“Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 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.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” -John 20:16-18
“Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” “ -Luke 24:22-25
“Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.” -Mark 16:14
I would like to quickly return to the matter that we were addressing the other day, about what the Bible teaches us on about the Christian attitude towards women. We argued that the true revolutionary Christian should be able to interpret the Bible’s message of honor and respect of women. However, in looking at verses surrounding the Easter celebration we see something else, that being that women are to be equal partakers of the good news with men!
This can be observed in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection where we see that the first one who sees and recognizes Jesus is his follower (but not wife, grrr!) Mary Magdalene. To truly understand the point being made, we must first understand that in the Jewish and Roman culture of Jesus’ time it was not acceptable in issues of witness to take the testimony of a female as being valid. If a crime or event occurred and there was a trial, no party could call a woman to the stand to give an account of what she saw, for the culture would not accept what she said as truth.
That said, we see that Jesus specifically commands Mary to go tell others of what she’s seen. Why would he do this, since obviously Jesus is familiar with the practices of the culture? And what’s more, we also see that Jesus chastises the male disciples for not believing what Mary has told them! So, not only does Jesus appear first to a woman and command her to go tell others, knowing that the culture will not accept her testimony, but then he gets frustrated that his followers did not believe what she came to tell them. Clearly Jesus is not just being incredibly dense here, but instead we can understand that he is being incredibly intentional. Through this transpiring of these events we watch how Jesus feels about the role of women in society and whether or not they should be oppressed in matters of honor and respect.
Thus, this is just one more point in the column of the anti-misogynistic gospel, and a particularly pertinent one since we see that Christ viewed women in such a high regard that he actually entrusted one with declaring the greatest news of all time, the news that without which our faith would be in vain!