Jump directly to the Content Jump directly to the Content

Easter Is Good News for Women Leaders

Though the world tells us we don’t matter or that we’re less-than, God clearly says otherwise.

The Easter story makes me laugh. Namely because it’s so relatable to women leaders in the church. Consider the scene at dawn on Easter morning. All four Gospels record the story, yet there are some differences. Did you know, for instance, that each Gospel lists different women discovering the empty tomb?

Matthew lists Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary.” Mark’s account is similar: Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome—another woman. Luke simplifies the story simply stating “the women” went to the tomb. He later explains that Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and several other women told the apostles about what had happened. Yet John notes only Mary Magdalene. Perhaps she was the most important to mention, or perhaps she was the only one they could all agree was truly there. Humorously, it seems the writers couldn’t get their stories straight about which women were at the empty tomb—just that it was definitely some women.

This makes me chuckle.

At the same time, I can imagine the confusion they must have experienced. The 11 disciples had sat under Jesus’ teaching day in and day out. And then he died a gruesome death right in front of them. What kingdom had he ushered in? What peace had he brought to the land? And how were they supposed to spread the teachings of a dead man when they feared for their own lives? What in the world were they going to do?

Into this confusion enter some women disciples, and they explain that Jesus’ body is gone. Great. How are we going to explain this? The officials will come after us thinking we’ve taken the body!

Worse yet, a woman’s word was next to useless in their culture. It wasn’t good for the credibility of the movement that the first witnesses were women. Andreas J. Köstenberger and Justin Taylor write about this reality in a classic Christianity Today article:

In the first century, women were not even eligible to testify in a Jewish court of law. Josephus said that even the witness of multiple women was not acceptable "because of the levity and boldness of their sex." Celsus, the second-century critic of Christianity, mocked the idea of Mary Magdalene as an alleged resurrection witness, referring to her as a "hysterical female . . . deluded by . . . sorcery."

It’s no wonder that both John and Luke record Peter rushing to the tomb to see for himself (John’s account includes both Peter and John rushing to the tomb).

Think about this: It’s the most important day in the new movement that Jesus has started, and the most important moment is finding the empty tomb. This is the moment that changes everything! Yet no one seems to be able to pinpoint exactly who first found the empty tomb—except to say that they were women.

In a truly countercultural move, this prestigious honor is given to the faithful women who followed Jesus. Even if their names aren’t recorded, they go down in history for their important role, and the witness of women is held up as valuable.

But Mary Magdalene doesn’t just passively witness the empty tomb—she is commissioned by Jesus for a critical role. In John 20, Mary stands crying outside the empty tomb, and Jesus approaches her. She doesn’t recognize him at first, but Jesus calls to her by name. Instantly, she knows him and calls out, “Rabboni!” She is the first to witness Jesus after the Resurrection, and he sends her off with an important mission: “Go . . . to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (John 20:17). And she did just that, becoming the first person to proclaim the good news of the Resurrection. Her role even earned her the title of the “Apostle to the Apostles” from theologian Hippolytus of Rome.

The Easter story speaks especially to us women in ministry. First, it reminds us that Jesus is doing a new thing, bringing new life all around us. And we get to witness that work and be part of it.

Second, even if we’re overlooked, even if they can’t remember our name, we are important to the work God is doing in the world. Just as Jesus calls out Mary by name (John 20:16), he calls us out by name.

Third, God calls women to mighty works, even commissioning us. We each have important roles to play.

Fourth, women matter to God. Deeply, truly, and undeniably.

When I read the Easter story, I laugh because though the world tells us lies, God’s truth prevails. Though the world tells us we don’t matter or that we’re less-than, God clearly says otherwise. Though the names of the women at the tomb may be forgotten, the fact that this honor was given to women is perfectly clear.

I laugh with joy as I consider our Father smiling, watching his daughters persevere in tough situations as we live out the callings he has given us, depending on the Holy Spirit to move in us, strengthen us, and compel us to be the people God created us to be.

Easter is certainly good news for women in ministry.

Amy Jackson is managing editor of Gifted for Leadership, SmallGroups.com, and ChristianBibleStudies.com.

March24, 2016 at 8:00 AM

Recent Posts

When Your Calling Is Challenged
As hardships come, you have 1 of 3 options.
What Is Calling?
Defining this “super-spiritual” word
Cultivate Your Calling in Each Stage of Life
Angie Ward discusses cultivating leadership amid ever-changing responsibilities.
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
How to know whether to leave or stay in your ministry context.

Follow us


free newsletters: