(The Syrophoenician Woman – Painted by Consilia Karli)
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If you want to know the best people in [the Gospel of Mark] other than Jesus, to look to for the kind of life that we should live, the nameless women are the ones – Daniel Kirk
If you’ve been in Church very long, you’ve probably heard plenty of sermons on the disciples. Have faith to step out of the boat like Peter. Invite people to Jesus like Andrew. It’s true, sometimes the twelve did some pretty cool things, and no one can deny the huge part they played in the formation of the early Church. However, throughout the Gospels, they actually spend most of their time getting it wrong. Jesus is constantly have to correct and rebuke, and even gets fed up with them at times. We spend so much time focusing on the men that followed Jesus, but when was the last time you heard a sermon on the women?
Recently, I was listening to a scholar speak on the Gospel of Mark and he said, “The nameless women in the gospel [of Mark] come off as ideal disciples in a way that the 12 never end up living up to.” I was surprised because I had literally never heard this before. Aren’t the men in the Gospels supposed to be the ideal followers of Jesus? So I started digging in, and here’s what I found.
1. Peter’s Mother in Law (Mark 1:29-31)
Simon/Peter’s mother-in-law is sick and Jesus comes and heals her. Immediately, without being prompted, she gets up and begins to serve Jesus and the people around her. Yet, Jesus is constantly harping on the twelve that the Kingdom is about serving others while they are arguing about who is the greatest.
2. The Bleeding Woman (Mark 5: 24 – 34)
A woman who has been subject to bleeding for twelve years goes up to Jesus with so much faith, she knows that just touching his cloak will heal her. When it works, Jesus tells this woman that her faith has healed her. In the chapter right before this, Jesus calms the storm while yelling at the twelve saying, “do you still have no faith?”
3. The Syrophoenician Woman (Mark 7: 24-30)
Jesus had just fed 5,000 people from 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. However, the twelve still didn’t get what was going on with Jesus. Then the Syrophoenician woman comes onto the scene. First, she is the only person in the Gospel to ever win an argument with Jesus. More importantly, she gets it. She is the only one who can see that, with Jesus, there is enough bread to go around.
4. The Widow with an Offering (Mark 12: 41-44)
Jesus watches this widow give an offering worth only a few cents, however, he says that she put in everything. The Greek here literally means she “put in her whole life.” This woman understands that the cost of discipleship is one’s entire life. Just a few chapters prior, Jesus calls Peter “Satan” for refusing to accept this very notion.
5. The Woman who Anoints Jesus (Mark 14: 1-9)
This woman pours oil on Jesus’ head, which is what is done for a King. She recognizes who Jesus is. Jesus points out that she did this to prepare for his burial. She understands what is going to happen to Jesus, even though the disciples still don’t get it. Jesus tells her that her story would continue to be told.
When it comes to following Jesus, I want to be like these women. I want to serve others. I want to have bold faith. I want to be on board with what Jesus is doing around me. I want this Jesus thing to encompass my whole life, and I want to keep Jesus in his rightful place. We may not know the names of these women, and they may not get much play in sermons, but their example is powerful. And it doesn’t stop there. I have so many strong women around me today that I also want to be like in the way I follow Jesus. I’m thankful for their courage, their teaching, their faith, their service, their impact, and so much more. May we follow their example.