The Women Who Follow Jesus

6 comments Written on March 31st, 2015     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
Corrie Gustafson is an ordained ECC minister who currently serves as the pastor to women at Peninsula Bible Church in Palo Alto, California. She is the PSWC liaison to Advocates for Covenant Clergy Women (ACCW) and is a regional coordinator for Advocacy for Victims of Abuse (AVA). Corrie blogs regularly at 

Gustafson, Corrie_crEven though 2,000 years have passed between Jesus’ death and my birth, I want to do anything and everything I can to enter into his story. Following the church calendar and observing Lent have become valuable spiritual practices for me. They help me grow closer to Jesus.

During Lent I fast more and pray more. I read the Gospels with the attentiveness of an actress taking up the script (and the role) of a lifetime. How I wish I were an eyewitness of Jesus Christ! Careful reading, a healthy imagination, and the Holy Spirit have become a portal into my savior’s world.

As I’ve joined Jesus’ story this Lenten season, I’ve found myself zeroing in on the women – where they are, what they are doing, and what emotions they display. As a woman, a pastor, and a writer, I’m often disappointed that we don’t have a gospel account penned by a female disciple. After all, “Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs.” (Mt. 27:55)

Jesus had many more than 12 disciples, a fact which we too often forget. Remember that he sent out 72 disciples to proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God! I picture bands of disciples spreading out from Jesus like concentric circles. The women who followed Jesus and cared for his daily needs were certainly near the center circle. Whether or not they were formally commissioned among the 72, I imagine many women were overcome with the joy of the Lord. I picture them breaking away and hurrying back to their villages and families to share all that they had seen and learned at the rabbi’s feet.

These women who followed Jesus – I see them everywhere: first as guests at the wedding in Cana, then sitting on a hillside in Galilee listening to Jesus preach, walking with Jesus along the dusty road to Judea, ringing a crowded upper room as they feasted on bread and wine. Where Jesus went, his disciples went. Women counted whether or not they were numbered.

Where Jesus went, women went – even when he went to his death.

When Jesus was nailed to a tree to die, witnesses, “beat their breasts and went away. But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching…” (Luke 23:48-49) When Jesus suffered and died, the women who followed him watched. 

When the inner circle of disciples scattered in shock and disbelief at the death of their master, the women stayed. They accompanied his body to the tomb. Joseph of Arimathea “rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. (Mt. 27:60-61) The women who followed Jesus kept vigil. 

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome brought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb…” (Mk. 16:1-2) The women who followed Jesus sought to tenderly care for his body.

When the angel met them at the empty tomb and proclaimed the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, “the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet full of joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” (Mt. 28:8) The women who followed Jesus hurried to proclaim the resurrection.

One their way to obey the angel’s command, they encountered Christ himself. When Jesus greeted them, the women, “took hold of his feet and worshiped him.” (Mt. 28:9)

Ministry can be isolating, especially for women. Even when you have supportive colleagues, it’s difficult to be the only woman on a pastoral staff. Even when your denomination theologically affirms and ordains women in ministry, it is discouraging to realize how many churches won’t hire you because of your gender.

Ministry can lead to suffering – the kind that leaves scars. Ministry hurts when parishioners lash out, blaming pastors for their pain. Ministry has made me an eyewitness to horrors I never thought I’d see, like the emotional fallout of rape; families torn apart by adultery; women trapped in abusive relationships and the organizations that ignorantly support their abusers. I’ve seen the palpable hopelessness of the mentally ill. Churches crumbled by the arrogance of senior pastors following their own way rather than the Lord’s. I’ve been a part of communities too absorbed in their own privilege to notice or care for the marginalized among them.

Ministry is painful, but it also leads to great joy.

Ministry has ushered me into life’s most sacred celebrations. I’ve cheered at baptisms, prayed blessings over new babies, and officiated at weddings. I’ve witnessed friends long lost to sin, repent and once again rejoice in the Lord. I’ve held hands with the dying and sang hymns and spiritual songs as they’ve taken their final breath. I’ve preached the good news of the kingdom of God to hundreds. I’ve seen communities reconcile and begin to thrive after years of fracture and discord. In all of this, I realize, I am an eyewitness to Jesus Christ!

As a woman in ministry, I feel intimately linked to the women who followed Jesus 2000 years ago. I carry their mix of emotions, I’m afraid yet full of joy. Following and serving Jesus is difficult – surely, the most difficult thing I will do – but the reward of abiding joy is worth any cost.

I pray that I – and every women who loves, follows, and serves Jesus – will have the courage to stay with him, even when the path leads to suffering. And I pray that when we encounter Jesus, we will follow the example our sisters set long before us – that we will fall at his feet, take hold, and worship him.


May God bless you this Easter season.


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6 comments “The Women Who Follow Jesus”

“Women counted whether or not they were numbered.” Love this statement! Thanks for the beautiful peek into your lenten journey! 🙂

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Corrie — thanks for this important reminder of the presence of women in the ministry of Jesus –“where Jesus went, women went”.  Why is this so easily discounted?  

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Wonderful, Corrie! It is so interesting how hard it is for us to shake this picture of Jesus traveling around with 12 guys when in reality there were probably at least that many women with the group as well. I’m also writing about these women this week. Many voices speaking up can help change the narrative 🙂 

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Corrie, thank you for these insights into the dedicated women followers of Jesus who accompanied him while he went about the events of life, whether that was celebration or suffering.  They witnessed  both his humanity and his spirit in these circumstances.  When we accompany others through their journey of celebrations and sufferings, as you described, we also have the privilege of being an eyewitness to their humanity and the Spirit of God at work in them. May we never lose the willingness to have eyes that see and feet that follow. 

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Corrie, Thank you for your thoughtful words.

“I am an eyewitness to Jesus Christ” Thank you for this reminder that “when we have done it for the least of these we have done it unto Him.”

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