Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Women Who Followed Jesus

I am glad I am a woman. I come from a long line of women who were also glad they were born a woman. My great grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth, was married to a Baptist preacher, had 10 children, and worked hard to raise her family on a small dirt farm. She had a knack for making things grow and her daughter, my grandmother, inherited her same spirit and deep convictions. My mother was also a woman of deep convictions and I am thankful for the spiritual principles she taught me as a child. I am so blessed to have sisters, daughters-in-law, granddaughters, sisters-in-law, and women friends who enrich my life every single day and feed my spirit with truth and grace. And maybe that is why the women who faithfully ministered to Jesus during His earthly ministry, and faithfully followed Him to the cross, then to the tomb, are so interesting to me; their lives were dramatically changed when they met Jesus.

As we celebrate Easter, my mind can't help but linger on the women who followed Jesus to the cross.....
and stayed there when the men left. And to those women who fearlessly came in the dark, cold, damp hours of the early morning to His empty tomb to lovingly prepare that precious body for a proper Jewish burial, I am awed by their devotion. And I am awed that in their world where women were de-valued, Christ first revealed His resurrected body to these faithful women and not the disciples.

Jesus was the first Jewish Rabbi to discuss the Law and the Old Testament with women. He drew them into Bible Study and forever changed their status in society. He healed their diseases and gave women dignity and honor that those of that time and era would never even consider. (check out the opinions of the Pharisees and other religious leaders regarding women)

In John 4, Jesus chose the Samaritan woman, a woman who had been married 5 times and was living with a man who was not her husband, to reveal that He was the long awaited Messiah. (v26)
In Luke 8:43, Jesus, full of compassion for her illness, allowed a woman with "an issue of blood" to touch His outer garment. That was definitely not in keeping with the Law, but she was important to Jesus.
In Luke 10: 39, He allowed Mary of Bethany to "sit at His feet and hear Him teach the word" to the men in the room.

And then there was Salome; I love her! She was all about her 2 sons, James and John, who were called by Jesus to be His disciples. (Matt. 4) Not only did her sons become a part of Jesus' "inner circle", but Salome faithfully ministered to Jesus and was at His side during His darkest hour. And she was standing there at the cross when Jesus asked John to care for Mary. As her oldest son, that would have been His job, but Jesus knew He wouldn't be there in the flesh as Mary aged and He asked His dear friend John to see to her needs. And you know what? I don't think Salome minded one bit!

Joanna. She was the wife of Chuza, who was a steward in Herod's palace. Because of  her husband's prominence, she held a place of honor and wealth. Joanna became a believer and faithfully ministered to Jesus from her wealth and abundance. She, too, was among the women who gathered to make their way to the tomb that first Easter morning. Luke 24:10 tells us that other women were there and maybe Susannah, a woman of great wealth was among the group. Several women named Mary came to the tomb, but then there was also Mary Magdalene. So much conjecture has been written about her, and so much fascination surrounds her seemingly sordid past. All I know and all I care about is that she loved Jesus with all her heart and soul. Whatever else she may have been and done does not deter me for one minute from wanting to meet her in heaven and spend time talking with her about what those days were like.

Were there others? The Bible says there were. Unnoticed, forgotten, sad and forlorn to others, but not to Jesus. He knew and loved each one and in Heaven their love and devotion to Him will be displayed for all to see. But sadly, in some parts of our world women are not valued as Jesus valued them. Many times when the news is on our tv, I get up from my seat and leave the room to keep from hearing the atrocities to women and young girls that are taking place in the name of a pagan religion that still sees women and girls as property to be used and abused and cast away. If only, if only, those same women and girls could sit at Jesus' feet as Mary of Bethany; could touch His garment, like the woman with the issue of blood; could be healed of her demons, like Mary of Magdala; could hear His tender pardon of sin like the woman at the well.
What a difference Jesus makes in the lives of women. Are there women and girls in your sphere of influence who need Jesus? Are they waiting for you to introduce them to Him?

Dear friend, you and I, in our warm, safe, loving homes, where most of us have never known abuse, may feel helpless to change the lives of frightened, abused women in another part of the world, but our God can. May I give you a challenge? It will cost you nothing but a broken heart, tears of compassion, a love that reaches around the world, and a small amount of time. As we celebrate our risen Lord this Easter week of Passover, will you join me each day in prayer for our sisters in Christ and those who still do not know Him; will you help me pray for their deliverance from a life of shame and abuse, will you hold fast to the promise in Jeremiah 32:17?
"Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heaven and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm, and there is nothing too hard for You."

I can promise you this; as your heart grows more tender, as you see new reports of slave trading, and as you look into the veiled brown eyes of those desperate girls and women, you will find yourself praying for them and their plight with an intensity that surprises you.

Women are important to Jesus. And my heart is so thankful that He set the standard for how women and girls and children are to be treated. You my friend are important to Jesus. There is no situation that is hopeless, no devastation that He is not the Master of.

That same resurrection power that was first displayed on that first Easter morning is available to you and to me to conquer every fear, every doubt, every hurtful situation in our lives.
"Oh death where is thy sting, Oh grave where is your victory?" Nothing is too hard for Him, claim that promise as your very own because, dear sister, it is. And pray; pray that the plight of those precious women and girls enslaved in the name of religion will soon know freedom in Christ.

Happy Easter, Happy Resurrection morning.    Penny