Let’s finish up on a slightly different note, yes? It’s easy to look for the negative, isn’t it? It can be natural, even, to fight back. Yet, the Bible doesn’t just declare women to be submissive and answer to their husbands. It doesn’t yell at us, beat us upside the head, and declare that the male sex is the winner and all others must simply live their lives in gratitude to them.
Let’s read from the book of John:
When she had said this, she turned round and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? For whom are you looking?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, ‘Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary!’ She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni!’ (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, ‘Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” ’Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’, and she told them that he had said these things to her.
John 20:14-18 (NRSV)
When Jesus rose he could have chosen anyone to reveal himself to first. Similarly to the aforementioned Woman at the Well scenario, it need not be a woman who only approached the well in the heat of the day to miss the gossip that was sure to be spoken about her. He could have found any of his disciples – or any of his betrayers, but he chose Mary Magdalene.
Now, Mary was a woman of commitment. She stayed at Jesus’ side in the hardest of times – when he was crucified and dying a criminal’s death. A death on the cross was most certainly the worst of fates, and for onlookers it could have only been a living nightmare, too. But Mary stayed. Mary wept. Mary mourned. Mary, though, was loyal to Jesus.
We can’t downplay, however, that Mary was a sinner. She is not portrayed this way in any of the gospels, but historians can make some educated guesses about her past. Her name is suggestive of being from Magdala, which makes her assumed hometown about 120 miles north of Jerusalem along the Sea of Galilee. There is a Jewish text that states that the ancient place of Magdala was destroyed by God for its fornication.
Knowing the history of the time and Mary’s probable home, it can be a safe assumption that she, too, sinned. Perhaps as a prostitute? Perhaps she was unfaithful? We don’t know for certain. What we do know is that Mary, too, lived in a broken and fallen world. Mary was undeserving of the power that Jesus gave her.
To go to his disciples, to even the one whom he loved, and say, “He is alive! I have seen him!”
Even after she insinuated that his body was moved.
After all of her sin.
He chose her.
You and I, no matter who we are, are named and claimed by God through the waters of baptism. We are redeemed through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. We are made holy by the Spirit and given good gifts and strengths to serve.
Mary went back to a group of men and told them the truth. She proclaimed the good news.
Why, if Mary Magdalene can, can’t we?
Jesus has chosen all of us, man and woman, slave or free, gentile or Jew. Red hair or brown, green eyes or blue, we can work together in the Body of Christ.
I urge you to consider how you view your neighbor. Take a good, long, hard look. Even as a woman, I sometimes doubt another woman’s church leadership. I was raised in a world where, even at church, women are lesser. The thing is, God has equipped us all. We all have a story to share.
So why don’t we share it together?
Thank you for empowering your people. We would be able to complete nothing without you. Continue to help us grow, to love one another wholly and to see you in their face, hear you in their words, and feel you in their love. Let us work together to bring your Kingdom to this earth. Help us to ensure that all may know you and feel you through us, man or woman, adult or child.
We lift this to you in your Holy name,