Women in the Gospel of Luke

Updated: May 14, 2020

This quote scrolled across my Facebook feed the other day and made me smile,


“The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.” - Elisabeth Elliot

My own views on women in the Scriptures have gone through some big changes in the last decade, and even more so in the past year. It has been exciting for me to explore and investigate Biblical women. As a person who likes to be certain about what I believe, I can't stop at a surface understanding, I must take it all apart so I can see how it works.



A few weeks ago I wrote the post, The Problem of Eve and the Modern Woman, and I still find myself going back and running through the same thoughts again and again, wondering if I came to the right conclusions. My stance on women within the church is more liberal than some would like, and yet too conservative for others.


Women's Roles in the Early Christian Church


I believe that the Bible (including Paul's letters) shows women serving, being disciples, exercising their spiritual gifts of teaching and prophesying, and even being apostles.


You see these roles by not zeroing in on the “instruction” portions of the Bible but examining the actual flesh and blood women who lived in the first-century and served the early church. My love for “stories” helped balance out my love for “following the rules”, and I think we need to keep both styles hand in hand.


Today I'm taking a look at how Luke treats women in his gospel account. Luke is part one of a two-volume work. The fact that we have John presented in-between Luke and Acts can confuse a reader, but Luke and Acts are written by the same author and are progressing through the same story. Themes that we see introduced in Luke are repeated and expanded upon in Acts, including the way women are portrayed.


Within the first two chapters of Luke, we see strong portrayals of women and their worth and roles in the early church—three stories that are unique to Luke.


Elizabeth


Elizabeth is described along with her husband Zacharias as being righteous, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. When she becomes pregnant with John in her old age, she praises God for her blessings. When Mary arrives, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, blesses Mary, and is the first one to call Jesus, “my Lord”.


Mary


Mary is visited by Gabriel, just like Zacharias. Like Zacharias, Mary wonders how this could happen, but unlike Zacharias, she believes and accepts with the amazing statement, “May it be done to me according to your word.” This obedience is echoed thirty-some years later by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. (Luke 22:42)


When Mary visits Elizabeth, she gives a speech full of joy and prophetic language. Several of the phrases are similar to Hannah's speech in 1 Samuel 2:1-10. This may show that Mary knew and held the Scriptures near to her heart. In fact, Mary is three times described as pondering things or treasuring things in her heart. (1:29, 2:19, 2:51) She seems like an introspective young woman.


Though Mary has been given the words of Gabriel, she doesn't fully understand Jesus and his role on earth. (Luke 2:50)


Anna


Anna is called a prophetess and went above and beyond in her service to God. She is described as serving night and day with fastings and prayers. She was eighty-four when she beholds the infant Jesus, and when she meets him she gives praise to God and speaks about Jesus to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.