Women and the Resurrection

In all four Gospels, women witness the resurrection first. 

As students of the Bible, one of our goals is to stop ourselves from forcing meaning or significance onto a particular passage of Scripture. This is not one of those times. 

The prioritization of women in the resurrection accounts is no mere coincidence.

Take, for example, John’s account of Mary Magdalene met by the Risen Christ:

John 20:16–18 (ESV)
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for 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.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

Mary is overjoyed to see Jesus alive. She had only days before watched him be publicly murdered on a tree and his dead body sealed in a tomb. Now he was standing before her—the redeemer lives!

Notice the literary device used here by John. Upon seeing her Savior, Mary exclaims, “Teacher!” Jesus, then, takes up the moniker and proceeds to teach her. 

He tells her about the necessity and implications of the ascension—that his ministry would continue outside of time and space and once he is seated at the right hand of the Father, Mary and the other disciples would be counted as adopted sons and daughters of his shared inheritance. 

Jesus is not only instructing Mary of these vital truths. He is preparing her for an assignment.

As he previews the upcoming finale to his earthly ministry, he sends her to tell the other disciples—the eleven now huddled in fear following Jesus’ death and burial (and missing body, John 20:8-9).

Don’t miss the obvious: Mary Magdalene was commissioned by Jesus to become the apostle to the apostles.

Jesus could have kicked open the stone door of the tomb and proceeded directly to the eleven male disciples to tell them the news. But in God’s providence, a woman was given the honor of relaying the reality of the resurrection.

Think about this. As John paints the picture of Mary Magdalene carrying the greatest message of all time to a group of men who would go on to become pillars of the church, the gospel writer is reminding his readers of the respect due our sisters in the economy of God.

 

Dignified and Distinct

 

Some Christians, historically, have struggled to interpret the proper biblical teaching on manhood and womanhood. On one hand, some have sought to eliminate the distinction between men and women—to neutralize the genders across every category (egalitarianism). On the other hand, some have abused the distinction taught by God in a way that overtly demeans women and prizes maleness (authoritarianism). In each of these “ditches” women are kept from flourishing as God intends. In the egalitarian model, women are asked to embrace roles and responsibilities unnatural to their design by God. Alternatively, authoritarians would prefer to prevent women from exercising their God-given opportunities in life and ministry. 

At Crosspoint, we believe the Scriptures teach a complementarian model in which men and women are distinct in role but equal in value. Each gender is dignified before God and should be fully dignified in marriage, the church, and broader society. Men and women are both called to live as disciple-missionaries but each fit a different niche. 

Just as its members are given an array of gifts for the mutual strengthening of the church, so too is the human race endowed by God with diversity in gender so that He might be glorified and that all people would flourish under His good design.

We embrace complementarian theology. But we say firmly, this is not a man’s world. The resurrection appearance to Mary Magdalene in John 20, in particular, combats the assertion that women take a backseat in gospel ministry. 

 

Divinely Redeemed

 

Notice the parallels in the following selections from Genesis and John:

We read in the first few chapters of Genesis that a man is commissioned to steward life-changing information by communicating it to a woman. Adam, having abdicated his responsibility, watches while the woman is left vulnerable to the deceit of the serpent.

In John 20:11-18, the new Adam assumes responsibility for the woman’s spiritual well being at her point of vulnerability. That woman is commissioned to steward life-changing information by communicating it to a group of men. 

Critics may read this as a divine reversal—women now elevated to gospel ministry over their male counterparts. In truth, we should instead see this as divine redemption. Biblically speaking, the burden of leadership is clearly given to men and is abused in Adam’s selfish act of neglect (Gen. 2:15-23; 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:7). But in John 20, God used a humble woman to re-scaffold the original leaders of the church. God was purposeful to catalyze these brothers with the testimony of a sister. 

Men and women need each other in the church and in the Great Commission. In the church, pastors most effectively shepherd when they have the wisdom and perspective of their sisters–especially those who are leading, teaching, mentoring, and shaping others in a vast array of opportunities. In the harvest, where the call to evangelism is straightforwardly universal, women are able to reach audiences otherwise unreceptive to men or provide a unique perspective to our unified gospel message. 

Are we rightfully honoring the opportunities God has given us? Are we celebrating the beauty of diversity as male and female? 

May we be found going into the harvest together—disciple-missionaries sharing the good news until he returns.


 

For further reading, I want to include a few helpful articles related to the gender discussion revolving in Christianity in recent days.

 Jesus Changed Everything for Women, by Rebecca McLaughlin

Women are Not the Problem by Melissa Kruger

5 Questions about God’s Design for Gender by Kevin Deyoung

5 Patterns of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Kevin Deyoung

 

This post was written by Will Jackson, Executive Pastor | Crosspoint



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