Easter and women
Easter is the time when we commemorate the death of Jesus and celebrate His resurrection. It is also a time when we reflect on what it means to be a Christian. Traditional Easter stories and pageants celebrated in churches remember the male disciples and their supporting roles as in the all-male Last Supper, Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial and the thieves’ redemption.
We often don’t hear about or think about the women that played a role in Jesus’ life and the events surrounding His death and resurrection too.
Unfortunately, too often women’s stories have taken second place to the interests and needs of male biblical writers and male leaders in Christian churches over the centuries. Three women all named Mary played a significant role in the Easter story: Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, Mary Magdalene.
Mary of Bethany is one of the most beautiful characters in all of Scripture — preparing the way for the Lord’s burial. Sister of Martha and Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead, she appeared three times in the Bible. First incident was when Jesus and the disciples were in their house where Jesus commended her for “choosing the better,” meaning that Mary’s desire to be near her word and hang onto His every word was far more beneficial than running herself ragged with preparation for a meal. Second time was during the days before crucifixion also during a meal, Mary poured a pint of very expensive perfume on Jesus’ head and feet and wiped them with her hair. In spite of criticism from the disciples, Mary said nothing. She allowed Jesus to defend her, which He does, saying that she has kept the perfume for His burial and has done a beautiful act of service to Him which would be memorialized through the ages. We can learn valuable lessons from studying her connection to Jesus in those key moments.
Mary of Nazareth, Mother of Jesus remained by Jesus’ side from His first breath to His Last, her loyalty unwavering. There are indications in the Bible that she was interested in what her son was doing. At Jesus’ crucifixion, she was among those who followed Him. What was she thinking as she watched her son die in such an excruciating manner? Did she remember Simon’s prediction just after Jesus’ birth? Even though she didn’t completely understand His call, she remained by His side because of her unconditional love for Him.
Mary Magdalene is the most important woman disciple in the movement of Jesus and continues to be one of the most mysterious and controversial figures in religious history. Many popular depictions of Mary Magdalene don’t do her justice or speak her truth as a true disciple of Christ. When Mary and the other women, along with the twelve joined Jesus, they were taking a serious risk. Despite the risk, Mary Magdalene was committed to Jesus’ ministry. Mary Magdalene, delivered of seven demons, bravely supported her Teacher through His darkest hours, during the resurrection, then proclaimed His glorious resurrection. She was committed to Jesus and His mission, no matter the costs.
This Easter, we remember these three Biblical women who had close encounters with Jesus. Their intimate encounters with Jesus will deepen our faith in God who so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Despite fear and uncertainty, each Mary changed because of their relationship with Jesus, and we celebrate their courage and faith through the process.
We see a glimpse of the pain Jesus’ followers felt before the resurrection. Often we leap ahead to the ending without remembering the real people who struggled their human doubts and fears before experiencing the final victory. Transformation is at the heart of Easter. The end of their story offers hope for our own uncertainties. Transformation is for us, too.
The Resurrection is the most glorious, victorious moment in history. The days surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, we find contemporary concerns reflected in the faces of the women who witnessed His ministry firsthand. These women who served Jesus throughout His ministry, the women of Easter remind us that Jesus has always used women to propel His kingdom in mighty ways. This is a challenge to women to step faithfully into their calling with full abandon and worship.
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