of Bolivia. That movement gave birth to thousands of churches all around my country. God used a young man who was only 19 years old to revolutionize a nation. Thousands of people came to know The Lord because of this young man's obedience to The Lord. What do you do when you end up with a church of 600 members -- new believers that have never heard the Word of God -- but don't have a building to meet in or teachers to teach the crowd? In this case, Julio Cesar Ruibal chose 12 young people to lead this fledgling church. We were nine men and three women. In the beginning, the park was where we gathered for service; and twice a week we used to teach in every neighborhood in the city. That was the beginning of my Christian life. I was one of the young women that Julio chose and trained to teach every day in a different house to new believers older than myself. The life of these ministering women bring back memories of my youth and total devotion to God.
The Bible says that there were twelve male disciples who followed Jesus, but that there was also a group of women who followed Jesus and served Him out of their own means. This group of women is full of some fascinating characters -- women freed from evil spirits, ladies healed from infirmities, a manager of Herod's household, and mothers of some of Jesus' disciples. These women that were following Jesus helped to meet the very human, daily needs of Jesus. We can sometimes forget that Jesus - the Son of God - was also a man with physical needs and wants like everybody else. He had to eat, his clothes had to be washed, and he needed a place to sleep. What a blessing for these women to not only be able to meet the Messiah's needs, but to also be able to learn from Him and have their deepest needs met by His love and teachings. Every day they witnessed His miracles before the crowds, His healing of the sick, and His compassion for the poor. Each day they were instructed, along with the twelve disciples, on how to understand the Scriptures in a new way. Being able to wash Jesus' clothes or pay for his meals must have seemed like a small way to repay Him for all He gave them. Their lives were transformed and so they were willing to leave families and homes to follow Him. They had met the very embodiment of Hope and so they placed all their hopes for the future -- for security and for families -- in His hands and followed an itinerant Rabbi who had no place to lay His head.
How is Jesus calling you into an intimate relationship with Him that requires risk and sacrifice? How is He challenging you to make Him your Hope? I promise you that the costs may seem great, but that following Him with total devotion is always worth it.
Purposefully studying the lives of women in the Bible always yields surprising fruit. The women who followed and ministered to Jesus -- Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James and Joseph, Susanna, Salome, and Joanna, not to mention the sisters Mary and Martha --- often get little attention in our sermons and Bible studies, and yet their very existence in the gospels is challenging and encouraging. In their day, itinerant rabbis would allow small groups of men to follow them and learn from them as their students (disciples). The goal of every disciple was to walk so closely beside the rabbi -- in his very dust! -- that he would become like him and learn his way of interpreting the Scriptures (the rabbi's "yoke"). Many young men, especially those living in more religious regions like Jerusalem or the Galilee, would yearn to become disciples and intimate confidants of a rabbi. And yet, this was a career path completely closed off to women. Only the most educated and wealthy of women -- or those who were wives or daughters of rabbis -- would even have access to the type of basic education needed to consider following a rabbi. Yet, in every gospel account we find mention of this assorted group of women following Jesus -- up close and personal.
Even more astonishing is that these women not only serve Jesus and meet his physical needs, but they become the entrusted witnesses of the death and resurrection of their Lord. When many of the male disciples had fled in fear or sorrow, these women remained at the cross and then returned to anoint the dead body of their Lord. Just as they had helped to clothe him in life, they also clothed his body in death. And so in a culture where a woman could not be a disciple or even be a witness in a court of law, these women became the humans most acquainted with Jesus' terrible death and then His glorious resurrection. Though society overlooked them and discounted them, God entrusted them with carrying His message of Hope to our world.
You and I are never too small, too hidden, too ignorant, or too poor to be used by our Lord. He invites all of us to follow Him -- up close and personal -- and to bring His good news of Hope to others. When the world discounts us and forgets us, He sees us and entrusts us with Himself.