I grew up hearing the Bible stories surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. Of doubting Thomas, and the Emmaus road encounter. Of the final ascension. I remember the women—Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome—who discovered the empty tomb while delivering spices to Jesus’ grave (Mark 16:1-8). And the fact that Jesus first revealed himself to Mary, a woman, was constantly emphasized my wonderful mom.
It showed that Jesus was different. And it meant something to our treatment of women in leadership.
I remember those thoughts being ingrained in my head from the age of nine. I had years of Bible stories behind me at this point. But that wasn’t all—my family, along with a few others, had recently separated from our church over the issue that women were not allowed to use their gifts in all capacities. Within this confusing situation, my young brain most resonated with Jesus’ first reappearance to Mary. I could go back to this, and reimagine, stepping into Mary’s shoes and seeing Jesus myself. She was a woman, and I would be one in time. Somehow, this story helped me understand the hard and confusing decision about church that my mom had to make.
Years of further Bible stories, now in the form of youth group settings, books, and church services, went by. Although the general idea of Jesus’ treatment of Mary and others persisted, it grew vague. I didn’t know how to read my Bible very well in my high school years. I also continued to be confused about many concepts, most especially in regards to Biblical gender roles. While my friends, some authors, and a few leaders interpreted scripture mostly to exclude women in leadership, a select few (including my mom) consistently advocated for egalitarianism in church.
And for those in the first group, Mary’s visit with Jesus was never significant enough.