Friends, our Gospel today celebrates the female disciples of Jesus. One of the principal marks of Jesus’ teaching is the overturning of social conventions. In service of what he calls the kingdom of God, God’s way of ordering the world, he says and does all sorts of outrageous things.
And one of the most striking and surprising of Jesus’ moves is a radical inclusion of women. He allows women into his inner circle (practically unheard of for a rabbi). He speaks publicly to the woman at the well. He engages with the Syro-Phoenician woman. He forgives the woman caught in adultery. And the first witnesses of the Resurrection are women.
Luke, who told this story, was a companion of Paul, and his Gospel reflects many of Paul’s themes. Paul famously says, “In Christ, there is no slave or free, no Jew or Greek, no male or female.” This was very radical stuff in those times, for these were some of the most basic social divisions of the ancient world. Free men were a lot better off than slaves, Jews had huge advantages over Greeks, and males were seen as superior to females. But not anymore—not in light of the kingdom of God that Jesus announces.