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“When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping.” Mark 16:9-10 (NIV)
In a whisper so faint I thought I’d imagined it, a friend asked, “Do you think God values men more than women?”
The dispensing of juice bottles and crackers to our impatient toddlers came to a sudden standstill. “No way! Well, I don’t think so. Why would God name women in the Bible if He didn’t value them?”
A few months earlier, I had asked the Lord to send me friends to challenge me in my faith and spur me on to be more like Him. I was ready to throw off the blanket of complacency from around me and foster relationships that drew me out of my cozy, Christian comfort zone.
Later that night, after tucking my girls in bed and hearing their tender voices squeak out prayers to our heavenly Father, my friend’s question from earlier that day came back to me. I couldn’t help but replay the conversation, embarrassed by my inability to form a confident response because of my lack of biblical knowledge. Then that familiar voice spoke to my heart: “You aren’t going to find the answer pouting in a corner. Go to the source: the Bible.”
The Bible is filled with women from all walks of life who were put in all kinds of roles. The more I read, the more the Holy Spirit illuminated Scripture with the resounding affirmation: He highly values women. In the Old Testament, Rahab’s courage saved the line of David from which Jesus is descended. Esther’s bravery saved the Jewish nation, and Ruth’s persistence and selflessness resulted in the birth of Obed, the grandfather of King David.
The New Testament introduces Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus. Mary Magdalene, present throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, was the first to see Him after His resurrection: “When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping” (Mark 16:9-10).
The words in our key verse are highlighted and underlined in my Bible, so how had I overlooked their significance? Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ, explains why Jesus revealing Himself first to a woman was such a countercultural event: “During that time it was frowned upon — even considered embarrassing — for women to deliver information. So much so that belief in the news of Christ’s Resurrection could have been jeopardized by the involvement of Mary Magdalene and the ‘Other Mary’ who were first to deliver the Good News.”
So who was this woman and why would God “risk” the gospel message by placing her at the empty tomb and then using her as a mouthpiece for the Good News? This Mary had a rough past; if scrutinized, it would be easy to discredit her as a witness. During her first encounter with Jesus, He freed her of demonic possession. (Luke 8:1-2) As an expression of gratitude, she devoted her life to serving and following Christ. Her name is mentioned 12 times in the Gospels, which is more than most of the disciples.
Make no mistake: God purposed Mary Magdalene to play an important role in Jesus’ ministry. And throughout history, God has used many other women to build and further His Kingdom.
God loves and values women. He created us in His image, male and female. (Genesis 1:27) His grace and mercy extend to all human beings. (2 Corinthians 5:15) He is no “respecter of persons;” He does not discriminate or show favoritism. (Acts 10:34)
Despite cultural expectation, her past, her role in life or how she had been treated, He chose a woman to deliver the most important news in all of history. God uses all kinds of people for His glory … even you and me.
Heavenly Father, thank You for gifting Your children with unique talents, roles and responsibilities. May we continually seek opportunities to glorify You and spread the gospel in all circumstances. Help us to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit working in our lives to lead and direct us to do Your will. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.