by Cheri Cowell @CheriCowell
He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary, who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza…and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.” Luke 8:1-3 NASB
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be born a woman in a Middle Eastern country like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or Iran. I’ve seen interviews of women in these places who are striving for political change, for simple basic rights like the ability to walk down the street without a man.
Over the last few years, as the plight of these women has become more visible to us in the United States, I have come to appreciate how radical Jesus must have appeared to the people of this region. Although Islam was not yet a religion, the culture was patriarchal. Women were not allowed a formal education, and they were not allowed to study the Scriptures. In fact, a first-century rabbi, Eliezer, wrote “Rather should the word of the Torah be burned than entrusted to a woman.”
Women sat apart from the men in the synagogue and were only allowed into an outer court of the Temple. In their daily prayers, men thanked God that they were not a woman. In society, women were viewed as second-class citizens when it came to political and social power. Their testimony in court was not legal or even considered valid.
Jesus not only associated with tax collectors, prostitutes, Samaritans, and Gentiles; He treated women with respect and compassion. The fact that Jesus included women in His entourage was scandalous.
On the most important day of history, He charged Mary Magdalene to go back to the male disciples with the most important message of all time. He was risen.
Peter and John had been in the tomb and seen the empty linen wrappings. But it was only after they left that Jesus revealed Himself to Mary. She threw herself into His arms in pure joy. “Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20:17 NIV).
I don’t believe Jesus trusted Mary more than the men, or that He was making some political statement by first giving the Good News to a woman. As I look at Jesus’ interactions with each disciple on that first Easter, I see that Jesus met each person where they would best receive the news. He knew each one’s heart and knew what he or she needed.
What amazes me is that He gave Mary equal status by appearing to her, as well as to the men. He knew how radical this would be to the people of this region, so he made it clear that this was not a mistake—by appearing to Mary first. And when he did, it was in a way that would meet her greatest need. He spoke tenderly, gently revealing His identity with His voice so as not to startle her, calling her name as He had done so many times before. He could have appeared on a cloud coming from the sky or walking to her from the tomb in blazing light, but instead he chose quiet tenderness.
In whatever way you need to see Jesus this Easter, He desires to meet you there. He loves you and esteems you no matter who you are—male or female, sinner or saint. He is calling your name and saying to you, “I am alive, go and tell the others that I am here.”
Inspired by best-selling author Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel original TV series When Calls the Heart, Brian Bird and Michelle Cox explore the love-filled moments from the fictional early 1900s town of Hope Valley. Stories of romantic love, as well as love between families, neighbors, and friends, will touch your heart and encourage your soul to recognize the potential of love in your life.
Join the conversation: How has Jesus been personal in the way He has met you?