Priscilla – The Leader?

Luke continues telling the stories of women serving in the Kingdom throughout his second volume, which we call “Acts.” Today we’ll begin with Priscilla. Paul first meets Aquila and Priscilla, fellow tentmakers, in Corinth after they had been ordered to leave Rome by Emperor Claudius (Acts 18:2-3). Later on these two were missionaries traveling with Paul to Syria, staying for a time in Ephesus, and later returning to Rome (Acts 18:18-19, 2 Tim. 4:19, Rom.16:3).

Of all the times that these two co-workers of Paul are mentioned (seven times total), two of these times Aquila is mentioned first: When Paul meets Aquila, and then Priscilla, and when Paul sends greetings to the church in Corinth on their behalf. The other five times this ministry team is mentioned it is the female, Priscilla, who is mentioned first.

What does this tell us about Priscilla? She played a very active role in these events, likely the lead role. When we tell stories we tend to include the key player in the discussion first. We say “Tom Brady and the Patriots,” not “Jarrett Stidham and the Patriots.” Stidham is one of the backup quarterbacks. Does he play a role in the organization? Of course. Is he the key player? Not usually. Luke does this in other places as well. At the beginning of his relationship with Barnabas, Luke refers to the two as “Barnabas and Saul/Paul” (Acts 11-13). But after chapter 13, Paul becomes the main player, except for occasionally like Acts 14:14, and 15:12. When Paul is the main player, he is mentioned first. When Barnabas is the main player, he is mentioned first.

Priscilla is mentioned as the main player five of the seven times she is mentioned with Aquila. This includes the teaching of Apollos (Acts 18:26), the missionary work in Ephesus (Acts 18:19, 2 Tim. 4:19), and on three other occasions. Saying Priscilla helped her husband is inadequate. They are both called co-workers with Paul (Rom. 16:3), and Priscilla is mentioned first 71% of the time.

There are some who teach women are not allowed to minister in this way, yet time and time again Scripture shows them doing so. And they are never rebuked or criticized for doing so! Luke mentions numerous other women prophesying on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14-15, 2:1, 4, 17-18), or Mary, who had a sizable church meeting in her home (Acts 12:12), Lydia, who also hosted a church (Acts 16:40), or Philip’s four daughters, who were prophets (Acts 21:8)?

Many have tried to take two verses from Paul’s writings out of context and use them to silence women in the Kingdom. The problem is the rest of Scripture, and even Paul’s own writings and ministry, show them doing the very things they are supposedly not allowed to do. So do we allow tradition to shape our understanding of what women may or may not do in the Kingdom, or will we allow the examples set forth in Scripture to set those guidelines?

Next week we’ll look at Paul’s conclusion to the Romans, and look at a few of the women he mentions there, as well as their roles in the Kingdom.

Mark 8 – 9:29

Our reading for this week comes from Mark 8 – 9:29.

Mark 8 begins with Jesus feeding the 4,000. Please keep in mind this is a separate event from the feeding of the 5,000 in Mark 6, though there are certainly similarities. One of the biggest differences is the location of this miracle, and the result. If you recall, the feeding of the 5,000 was feeding a Jewish crowd, and 12 basketfuls of leftovers were collected, indicating Jesus provides both physical and spiritual food, enough for the 12 tribes of Israel.

If you follow Mark’s narration from 7:24 to 8:1, we will find that Jesus speaks to the Syrophoenician woman (a Greek Gentile) in the vicinity of Tyre, way north of the usual area to which Jesus ministered. Here he casts out a demon possessing the woman’s daughter. Goes further north to Sidon, then back down toward Galilee “…into the region of the Decapolis.”

The Decapolis was a collection of Hellenistic (Greek/Gentile) cities and towns in the region of Syria. This is where Jesus cast out the demon Legion (Mark 5). Jews of the time referred to this region as the “Land of the Seven,” a negative comparison to the seven nations that frequently attacked their ancestors.

Jesus feeds the Gentile crowd in the so-called “Land of the Seven” and the disciples collect seven basketfuls of leftovers. Here Jesus is saying that his salvation and message are not only for the 12 tribes, but also for the Gentiles as well. This would not have set well with the Pharisees who kept and enforced rules on others pertaining to eating, sleeping, or having anything to do with Gentiles unless absolutely necessary. In 8:14, Jesus picks up on the “bread” theme and warns the disciples about the “yeast of the Pharisees…” Jesus further clarifies his point to his disciples:

“When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” – Mark 8:19-21

Jesus never intended his ministry to leave anyone out. There was an order in which he had to go first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. He did this in his ministry, and specifically in the feeding miracles. The Apostles followed this as well in Acts as Jesus called them in

Acts 1:8 – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The message was first going to Israel, then Samaria (whom Israel hated), and to the ends of the earth…Gentiles (also whom Israel hated).

Obeying Jesus in this would be difficult, and would be despised by many. Truly loving all people in this world will bring outrage and condemnation from some. That’s why Jesus reminds us that… 

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Mark 8:34

Jesus is offensive to those who have no interest in following him. If we are truly his disciples, we will offend people too. We should never seek to offend, but in all things, follow Jesus. And this will make you offensive. The Gospel is for everyone, and some don’t like that truth. Follow him anyway…even into the hated Land of the Seven…follow him.