But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.
– Luke 24:11
But for God-fearing, intelligent, Spirit-filled women, upon whom God has set His seal in their ministry, to have to sit and listen to men haggle over the matter of their place in the ministry is humiliating to say the least… God Almighty is no fool – I say it with all reverence – Would He fill a woman with the Holy Ghost – endow her with ability – give her a vision for souls and then tell her to shut her mouth?
– Mae Eleanor Frey (as quoted in “God Forgive Us for Being Women by Joy E.A. Qualls)
Imagine you are a first-century woman – one of those that Luke describes as following Jesus and providing for Him (Luke 8:1-3).
You live in a society that is dominated by men. That is the way it has always been.
Perhaps your husband is fair, kind and loving – but many of the men you encounter on a daily basis are not so.
You pass by religious leaders in the street as they return from their morning prayers, where they have prayed – as they do every morning – “Thank you God for not making me a gentile, a slave or a woman.”
If you desired to worship, which you often did, you must remain separate from the men, and never speak. No matter how much you may have desired to recite the Psalms or Shema with those around you, your voice must never be heard.
One day, you encounter a Rabbi named Jesus. Instead of crossing the street to avoid you or lowering his head to avoid eye contact, he looks straight into your eyes. As you follow the crowd surrounding Him to a hillside to hear him teach, men and women sit next to each other. Families listen together. Children run back and forth and husbands and wives absorb the truth of His words together. And this Jesus, he speaks to you as if you are the same as any man or boy in the crowd.
You begin to follow this Jesus. Each week, you take a little of your family’s income and purchase food or sandals or a new water jug for Jesus and the disciples who journey alongside Him. Jesus invites you to come along too. “Daughter of Abraham”, he calls you.
This journey with Jesus continues to that fateful day on Golgotha.
While many of the men who followed Jesus fled the scene – scared they may be punished as well – you and the other women stayed.
You lingered in the crowd, mourning the suffering of your Rabbi until he drew his final breath.
You follow Joseph to the tomb where He lays Jesus.
You anxiously await the end of the Sabbath, when you can return to prepare Jesus’ body for burial.
This man who had given you status, love, acceptance, would receive the best of your spices & care even in death.
Imagine the feeling when you arrive then, at the tomb, and there is no stone.
There are angels, there is a bright light, there is a booming voice that knocks you off your feet.
“He is not here, He is risen.”
The Rabbi, Jesus, is alive. What He promised, He did.
You drop the expensive spices at the side of the tomb, and losing all semblance of dignity, walk – no, run – into town to find the twelve men Jesus had loved so dearly.
With frantic excitement and joy spilling out as tears, you try to explain to them what you’ve seen. The words won’t come. Just three simple ones –
The men scoff.
It can’t be.
“You women must be delusional, crazy, maybe you’re just really upset.”
They decide you’re probably just emotional.
Surely you couldn’t think that’s what Jesus really meant?
No, He’s alive.
The tomb is empty.
The men start to listen, just as Jesus listened to you.
Just as He would continue to listen.
They take off to the tomb themselves.
You can’t wait to see their faces when they see the empty tomb too.
They can call you crazy, they can say it’s nonsense, but you won’t relent.
He’s alive, and you won’t stop proclaiming it until the whole world knows.
Imagine you’re a twenty-first century woman.
Okay, most of you reading probably don’t have to.
You are one.
It’s hard to believe that thousands of years have passed between the women who stood at the tomb and us today, but yet our stories so often are largely the same.
Jesus calls us to follow Him into unlikely places for a “woman.”
The story of Scripture undeniably tells this truth.
There are Old Testament narratives of women like Ruth, Esther, Abigail and Deborah who sacrifice their old ways of lives, fight for nations and defeat enemies.
The Gospels – and Luke in particular – teem over with the way Jesus radically embraced women in the first-century. They supported Him financially, rinsed His feet with tears & expensive perfume, and interacted with Him in ways that broke every social norm.
Acts, and its story of the birth of the church, highlights Philip’s daughters, Lydia, Priscilla and others, as playing vital roles in the church’s growth.
Even the letters of Paul, often seen as ‘anti-woman’ by those who don’t understand him, celebrated women in the early church. His household codes, which have been used to beat up so many, screamed respect and equality in a culture that saw women as little more than household property.
The Spirit within us testifies to the calling of God on our lives.
An undeniable gifting to understand and to teach the Word.
A desire to serve God’s people in the nursery, the pulpit, or the seminary.
A pastor or leader pulls you to one side and says they see a gift and a passion in you.
Like Jeremiah, so many of us can say:
But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.
But yet, so many obstacles stand in our way.
The #metoo movement is just another reminder of many women’s reality – the world we live in doesn’t reflect the Kingdom Jesus began to inaugurate.
For many, the churches we attend, the denominations we’re a part of, or the seminaries we attend, don’t exhibit the attitude of Jesus reaching out to women unequivocally and saying “Come, follow me.”
While a passion burns in our hearts to reach the world around us, to preach, to teach, to serve, debates rage in offices and boardrooms and classrooms about whether or not we can stand on the platform or on the floor, whether or not we can lead a church or just the children, and what we should wear while we’re doing it.
In the words of Beth Moore in her recent “letter to her brothers”, we wear flats instead of heels, sit silently in meetings. We are “the elephant in the room with a skirt on.”
Just like the women in the first century, in the early church and beyond, there is hope.
The truth of Scripture, the weight of experience, and even plain, good reason, testifies to the fact that there is a place for women.
Responsible, Spirit-filled theology testifies to this fact.
Just like women in the first century, I choose to stick with Jesus.
I choose to follow where He calls me, regardless of the obstacles that may be in the way.
His is the ultimate Voice I will answer to.
So I blog, I preach, I serve in the nursery, and I serve in the kitchen.
I wear heels when I feel like it, and I wear flats.
My husband and I work side-by-side, constantly working out the tension of what it means to serve one another.
I stay at home with Levi two days a week, and put on my “pastor hat” for two more.
To some, it may seem like nonsense.
But to me, it’s the only thing that makes sense.
So sisters, let’s follow.
Wherever He calls, wherever He leads, let’s go with Jesus.
I can’t wait to see where He takes us.
This post ended up looking a little different than I expected. Next week, I’ll unpack some more of the scriptural and theological arguments for women in ministry. In the meantime, here are some resources I recommend. Please remember, endorsing an individual article doesn’t mean I’m endorsing that person, website or everything they ever say 🙂
“The New Testament Case for Women Pastors” -Junia Project
“5 Reasons to Stop Using 1 Timothy 2:12 Against Women” – Junia Project
“25 Biblical Roles for Biblical Women” – Marg Mowzocko
“PAOC Statement of Affirmation Regarding the Equality of Men & Women in Leadership”
“Women in Ministry – 1 Timothy 2″
“The Case for Women in Ministry” – Greg Boyd
“Was Paul for or Against Women in Ministry?” – Craig Keener