As I do most Advent seasons, I think about Mary, and meditate on Luke 1-2, where we find her story in detail. This year, I noticed something I’d missed before—Luke begins his gospel with 3 heroines and only one hero. In fact, the very beginning shows the doubt of Zechariah, a would-be hero who fails.
First, the angel comes to Zechariah, he doubts, and loses his ability to speak for at least nine months (Luke 1:5-23). In direct contrast, his wife Elizabeth, the first heroine, responds to her pregnancy with words of faith, “The Lord has done this for me. In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people” (Luke 1:24-25).
An even greater contrast to Zechariah’s doubt is Mary, the second heroine. She’s told of her pregnancy and doesn’t doubt. Her words show great faith, “I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled” (Luke 1:38). I write about how amazing her words and actions are in this post.
Elizabeth shows even more faith when Mary comes to her. She’s filled with the Holy Spirit, and speaks words of confirmation and faith to Mary (Luke 1:39-45).
Mary responds with prophetic words that speak of God’s triumph as if it’s already happened, words she states probably before her baby belly is even showing (Luke 1:46-55). It’s as if the first two heroines team up in faith.
When John the Baptist is born, Zechariah may redeem himself through his song of praise, but he’s already been shown as rather fallible and less than heroic.
Then, Jesus is born. Though Matthew mentions why Joseph stays with Mary, Luke does not. He makes Joseph silent background to the story.
And Peanuts’ Linus tells the story best,
(This is an aside: Have you thought about whether there were women among the shepherds who worshiped Jesus? I mean, the OT Rachel was a shepherd (Gen 29:9), so it’s possible, right?)
8 days after his birth, Mary names him Jesus, the name she received from the angel (Luke 2:21).
40 days later they present Jesus in the temple. (Luke 2:22-40), and it’s here that we see the only hero, the righteous Simeon, who’s been waiting for Jesus forever.
It’s interesting that Simeon doesn’t talk to Joseph at all. Instead, the hero Simeon speaks prophetically to the heroine Mary, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too” (Luke 2:34-35).
And then, finally, there’s the third heroine, Anna. She’s a prophet who’s always at the temple. She gives thanks to God and tells everyone about Jesus.
So, what are we to conclude from the three heroines and one hero here? That women outnumber men in heroism and faith? Probably not; let’s not forget that there are other male heroes, just not in these first chapters of Luke, and there’s no need to count up male vs. female heroes throughout scripture.
What shall we conclude, then? Here are a few ideas:
- Women are heroines of faith in Scripture and we can follow in their footsteps.
- Women’s words and voices are powerful and were recorded in the Bible; we may use our voices to proclaim faith.Women’s words and voices are powerful and were recorded in the Bible Click To Tweet
- Because it includes mighty women first, the Kingdom of God that Luke proclaims is an upside-down kingdom in a patriarchal society.
Luke boldly proclaimed these heroines’ stories. Shall we not join him by repeating the stories and respond by emulating the women?
(Interested in hearing more from me? Check out my book, The Book of Womanhood)