One of the staples of a complementarian/patriarchal view of the Christian ministry and ecclesiology is the fact that all of Jesus’ disciples who actively followed Him on Jesus’ journey’s were men. Hence, aside from probably Junia mentioned in Romans (who is readily ignored by some), all the apostles in the New Testament are male. By implication it would seem, the leadership of the Church was to be of men. However, I want to put forward a different explanation for the exclusive male-ness of Jesus’ traveling disciples that is closer to the heart of Jesus’ ministry and does not exclude women from being leaders among God’s People. In summary, I would say this: the reason why Jesus called only men to follow Him on His ministry journeys is that the place of women in society was already such that they experienced regular deaths to themselves, whereas for ambitious men, they would have to bear their crosses before they really grow to be effective disciples.
Let us note, first of all, Jesus was all too willing to teach women and engage in substantial conversation with God. Mary and Martha are one example where Jesus not only tolerates but actively includes women in His teaching. Jesus has an extended conversation with the Samaritan woman that is more direct than His conversation with Nicodemus. The significance of this should not be understated. Jesus did not simply make Himself known to any and everyone who wanted to be taught by Him. Jesus was selective in who He was make Himself known to. When Nicodemus came to him, Jesus refused to entrust Himself to Nicodemus with clear, direct teachings. Yet, he was all too willing to teach women. So, Jesus included many women past his ‘filters.’
However, women had many more obligations to other people to take care of people’s well-being than men do. While Jesus told His disciples that they must ‘hate’ their families to follow Him, which was essentially a call to be loyal to Jesus above everyone else, we never see Jesus refuse would-be followers for saying “I will follow you after I take care of my ailing child,” or something similar. The call to loyalty to Jesus in following Him is never suggested to entail a dropping of one’s responsibilities to care for those who need care. To travel and follow Jesus for women would have been to shirk the acts of service and love, without which other people would be at a great loss and suffer because of. Rather, Jesus’ concern seems to be more connected to one’s social status that comes from one’s relationship to one’s family. For men, particularly more upwardly mobile men, the honor and status of their families would be an important part of establishing themselves in society. Jesus is essentially telling them to abandon this source of honor and status in favor of the honor and status that comes from taking up their cross and following Jesus. Women’s social status, whatever status they had, was primarily derived from the way they took care of matters in the home. For upwardly mobile men who didn’t have to take time caring for other people, they had to take up their cross in follow Jesus. To people permanently entrenched in the lower status who then played the role of servants and helpers to others, they already have their form of a cross.
So allow me to put this a different way: why did Jesus only call men to follow Him? Because it is the men, particularly the upwardly mobile, healthy, ambitious men, who needed to die to themselves and, in so doing, could use their relatively privileged capacities to travel and be mobile to serve the kingdom of God. However, for women whose social circumstances made other people’s well-being dependent upon them, women could serve as Jesus disciples in the location where society essentially forced them at the time.
The point is that this has less to do with the “worthiness” of men to lead, and more to do with the great extent to which these men must go in dying to themselves in order to be salt and light as Jesus’ disciples who then travel around to proclaim the kingdom. God uses the potentially mobile males for the task that they are readily able to fulfill. God uses the life circumstances and positions we have in life and calls us in such a way that we can use it for the glory of God’s Kingdom. It doesn’t mean, however, that men are by nature disposed to leadership. It meant that these men have the capacity to do it in that time that women did not, but precisely because of this capacity they had in their relatively priviledged status, they had to endure the cross in a way that female disciples who were regularly held down, excluded, and oppressed did not have to.
So, perhaps the reason why the apostles were (almost) exclusively male is that it was the men who were freer to take on the requirements and responsibility of position but that they especially needed to learn to die to themselves in a way that women had already learned by their second-class, perpetually one-down social status. Maybe the apostolic men are an example of God taking those who were first (relatively speaking) and had higher status and making them last and servants in the hardships of traveling and proclaiming the kingdom of God (And let us remember that the apostolic Church was not an established institution with massive manpower, wealth, property, etc; being a leader in the apostolic era did not have the perks and privileges that being a leader in more institutional churches and denominations have).