NO matter what cultural traditions convey to you, whether through the glass ceiling, by a hurling fist, or at gunpoint, you have purpose. Regardless of how they stifled your salary, or attempted to degrade or objectify you; and if have sold your body, been driven to do unspeakable things; and even found yourself under the control of evil spirits, your life can have greater purpose.
It was the women who pressed their way through the early morning’s yielding darkness to the garden. Their hearts warmed in the recollection of how Jesus saved them. It had been unusual to have the connection they had with their Teacher.
Teachers usually limited interactions with a woman in public; they would not even engage their wives in conversation. Jesus disregarded that custom. He not only spoke with them, He also healed them. His discerning eyes steered past their outward appearance into their very inward thoughts and feelings. He welcomed them as disciples, and embraced them as faithful followers.
As the women neared the burial ground where Jesus lay, the reality of the stone boulder sealing the tomb did not deter them. Thoughts of political and religious tensions could not stop them. Even death would not deter their devotion to Jesus.
They stayed close when He served more than 5,000 men (not counting women and children) free fish and bread. And, they stayed close in His humiliation when He hung dying on the cross. Among them was Mary Magdalene, out of whom Jesus cast seven demons. They stayed when the men ran.
Now, they determined to honor their Lord by bathing his body in spices, as was the custom.
As they pushed through early morning’s dim light the ground suddenly rocked and reeled beneath their feet. Brilliant light beamed from the sky. The stone boulder had been rolled away. The tomb lay empty. Jesus was gone!
In dizzied astonishment and disbelief, Mary Magdalene wept. Mary was standing outside of the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying.
“Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her. “Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.”2
Mary’s past reputation left her public opinion rating low. She had been completely dominated by demons, however Jesus loosed her, made her whole, and embraced her as His follower. Now, she just wanted to honor her Lord, even in death, but He was gone.
She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him.
“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought He was the gardener.
“Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
“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.”3
This woman, with a questionable past had within more than her medical record, psychological profile, and societal expectations could predict. Her reputation was repairable, her character renewable.
It is significant that Jesus delayed ascending to His Father in Heaven not only to comfort her, but also to give her a greater purpose. In light of all that Jesus had endured, He could have immediately ascended to His father upon His resurrection, but instead He waited to not only speak to Mary, but to teach her.
In a time when it was taught that women were incapable of profound religious instruction,4 Mary Magdalene was instructed and sent by Jesus Himself to be the first to share the profoundly good news that He lives.
Why was this so significant? Jesus resurrected Himself from the dead. He indeed laid down His own life, and had the authority to take up His own life.5 Reality of Christ’s divinity was now hereby undoubtedly revealed.
Jesus could have first appeared to Peter, the known leader of the disciples who wallowed in despondence at his denial of His Lord. Jesus could have appeared first to John His Beloved, of whom it was rumored that he would not die. Instead, and by no accident, Jesus appeared first to this woman belonging to the class in society relegated to being less—less in importance, less in significance, less in value. Jesus first appears to a woman, the class society muzzled from religious preaching and teaching, to be the first of His followers to proclaim that Jesus is indeed divine—Jesus lives!
Your Life Matters.
Though you may fit the demographics of a group within society deemed as “less,” your life is not “less” to Jesus. You matter. Even if others have relegated you to being unimportant, your purpose and future will be greater if you follow Jesus. Your race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status or past does not diminish Jesus’ love for you, nor weaken His plan for your life. He shatters glass ceilings, realigns preferences, expunges past records, and empowers those who follow Him with great purpose.
TRICIA PAYNE, M.DIV, pastors the Tabernacle of Hope and Muncie Philadelphia Seventh-day Adventist Churches in Muncie, Indiana. Pastor Payne is happily married and resides in Indianapolis Indiana.
1 Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 124). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
2 Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (John 20:11-13). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
3 Tyndale House Publishers. (2013). Holy Bible: New Living Translation (John 20:14-17). Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.
4 Vincent, M. R. (1887). Word studies in the New Testament (Vol. 2, p. 124). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
5 New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (John 10:18). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.