Once upon a time, the Virgin Mary pervaded the life and thought of the Western world. Her presence was so expansive, in fact, that even European fairy tales acknowledged her status. Take Cinderella. An abusive stepmother was still the cause of Cinderella’s impoverished conditions, but in one of the earliest tellings of the tale, she knew the one to call upon was the Virgin Mary. In no time at all, Cinderella’s hunger was resolved, and a prince was proposing. By replacing the Virgin Mary with a Fairy Godmother, the story of Cinderella was successfully secularized for today without disenchanting it. But it’s not just fairy tales that have stripped Mary from a well-loved story. She’s missing from The Story, too.

It’s not that Protestants have entirely forgotten Mary. At this time of year, the mother of Jesus gets some attention. But Mary is not a Christmas figure to be stored away like the manger and the Star of Bethlehem until next year. She played an extraordinary role throughout the life and ministry of Jesus, from the Annunciation to the day of Pentecost. By overlooking the roles she played throughout Jesus’ ministry, we may think that we are protecting Protestantism from falling into old “Catholic” habits of elevating her beyond what Scripture declares about her. But there’s nothing “Protestant” about neglecting what Scripture does say about her—and about the other women named by the New Testament writers.

Before Easter this year, I (Jennifer) stepped out of my comfort zone and preached a sermon at a church on the women named in Luke 8, who traveled with Jesus and financially supported his ministry. In one sense, it was an obvious choice for a sermon. ...

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