As women, we should be so encouraged that God chose women to have such a central part in the resurrection, the cornerstone of our faith.
How often I have seen the truth of: “Win the woman and you win the family.” It is, of course, not always true, but because women tend to be gifted relationally, they have a great influence on both their children and their husbands.
Tracing the role of the women in the Easter story also is a balm to the hurts many of us have felt in churches where we may not have felt valued or freed to use our gifts. To be clear, I am not beating a drum for women to be Senior Pastors or even elders, but to be valued and freed to teach, give input, and to minister to the whole body, not just to women and children. The whole body suffers when half is paralyzed.
God values us. Much of the gospels comes from the eyewitness account of the women who traveled with Jesus and supported him out of their means. Mary Magdalene, Susanna, and Joanna are all mentioned. (Luke 8:1-3) Joanna is mentioned going to the tomb — she was a very wealthy woman married to Cuza, a royal official in the court of Herod Antipas. She was probably the source for many accounts. Mary Magdalene traveled with Jesus and was chosen to be the first to see the risen Christ.
Why? We will ponder that.
To get our chronological bearings of the first three events that Easter morn, watch the following:
If Christianity was fabricated by men, the fabricators would not have had women be the first at the empty tomb, for women were not considered credible witnesses. In fact, that is exactly how the men responded when Mary Magdalene and the other women reported what the angels had told them. Luke humbly uses a medical term (translated as “nonsense” or “idle tales”) that means “hallucinating” or the “delirious talk of the very ill.” Tim Keller says this is simply another evidence that Christianity is true, for, in a misogynist society, they never would have said women were at the empty tomb. Keller says: “The reason Scripture reports women were the first at the empty tomb is that women were the first at the empty tomb.”
Christianity is the only world religion that does not see women as second-class citizens. It is one reason women flooded into Christianity.
Yet even in the 21st century, I know I, and many women, have felt, from some, that women should take a back seat and be quiet. I believe those who suppress women may truly be sincere, but I also believe, sincerely wrong. A favorite professor at Covenant Seminary is Jerram Barrs. He heads up The Francis Schaeffer Institute there, and also encouraged my daughter Sally to use her artistic gift when she attended Covenant. It was under him she painted her first Aslan painting. I met with Barrs once privately and was so struck with the sense of Christ in him: though a great intellect he was so humble, gentle, and loving. He spoke softly and kindly. He taught a class on the book below at Covenant and it was flooded by the women students and a few men.
Here is what Dr. Barrs wrote in his introduction.
I have been deeply troubled in our churches by the way much teaching on women begins with the restrictive passage in 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 and 1 Timothy 2 and often ends there. It is not that those passages are insignificant, but I have been eager to ask a more foundational question: How does the Lord see women?
God Hunt Sunday:
Our own Susan quoted Henry Nouwan on seeing God in our lives: It is not that we see God in the world, but that God-with-us recognizes God in the world. God speaks to God, Spirit speaks to Spirit, heart speaks to heart.
1. How have you seen God at work or experienced the risenness of Christ in your life last week?
Monday: I Come to The Garden Alone
Last week we considered Mary Magdalene’s return to the garden tomb, and her mistaking Jesus for the gardener. The worship leader in our little church, Dean, had us sing this familiar hymn. It had always puzzled me a bit, but he shared this from the author of the hymn which gave much light. First, read the written article on godtube, and then, listen to the hymn, meditating on the lyrics. Share your thoughts and comments afterward.
2. What thoughts and comments do you have on both the history of the hymn and the thought that this may represent Mary Magdalene’s emotions after her encounter with the risen Christ?
3. Why do you think God chose women to be the first at the tomb, the first to see the risen Christ, the first to go and tell?
Tuesday: Go And Tell
Not only did Jesus tell Mary Magdalene to go and tell his brothers the news, but there are so many scriptures that tell us to go and tell and to go and teach — and they can’t just be directed to men, and they can’t just mean we are only to tell women and children. Can they? What about the Great Commission: Go into all the world and teach — what about the admonition in Colossians to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly so we can teach and admonish one another — there are at least 10 other places like that. And what about all the women who were teaching like Priscilla, Hulda, Deborah, Philip’s daughters….
How do we balance that with the restrictive verse in 1 Timothy 2 that says women should be silent and not teach? (We’ll look at that tomorrow.)
4. What thoughts do you have on the above?
5. Read John 20:15-17
A. How do you see beauty in the way Jesus interacts with Mary Magdalene?
B. What is the first thing He tells her in verse 17? Why, do you think?
Tim Keller says the Greek word shows she was clinging fiercely to Him. Keller believes He was explaining to her that He had to go away, in order to send the Spirit, but then He would never leave her or forsake her, for His Spirit would be in her. This resonates with me when I think of how hard I was clinging to Steve when he was sick. I had to let him go, but one day we will have bodies like Jesus that will never die and never have to part again.
C. What does he direct her to do, to say, and to whom? Thoughts?
Wednesday-Thursday: But what about…?
