INTRODUCTION – Jesus Christ’s ministry on the earth was spectacular in its impact and reach. But it was not a solo act. While it is true He did the bulk of the teaching and the hands on ministry of healing the sick and casting out demons, He had a wonderful support team behind Him and alongside Him. Many of these became the core of the church that He birthed right before He ascended to heaven. And many of these carried on His teaching, healing and delivering ministry after He ascended to heaven.
The obvious members of Jesus’s team while on earth were the 12 disciples – all of whom were men. The not so obvious, but equally important were a host of women.
Last Sunday – Dr. Luke – the author of the gospel of Luke introduced us to a man and a woman. The man was a Pharisee named Simon. Simon had characteristics that Jesus detested and wanted us to beware of – namely arrogance and unrighteous judgment of others. The woman unnamed, had characteristics that Jesus loved and wanted us to emulate – namely an ever growing love for Him, and unashamed and unhindered public worship of Him as a result of daily meditation on the greatness of His forgiveness and mercy towards us.
It appears that the Holy Spirit wanted Dr. Luke to let us know that this lady was one of many ladies, who were profoundly impacted by Jesus, and who lived the rest of their lives in His service. Let’s read the first 3 verses of Luke chapter 8.
“Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.”
Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords came to this earth to establish His kingdom – His gracious and merciful rule and reign over all. Everywhere He went, and He purposefully kept moving from village to village and from city to city, everywhere He went He proclaimed that His kingdom had come. He also proclaimed and preached that repentance and childlike faith in Him was the key to entering into and experiencing this glorious kingdom.
Soon after He began His ministry He chose 12 men to be His close disciples, eventually to become His apostles. 11 of these men would lead His church in His absence once He ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father.
These 12 disciples on the most part - soon after they were called by Jesus - left their professions or careers, which meant neither they nor Jesus had normal careers that provided normal incomes. One of the many important roles these women in the wings played was that they helped provide the financial and material needs for Jesus and the twelve - as they proclaimed and demonstrated the kingdom throughout that known region.
So who were these women? Well most of them were not named. But Luke wanted us to know a few of them, which were representative of the rest.
First there was Mary Magdalene. Jesus had graciously delivered Mary from seven tormenting demons. Now some postulate that the reason for her demonization was an immoral life similar to the lady we read about last week in the latter part of chapter seven. Please note that nowhere in scripture are we told that that was the reason for her demonization. If the Holy Spirit felt we needed to know what led to her being demonized, He would have led Luke to tell us. What was and is important is that Jesus delivered her and she was forever grateful. I find it interesting that she was one of the few who followed Jesus all the way to the cross, watching every grueling moment from a distance. She was also one of the first two people to discover His empty tomb.
The second lady Luke introduces us to was a lady named Joanna. Joanna was a woman of means and influence being the wife of Chuza, who was King Herod’s steward. It is likely that she was also healed or set free from demons.
The third was a lady named Susanna, and we are told nothing about her, but again it was very likely that she had been healed and/or set free from demonic oppression.
It seems to me the Holy Spirit wanted us to know at least three things about all these women who served behind the scenes with Jesus and the twelve. First they came from a variety of social strata. Second and most importantly, what they all had in common was they had had powerful encounters with Jesus. He had dramatically altered their lives as they experienced the depths of His forgiveness and mercy and love. Many of them were delivered from demons and/or were healed of sicknesses. And third, they expressed their love and devotion to Him by following Him and serving Him and His apostles, and by supporting them financially and perhaps materially as in meals, etc.
I want to say this morning that Jesus’s kingdom will never be established, nor His church built and expanded like He wants it built and expanded until women play their rightful role. But the kind of women Jesus is looking for, and the only kind of women Jesus can build with are women who – like the woman described in the latter part of chapter seven - love Him much because they have been forgiven much. In other words, women who know the depths of His mercy and forgiveness, not necessarily because they have sinned more than anyone else; but rather because they have come to grips with how much they have sinned, and how grave their sins are; and thus have turned to Him repeatedly for the forgiveness and mercy and cleansing that only He can provide through His precious blood spilled on the cross of Calvary.
