Apostle to the Apostles
“Women are the newest U.S. mission field.” (Sharon Hodde Miller, Christianity Today)
“Women hold up half the sky.” (Chinese proverb)
Women make up half the church. (Carolyn Custis James)
“If there is one lesson we in the United Nations have learned over the years, it is that investing in women is the most productive strategy a country can pursue—to raise economic productivity, improve nutrition and health, and educate the next generation.” (former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan)
“Who run the world? Girls.” (Beyonce)
I’m passionate about empowering women. One might say zealous. And for good reason. The daughters of the church have changed the course of history with the great approval and empowerment from God himself. Today we're focused on the incredible women present at the cross and the day before Jesus is resurrected from the dead with special attention to the Apostle to the Apostle, Mary Magdalene. Mary’s my girl. She had a reputation. She was plagued with demon possession, and then God healed her. Judas betrayed Jesus. Peter denied him. But Mary, and many other women, cared for Jesus’ needs while He was alive and sought to heap honor on Him after His death.
Women at the Cross
Mark 15:37-41 (NET) - "But Jesus cried out with a loud voice and breathed his last. And the temple curtain was torn in two, from top to bottom. Now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw how he died, he said, 'Truly this man was God’s Son!' There were also women, watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they had followed him and given him support. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were there too."
So we've got:
- Mary Magdalene
- Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses
- Many other women
Here's the backstory on this group of women. "Some time afterward he went on through towns and villages, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and disabilities: Mary (called Magdalene), from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Cuza (Herod’s household manager), Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their own resources." Luke 8:1-3 (NET)
Mary, Joanna, and Susanna were there but also "many others" who provided for the disciples out of their very own resources. Women were well represented during Jesus’ ministry on earth. Many women healed by Jesus became his disciples and accompanied Him and the 12 male disciples from city to city to care for Jesus’ needs. They were a diverse group of women, but shared in the miraculous work of healing.
Women at the tomb
Mark 16:1-8 (NET) - "When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought aromatic spices so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. They had been asking each other, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?' But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled back. Then as they went into the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been raised! He is not here. Look, there is the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples, even Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.' Then they went out and ran from the tomb, for terror and bewilderment had seized them. And they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid."
The angel explicitly instructs the women to tell the disciples what they have heard. But instead they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid. Been there. Jesus chose Mary Magdalene to be the first to witness Him resurrected although moments before she did not listen to the angel’s instructions out of fear. Have you ever been instructed by God to do something and you didn’t because of fear?
You’re in good company. Don’t discount yourself from ministry. In spite of Mary’s fear, Jesus chose her to be the first witness of Him post-death. He knew she would be afraid. He chose her anyway.
Women at the Resurrection
Mark 16:9-11 (NET) - "Early on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe."
Do you know the sting of following through on God’s calling and no one responding in faith to your testimony? You’re in good company. In spite of their doubts, the disciples did eventually believe and her testimony was not in vain. Nothing you're doing is in vain.
Daughters of the church
These incredible women have gone before us in the faith. Their devotion is evident because they were present when Jesus was crucified (and deserted by his disciples), when Jesus was buried, and when he rose from the dead.
"In these stories women are given priority by God as recipients of revelation and thereby the role of mediators of that revelation to men. Is this not part of the eschatological reversal of status, in which God makes the last first and the first last, so that no one might boast before God?" (Richard Bauckham, Gospel Women: Studies of the Named Women in the Gospels)
Before Jesus commissions his disciples (men and women) to go and make disciples (men and women) of all the nations, He asks a woman to go and tell the disciples He is risen. What a privilege. Reminds me of the woman at the well (the first evangelist) sent back into town to share with the men that she had met the Messiah. But that's another blog post for another day.
I’ve been in some form of ministry for 15 years. I have consistently seen people struggle with losing themselves, regardless of gender, life stage, relationship status, income, education, preferences, or spiritual background. For whatever reason, we find ourselves overshadowed and missing in action. Many times my job is to remind Jesus followers that although their schedules or dreams are being delayed or rearranged, staying conscious of the good work God is doing all around them and through them needs to be a constant in their lives. Our enemy loves when you feel isolated or useless; it usually makes you give up completely. Cue Justin Bieber please, “Where are you now? Where are you now when I need you?”