Select Wisdom Brand

Click the image to watch the video.
Scroll down for more options.



Women in the Supporting Cast

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Luke 8:1–3

Serving the Lord is not reserved for the most talented, brilliant, or capable among us. A few verses in the Gospel of Luke remind us that the Lord welcomes the worship and service of the unknown, the unexpected, and the unappealing—indeed, all who have experienced His grace.


Gladys Aylward was born in London, England, in 1902 to a poor shoemaker and his wife. She seemed destined to serve as a housemaid, which she did until her early twenties when she heard of a widowed missionary in China who needed someone to help her in an orphanage there. So, she applied to the China Inland Mission, but she ultimately was rejected because of her lack of progress in learning the Mandarin language.

Undeterred, she started saving every penny she could and finally, when she turned thirty, she had enough saved to buy a one-way ticket to China. She was four feet ten inches tall and would be nicknamed “The Little Woman” throughout her life. But every inch of her was packed with determination. After joining the elderly widowed missionary, the two began attempting to reach the neighbors with the gospel there in Yangcheng, China. They were ignored.

But this village was heavily traveled by miners driving their mules on a trade route past the orphanage. So, these two women decided to convert spare rooms into hotel rooms.

The Chinese mule drivers were reluctant to stop at first, but one day, as a mule convoy came by, Gladys, “The Little Woman,” ran out and took the bridle of the lead mule and turned it into the courtyard, and all the other mules followed. Food and clean rooms were ready, and the men stayed. They would return time and time again, always eager to learn more of the gospel from these two kind and caring women, and many lives were changed.[1]

The church has been greatly blessed over the centuries with faithful women who served Christ. And think of this: you never read in the New Testament of a female follower of Christ denying Him, betraying Him, or abandoning Him.[2]

Women served with faithfulness and humility as members of what I would like to call the “supporting cast” in the ministry of Christ while on earth. Their legacy continues to this day.

The next event in our chronological study through the Gospels takes us to Luke 8, where we are introduced to three faithful women who played a supporting role among the larger group of Jesus’ disciples.

[Jesus] went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities. (verses 1-2)

Jesus is effectively commencing His second missionary journey throughout Galilee (see Luke 4:14-15). The number of followers is growing, and frankly that is creating some practical challenges.

Where are they going to get the money they need to buy food and provisions along the way? Verse 3 tells us that these three women—Mary, Joanna, and Susanna—along with “many others . . . provided for them out of their means.” Apparently, these are women of wealth and they are willing to use it in the service of the Lord.

These three women have something else in common. According to verse 2, all three had been “healed of evil spirits and infirmities.” All of these women had been delivered by Jesus.

The first woman is introduced to us here in the middle of verse 2: “Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out.” By the way, there is no biblical connection between her and the prostitute who poured out her perfume on the feet of Jesus back in Luke 7. There is no biblical evidence at all that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute. Back in the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic Church created that tradition without any evidence. People to this very day have even tried to make some sort of romantic connection between Mary Magdalene and Jesus. That is nothing but nonsense fit for the tabloids.

Now when Dr. Luke says here in verse 2 that Jesus healed these women, the word he uses for “healed” is the medical term therapeuō, from which we get our word therapy. This Greek verb emphasizes entire restoration to health. No wonder these women wanted to give their lives to following the Lord.

Mary Magdalene highlights the Lord’s ability to give hope to the hopeless. She had been tormented, plagued, and demon-possessed. But none of that stood a chance against the power of Christ and His saving gospel. You might be praying for some hopeless case today. Well, remember that someone’s dark past does not hinder the Lord’s ability to give that person a bright future. Jesus took someone who was ostracized and gave her a new family—brothers, sisters, fathers, and mothers—a family of disciples committed to serving their Deliverer, their Savior.

The second woman mentioned in this supporting cast here in verse 3 is “Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager.” Luke does not tell us what illness this woman was healed from, but Luke does mention her family connections. Her husband, Chuza, is the “household manager” of Herod—that is, Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great—and therefore a high-ranking member of Herod’s court.[3]

Luke is informing us that the gospel has reached the upper echelon of society. Chuza is in charge of managing the personal property and financial portfolio of Herod. This would have been an incredibly influential role. Chuza and Joanna would have been on the Christmas list of King Herod!

But Herod certainly is not a friend of Jesus. This king will put John the Baptist to death. He is going to encounter Jesus briefly during the trials that lead to the Lord’s crucifixion.

There are not going to be any testimony meetings or worship services in Herod’s living room. But still, the gospel had made its way into the king’s palace and saved Joanna—and possibly her husband, Chuza. Sometimes God reaches unlikely people in unexpected places.

Luke then introduces us to this third supporting cast member, a woman mentioned here in the middle of verse 3: “Susanna.” That’s it. Just her name is given to us. We do not know anything more about her. But beloved, being unknown is not the same thing as being unimportant.

While the early church may have known Susanna, we know only that she was healed by Jesus, began following Jesus, and gave financial support to Him.[4] But being unknown on earth does not mean you are unknown in heaven.

I am reminded again of Gladys Aylward, the little woman who gave her life to serve orphans and miners in the heartland of China. Gladys was actually surprised God used her as He did, given her limitations, physically and academically. In her later years, she wrote this testimony:

“I wasn’t God’s first choice for what I’ve done in China. There was somebody else . . . I don’t know who it was—God’s first choice. It must have been a man—a wonderful man. A well-educated man. I don’t know what happened. Perhaps he died. Perhaps he wasn’t willing. . . . He never came. Then God looked down . . . and saw Gladys Aylward.”[5]

Beloved, are you tempted to think that you do not matter to God, that your place of service is so small that it is not worth all that much?

A wonderful little poem gives us a better perspective. It goes like this:

Is your place a small place?

Tend it with care!—He set you there.

Is your place a large place?

Guard it with care!—He set you there.

Whatever your place, it is

Not yours alone, but His

Who set you there.[6]

And we can add that wherever He sets you, there He also joins you.

Beloved, there is no better role you can have in life than to be a simple member of the supporting cast of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

[1] Biographies of Gladys Aylward include Gladys Aylward and Christine Hunter, Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman (Moody Press, 1970) and Alan Burgess, The Small Woman (E. P. Dutton Co., 1957).

[2] J. C. Ryle, Expository Notes on the Gospels: Luke (Evangelical Press, 1985), 119.

[3] David E. Garland, Luke, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Zondervan, 2011), 342.

[4] Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Luke (Zondervan, 2012), 194.

[5] Phyllis Thompson, A Transparent Woman: The Compelling Story of Glady Aylward (Zondervan, 1971), 183.

[6] John Oxenham, “Your Place.”

Add a Comment

We hope this resource blessed you. Our ministry is EMPOWERED by your prayer and ENABLED by your financial support.