From Luke’s perspective - after having studied and researched with great diligence Jesus’s ministry on the earth – women had a huge role to play in His impact from village to village and city to city - - and one of the primary ways Jesus reached and impacted them was by healing them from sicknesses and setting them free from demonic oppression.
I believe this was also true in the expansion of the church and Jesus’s kingdom in the book of Acts. While many in our society and even in the church are focusing on the gloom and doom in the present, and probably worse coming in the future, for those who have ears to hear – the Holy Spirit wants to remind us that a great harvest is coming in the midst of the gloom and judgment. And healings and deliverances and signs and wonders will play a very significant role in this coming harvest.
For many years I loved reading the book of Acts, which is the historical account of the birth and expansion of the church in the first century. But for a number of years I did not see the significant role that healings and deliverances and even resurrections from the dead played in that growth and expansion. Let’s take a look at a few examples of this.
Luke, who also wrote this book,….. throughout the book occasionally inserted general statements of the overall impact and growth of the church. Sometimes he inserted specific impact among individuals.
Let’s start with a general statement found in Acts 5:12-16: “At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico. But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number, to such an extent that they even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them. Also the people from the cities in the vicinity of Jerusalem were coming together, bringing people who were sick or afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all being healed.” The healing of the sick and other kinds of miracles had a huge role in many men and women coming to faith in Christ in Jerusalem. These miracles apparently were mostly facilitated by the apostles at this point in the early church’s development.
Let’s look at another general report of God’s working through His church. This one is found in Acts 8:5-8, and unlike the prior one, this move of God in Samaria was primarily facilitated by a non apostle named Phillip. “Phillip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Phillip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing. For in the case of many who had unclean spirits, they were coming out of them shouting with a loud voice; and many who had been paralyzed and lame were healed. So there was much rejoicing in that city.” Phillip not only proclaimed Christ, he also demonstrated the presence and kingdom of Christ by healing the sick and casting out demons. And it was that demonstration that caused many to listen to his preaching. The assumption is again that both men and women and perhaps young people and children were being healed and delivered from demons and were turning to Christ.
Now let’s look at a report or account of an individual – named Tabitha. I’m going to read Acts 9:36-42 “Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did. And it happened at that time that she fell sick and died; and when they had washed her body, they laid it in an upper room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, having heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him, imploring him, “Do not delay in coming to us.” So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them. But Peter sent them all out and knelt down and prayed, and turning to the body, he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. And he gave her his hand and raised her up; and calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. It became known all over Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.”
Organized evangelistic campaigns can be and have been used by God. But it is often the unplanned powerful ministry to one well known individual that opens a wide door for the gospel and impacts many people – as it did in Joppa. The Samaritan woman in John chapter four is another example of this. This morning in my quiet time I read in Acts 16 about a demonized lady that Paul set free, much to the men who were using her dark gift (fortunetelling for their own financial gain.
My sense this week in preparing for this sermon increasingly has been that Jesus – the Lord of the Harvest – wants us to give some attention to His harvest this morning. He wants us to become more effective and focused laborers in His harvest. And that instead of rushing on into the rest of this chapter of Luke, we need to stop and pray into what He has showed us so far. Specifically I want us to have a time of corporate prayer for the women in our region, or san luis county since some of us touch people throughout the county.:
1. Body of Christ would see this and embrace this truth about the important role of women in the growth and expansion of Christ’s church.
2. Believing couples would learn better how to minister in oneness to unbelieving women.
3. God would open wide doors for ministry to women to His church in SLO County.
4. God would increase our anointing and faith for healing the sick and setting free the oppressed. (pray for these things now).
5. Waiting on God for words of knowledge for those present today
6. Time of individual prayer for women you know who do not yet know the Lord and perhaps need healing and deliverance.
7. Women to be healed of sickness in the body of Christ who do not yet believe in the gift of healing and the present day ministry of healing. Beth’s healing in H.K.