Terrified women share an experience with men they trust, but the men don’t believe them. They say the women are lying. One of these women in particular is publicly shamed and labeled with the slanderous reputation of being a prostitute. Powerful members of religious institutions attempt to silence her voice and degrade her because she intimidated them.
Two thousand years before the #MeToo movement, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and other women shared their story and were not believed. They preached the amazing news that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead, but the apostles did not believe them.
In both the #MeToo movement and in the resurrection stories from all four gospels, women are the credible witnesses. They deliver shocking news to doubtful people. Even though the disciples have no reason to be suspicious of these particular women who have traveled with them for quite some time now, women in general were not considered credible witnesses at this point in history. Women were instead seen as fickle and gullible and their testimony wasn’t even admissible in court under Jewish law. Theirs was a patriarchal culture and women had no public credibility.
And yet, God chooses women as the first witnesses of the resurrection. God chooses Mary Magdalene to preach the very first Easter sermon. Women are the last people standing at the foot of the cross and the first people to receive the good news at the empty tomb.
I’m not even sure where I read it, but I have a Jim Wallis quote jotted down in an old notebook of mine that seems quite fitting for the Feast Day of Mary Magdalene.
“Hope unbelieved is always considered nonsense.
But hope believed is history in the process of being changed.”
Mary Magdalene’s truth about the resurrection wasn’t believed at first. It was considered an idle tale and complete nonsense. But her truth ended up being the hope that established Christianity.
Possessing this sort of bold, faithful hope isn’t without costs though. There’s usually suffering involved when we move from something viewed as impossible to something that is viewed as wholly reasonable.
But for people who have this hope, this cost is worth it because it really does change history.
Social progress nearly always depends upon people willing to keep their hope alive regardless of the costs associated with it. Famous inventors whom we laud today were first ridiculed for believing they could create or do something no one had ever mastered before. The Civil Rights Movement is full of people who endured suffering and even death as they kept their hope in change alive. Mary Magdalene’s reputation still carries the cost of offering hope to the apostles that first Easter morning.
As a Christian, I believe Mary Magdalene and I believe in the resurrection. I believe deeply in the hope that the resurrection offers the rest of the world. It’s because of the resurrection that I also believe in many other hopes that are often deemed impossible and have the courage to work toward their fruition.
The hope that my children will live into our family motto of treating all people with kindness and respect.
The hope that all children’s bodies will be cherished and protected rather than exploited and abused.
The hope that an incredibly bright teenager’s income and race will not diminish their chances of attending a top tier university.
The hope that our country will one day treat people of color with dignity and compassion .
The hope that women’s stories will be believed.
What are your deep hopes for your children, for the Church, for the world? Whatever they are, I believe that if we embrace the hope and truth of the resurrection, we will find the faith and courage we need to bear the costs of seemingly impossible possibilities in our world.
[Image Credit: The Sorrows of Mary Magdalene, property of Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons]
Chris Spark says
What you have siad is quite powerful. And I think it is very significant (for a number of reasons) that women were the first witnesses of the resurrection. I also think these women, not least Mary Magdalene as we encounter her in the Gospels, are extraordinary and inspirational examples of wonderful faith in Christ. The only problem I have with this is in terms of the importance of taking the text on its own terms to hear what it is saying clearly and beautifully: it seems to me that the reason for not believing the women was at least in large measure the same as for Thomas’ unbelief in John 20 and the general unbelief of the the whole group even when they saw Jesus himself (Luke 24:37-41). It was above all because a resurrection was incredibly hard to believe, and so unexpected (even though Jesus had told them it would happen). It seemed like nonsense to everyone, until they couldn’t deny it anymore. The reason for all of their initial unbelief was that it happened in the real world, where things like that just don’t happen. But in this case, wonderfully, it did, which is why I am delighted to be a sharer with you in this wonderful hope.
Thanks, God bless you richly
Mary Lee Wile says
What a compelling connection of Mary Magdalene to the #MeToo Movement! Reading this piece led to one of those “oh—of course!” moments of recognition, something I never would have thought of but, once pointed out, is vividly true. Thank you!
Gretchen Pritchard says
Not only a prostitute but a red-haired prostitute. Redheads of the world, unite against this stereotype of us as fiery, temperamental, mercurial and promiscuous!
Ann Drake says
Pope George III labeled Mary Magdelain a prostitute.