Jesus, Women & the Resurrection
by Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to a woman, Mary Magdalene, and sent her to tell the good news to His male disciples. Was this not a revolutionary act on His part: That He would choose to convey the initial good tidings of His resurrection to the Twelve via a woman? When the social and religious status of women in Jesus’ day is considered, then it is clear that His act in appearing first to Mary Magdalene and sending her to the Twelve with the good news of His resurrection was, indeed, a revolutionary act.
1st Century Jewish & Roman Culture Demeaned Women
Women were demeaned and marginalized to the fringes of society in the first century Jewish and Roman world. For example, neither Jewish nor Roman courts of law would accept the testimony of a woman as evidence. Jewish rabbis considered it beneath their dignity to speak to a woman in public and Jewish men prayed a daily liturgical prayer in which they thanked God they were not born a Gentile, peasant, or a woman.
Jesus’ Attitude Toward Women Was Revolutionary
In sharp contrast to this sexist, cultural bias, Jesus showed an amazing openness and respect toward women. Even before His resurrection, Jesus had female disciples who traveled with Him and supported Him out of their own means (Luke 8:1-3). And even though some of these women were married, Jesus never insisted that they get their husband’s permission to follow Him. He allowed them to set their own priorities and make their own choices. His own male disciples were, at times, amazed at His openness and esteem toward women (John 4:27). Then, by appearing first to Mary Magdalene after His resurrection and before His ascension, He made His final point that women have equal access to Him personally and to all the blessings and benefits of His kingdom.
Sexist Hermeneutics Has Skewed the Biblical Picture
If we used the same sort of sexist hermeneutics that have been used in the past to establish male hierarchy, we could argue that, in appearing first to Mary Magdalene, Jesus was setting up a new female hierarchy. The argument would go like this: Jesus conveyed the initial good news of His resurrection to the men through a woman. Instead of Jesus > man > woman, it is now Jesus > woman > man. We, however, will not resort to the sort skewed hermeneutics that are still being used to keep women in a secondary and subservient role. The truth is that Jesus did something very radical to demonstrate that women share the same blessings, rights, and privileges as men in His kingdom.
You Can Be All He Has Called You to Be
Although the resurrection of Jesus provides equal blessings and benefits to all who believe, those benefits will appear most obvious in those who have suffered most from the ravages of sin and the fall. The resurrection is, therefore, good news, especially for women who are still marginalized and demeaned in much of the Church--the last place it should be happening. In appearing first to Mary Magdalene Jesus announced that a new day had dawned for all humanity. In appearing first to Mary Magdalene, the Head of the Church declared that a woman can receive any kind of calling, even one that puts men in a secondary, receiving role. Are we listening to our Resurrected Lord?
Eddie Hyatt Taking Spiritual Awakening & Biblical Thinking to the Nations