I recently met with a couple who had come out of a church that did not allow women to speak in the church assembly or to teach men, based on those restrictive passages to which Jerram Barrs referred. I explained to them a vital principle of hermeneutics: always interpret unclear Scriptures in light of clear Scriptures. It is true that 1 Timothy 2:12 says: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.” We must not pull a Thomas Jefferson and snip this out of our Bibles, but we must interpret unclear Scriptures in light of clear Scriptures. Because there are so many Scriptures both telling women to teach the body of Christ, and because there are models of women doing so, how do we interpret this?
I have read so many different interpretations of this passage that it certainly demonstrates it is a challenging passage. But one interpretation made so much sense to me. It is also from a man I deeply respect: the late John Stott, considered the leader of modern evangelicalism. I wrote him once because I was so concerned about my father’s salvation and asked if we could meet him together when we came to London. (I thought maybe if Dad could just touch the hem of Stott’s garment he could be healed!) Dr. Stott wrote me the kindest note, saying he would if he were not in what was then the Soviet Union – but he would pray and I should trust God with my father’s salvation, which I believe did happen at his deathbed.
Please read the following from John Stott carefully, from his IVP commentary on 1 Timothy. He explains that the following three principles relating to a worship setting all have an application that is eternal for all cultures, and then an example that was applicable in that culture for that time. This is the passage Stott exposits:
8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
11 A womana] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But womenc] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety. (1 Timothy 2:8-15 NIV)
Hermeneutical principles (continued)
It is my belief that the most helpful way to handle verses 8-15 is to apply to them this “principle of cultural transposition*, and to recognize its applicability to all three topics:
men’s prayers (8)
women’s adornment (9-10)
women’s submission (11-14)
This is Stott, but red is mine.
In the case of the first two, the application is not difficult. Take verse 8. Always and everywhere the men are to pray in holiness and love. But their bodily posture as they do so (standing, kneeling, sitting, clapping hands or raising arms) may vary according to culture. Next, verses 9 and 10, always and everywhere women must adorn themselves with modesty, decency,propriety, and good deeds, but their clothing, hairstyle, and jewellery may vary according to culture. Would cultural transposition be appropriate in verses 11-15 also? We not that verses 11 and 12 contain two complementary instructions to or about women. Positively, *a woman should learn in quietness and full submission* (11) Negatively, she is not to “teach or have authority over a man.* (12) Further, the antithesis is double. One the one had, she is to be submissive and not exercise authority over a man. Or, to express the double antithesis more sharply, a woman’s behaviour in public worship is to be characterized by quietness and/or silent, not teaching, and by submission, not authority. This brings us to the key question: what is the relation between these two antithesis? Are they simply parallel and therefore equally normative? Is a woman both to be silent and not teach, and to be submissive and not wield authority, with no distinction between these two instructions? This is what many commentators assume. But must submission always be expressed in silence, and ‘not exercising authority’ in ‘not teaching’? Or could it be legitimate to see the submission-authority antithesis as permanent and universal (because grounded in creation, see verse 13) while seeing the silence-teaching antithesis as a first-century cultural expression of it, which is therefore not necessarily applicable to every culture, but open to transposition in each?
6. According to the above, Stott sees, in each of three cases, “a normative eternal principle” applicable to all times and cultures and and a “cultural example.”
A. What is the eternal normative principle in verse 8 and what is the cultural example?
B. What is the eternal normative principle in verses 9-10 and what is the cultural example?
C. What is the eternal normative principle in verses 11-12 (supported by verse 13) and what was the cultural example?
7. How do you interpret verse 15?
The only interpretation that has ever made sense to me of the above is that though we are sinful, we can be saved through the birth of a child. (But this certainly demonstrates how very challenging this passage is, yet so many use 1 Tim. 2:11-14 as their basis for keeping women silent, ignoring the clearer Scriptures.)
Friday: Our Hearts Are Deceitful
I recently was so moved by a testimony from Timothy Dairyrmple, the editor of Christianity Today who came into his position following a scandal at CT of a lead man being sexually inappropriate with several women. Dairyrmple was speaking on the CT produced podcast The Rise and Fall of Mars Hill which is a heartbreaking but helpful series on the dangers of putting a young talented man who is not yet mature in Christ into power. Most of the podcasts focused on Mark Driscoll, but then it seemed only right, since this was produced by CT, to bring up the scandal at CT. I’m going to summarize what Dairymple said here, but also give a link to that broadcast. He addresses this in the last 15 minutes.
He said that in the days of American slavery, many Christians who benefited from slavery skewed the verses about slavery to put themselves in a good light, and indeed, may have believed that Scripture taught Africans to be second class citizens. Our hearts are deceitful! Then he said we may be doing the same thing with women, if it is to our benefit somehow to keep women as second class citizens. You may or may not agree, but I’d love your thoughts!
8. How would you summarize Stott’s interpretation?
9. Do you agree or disagree?