When I was a tiny child in Sunday school, I thought Jesus had twelve followers.
The Twelve. The Apostles. All men.
Sometimes in illustrations of Bible stories, there would be women, but they were usually drifting around the edges of things, clearly unimportant.
I was raised in the church, and then I left, and then I came back.
When I came back I really came back.
But when I left, I left because of the Patriarchy.
Where was I, a woman, in the story of Christianity?
Where was I, a woman, in the church?
I never saw women at the altar. I never heard women preach. (They were at the altar and preaching – just not in the churches I attended.)
The thing is, the subjugation of women? The ministry of Jesus didn’t do that.
The ministry of Jesus in no way suggested to women that they were less than men, or that they should be subservient.
The ministry of Jesus – what Jesus said, what he did, the way he was with women – was radical and revolutionary.
What the women who followed him did and said – that was radical, too.
There were female disciples of Jesus.
There were women who followed Jesus.
They welcomed him into their homes and they left their homes to follow him.
They prepared food and performed traditionally female roles, to be sure, but they also financed his ministry, studied his teachings, understood his teachings, and showed fierce and loyal devotion to their teacher.
Most of the Twelve abandoned Jesus at his death,
but the women remained by his side.
They stayed through his suffering, death, burial, and resurrection.
God needed someone to hold space for the suffering of Jesus, and that someone was female.
The first person to declare that Jesus had risen from the dead was a woman.
It was a woman who anointed the Messiah with oil before his death.
It was women who witnessed Jesus’ death on the cross.
When many of his followers had given up on him, the women stuck around.
At great risk to themselves, they stayed.
Jesus preached the new kingdom in the presence of women.
And they heard him. They understood.
The women got it.
Maybe because they weren’t cut off from their intuition.
Maybe because of their position in society.
Maybe because no man had ever treated them they way Jesus treated them.
Though the Christian church has not historically been kind or fair to women, it’s important that we tell these women’s stories now.
It’s particularly important to tell their stories during Holy Week, where the roles they play in the story of Jesus are so crucial and have so much to teach us.
Recently at church, some of us shared some thoughts about the women, and I’m going to share some thoughts about the women here as we move toward Holy Week.
We’ll begin Monday with Mary of Bethany, and I hope you’ll bring your voice to this discussion.
Because all of our voices should be heard.