Did Jesus disciple women too? Were there women disciples who followed Jesus?
What a Disciple Is
A disciple is not just a Christian in name…they are a follower of Christ, going where He sends them, following in His footsteps, doing what He did, and following the will of the Father. The word “disciple” comes from the Old English discipul (fem. discipula) which comes from the Latin discipulus, meaning, “pupil, student, follower,” and said to be from the Latin, discere, meaning “to learn.” This is where we get the word “discern” and that from the root word, dek which means “to take, accept” (hint: Matt 28:18-20). According to Barnhart and Klein, the word disciple comes from a compound word, discipere , which means “to grasp intellectually,” “analyze thoroughly,” and is from dis- “apart” (see dis-) + capere “to take, take hold of,” like “carpe diem” is Latin for “seize the day.” The Greek word for disciple is “mathēteuō” and it means a “student, learner,” or “pupil.” That’s what the word disciple means…now, who can become one?
Who are Jesus’ Disciples?
Jesus said, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33), so only those who renounce all for Christ are actually Jesus’ disciples, but how can we know whether someone is truly a disciple of Jesus or not? It is whether they do what He commands. That’s a start. It doesn’t matter at all if they are male or female, black or white, a business owner or a janitor…God is no respecter of persons. A disciple of Christ has nothing to do with who they are or what they look like. They are someone called to live “in” Christ, equipped to live “like” Christ, and sent to live “for” Christ. This “calling” includes salvation and abiding in Christ (John 8:31–32). “Equipping” includes spiritual formation and growth (2 Timothy 3:16–17). “Sending” includes discipling others, doing good works, bearing much fruit, and loving our neighbors (Matthew 28:18–20, John 15:8, John 13:34–35). “Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me’” (Matt 16:24), and said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40), and those who are like Christ will suffer persecution like Christ, although not to the same extent of course. This means, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26), and “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27), so every Christian should know, if they don’t already, it will be narrow path to eternal life that will be difficult to travel, and apparently few will find it (Matt 7:13-14).
I think Jesus’ ministry received more support from women than from men. That’s what the Bible indicates. What it says about women supporting Jesus is not said about men. We read that Jesus went to preach the gospel with the 12 disciples, but it also says that “some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means” (Luke 8:2-3), so these women supported Jesus’ ministry financially. That’s what disciples do. On one occasion, “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3) This was enough to pay a man his wages for 100 days, so we’re talking about a lot of money, but this woman was criticized for her extravagance, but maybe she knew something the disciples didn’t, and that was what Jesus said, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment” (Luke 7:44-46). This woman proved she was Jesus’ disciple because she renounced all that she had for Him (Luke 14:33). To be honest, that convicts me! What about you? Should it matter whether someone is a man or woman or a child? No, not to Jesus, and it shouldn’t to us. God sees women as men’s equals and co-heirs in Christ. Being a disciple of Jesus has nothing to do with sex, social status, or the color of a person’s skin.
Not Forsaking Him
As long as a believer doesn’t forsake Christ, especially at a critical time of testing, then they are a disciple of Christ. Yes, they might fall, they might even fall into sin and even deny Jesus, but they don’t stay there. They get back up and dust themselves off and start walking with Christ again. When Jesus went to the cross, most of those that remained to the end were women. Maybe the women were more courageous than the men, because “many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him” (Matt 27:65), indicating that these women ministered to Jesus. It never says that of men, with the exception of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who came for Jesus’ body after His death…and at great risk to their own lives, but at the cross, all forsook Him. Only the Apostle John remained…most of the other disciples of Jesus were women and they stayed. They remained with Him until the end…but also, women were the first witnesses to the empty tomb, even though, sadly, the men didn’t believe them.
When Jesus was crucified, where did all the men go? Where were all of His disciples? They all forsook Him, except for a number of women. Remember Jesus said they will strike the shepherd and the flock would scatter (Matt 26:31), which had been foretold long ago by the Prophet Zechariah (13:7), so at the end of Jesus’ physical life, “all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things” (Luke 23:49), but apparently, not many men. Perhaps they fled out of fear, disappointment, or not wanting to be associated with Jesus since they might be next! I think it’s sad that we forget about all the wonderful support these women gave Jesus. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Sometimes that is the cost of discipleship, but Bonhoeffer could have well included women in his statement, and it would still ring true. Are you a disciple of Jesus Christ? If so, aren’t you glad it doesn’t depend on who we are (male or female), but upon Who He is.
Take a look at this article: Christian Discipleship
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: Study Bible : English standard version. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles. Used by permission. All rights reserved.