“‘Mary!’ Jesus said.
She turned to him and cried out, ‘Rabboni!’ (which is Hebrew for ‘Teacher’).
‘Don’t cling to me,’ Jesus said, ‘for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, ‘I have seen the Lord!’ Then she gave them his message” (John 20:16-18).
Jesus gives Mary a message to go and tell his disciples. Mary is entrusted with the greatest message the world has ever heard: Jesus is alive. He has overcome death. Constable in his commentary notes, as many others have done, “No Jewish author in the ancient world would have invented a story with a woman as the first witness to this most important event.”
(Just as an aside, it’s also a woman who publicly announces Jesus’ arrival. Simeon’s words seem to be direct specifically to Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:25-35) but Anna spoke to “all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem” (v.38).)
Jesus tells Mary that he is ascending to his Father. Jesus prophesies this several times. Most recently in the upper room before his arrest (John 16:28). Perhaps Jesus gives them this reminder that things aren’t going to return to the way they were, before his death. The disciples aren’t to expect him to be with them physically in the same way. Perhaps his words to Mary, “Don’t cling to me” are also intended to help Mary become accustomed to his presence taking a different form.
Luke records the ascension at the beginning of the book of Acts, “In my first book I told you, Theophilus, about everything Jesus began to do and teach until the day he was taken up to heaven after giving his chosen apostles further instructions through the Holy Spirit. During the forty days after he suffered and died, he appeared to the apostles from time to time, and he proved to them in many ways that he was actually alive” (Acts 1:1-3).
Even though Jesus offers convincing evidence of his physical presence, some still doubt (Matthew 28:17). Nevertheless, Jesus says to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Commonly, we call these verses, the Great Commission and although Jesus initially gives the command to the eleven disciples, he intends it for all believers. The Great Commission is a four-part command: go, make disciples, baptize and teach. Jesus didn’t divide the command into parts for men to do and parts for women to do. All believers are to do all four things. We’re all to go, even if the distance is short, we’re all to encourage converts to grow into disciples, we’re all capable of baptizing and we’re all required to teach others regardless of our gender.
Certainly, women have heard the call to go. Today, on our mission fields, there are five single women to every single male. Women are going, making disciples, baptizing and teaching. Often in isolated environments with little support.
From the first Easter, til today, women are playing a key role, in spreading the Easter message: Jesus is alive. He has overcome death. He ascended to his Father and ten days later he poured out his Spirit on all people, men and women (Acts 2:18). Although his physical presence is no longer on earth, we all have his Spirit so he can be with us at all times and in all places, to empower us to fulfil his four-fold command: to go, make disciples, baptize and teach.
Good reason, to rejoice this Easter.
Here’s a list of links from my blogging friends who have also written an Easter thought:
Easter: so much more than tradition by Virginia Wright
A Deliciously Definitive Demolition (An Easter Contemplation) by Mazzy Adams
Barabbas or Jesus? by Nola Lorraine
My Most Memorable Easter by Tamika Spaulding
Thanks for that thought-provoking post, Susan. We don’t often hear about the role that women played in the early days of the church, but there was a very special place for women in Jesus’ ministry on earth, and also in the spread of the gospel in Acts. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks Nola, you’re right, we don’t often hear about the women who helped in Jesus’ ministry. Some even provided some of the finances (Luke 8:3).
What a wonderful encouragement this is, Susan. I love your observation about the public nature of Anna’s announcement. Such a beautiful and powerful observation.
Many many years ago, I read a book by Ed Silvoso, titled “Women, God’s Secret Weapon.” His book opened my eyes to God’s great heart for women right from the dedication in the beginning which referenced Psalm 68:11. In my Amplified Bible it says: The Lord gives the word [of power]; the women who bear and publish [the news] are a great host. The Lord has regularly reminded me of those words (especially the ‘bear and publish the news’ bit) when the struggle to write and publish has been greatest.
Thanks Mazzy, sounds like a great book. I love the title!
Thanks Susan for sharing the vital and unusual role women played in greeting the resurrected Jesus and spreading the word! It’s interesting, given the historical and cultural context, how strange it would have been to hear the testimony of these women as first witnesses. God continues to turn culture on its head. And I’m glad!
Thanks Steph, God does indeed turn culture on its head. I’m glad to!
This is a lovely blog affirming that we are all called to share the love of Jesus with others – we have a mission, and it comes straight from the word of God. Simple, powerful, true. xx
Thank Tamika, we do indeed have a mission
What great news that so many women are saying, ‘Here am I, Lord. Send me.’
Thanks Dienece, I love to hear female missionaries share when they’re home.
It was so interesting to read that in those days, nobody would have imagined to have ever first used a woman as a witness. I’d never thought about it.
I am so glad that God will use anyone that is simply available. He loves using the unqualified and there are plenty of us!
Thanks Virginie, Yes I’m thankful too, that God use the available.