IVP - Strangely Dim - What a Name Reveals

March 15, 2010

What a Name Reveals

March is Women's History Month. It's also typically given entirely over to Lent. It's also a popular month for editorial internships at IVP, candidates for which are mostly women. We complete the circle this week at Strangely Dim with three guest-posts about women, Jesus and suffering by editorial intern Christina Jasko, a student at Wheaton College and a very helpful unpaid worker over the past couple of months. Today's post offers Christina's insights into the often underreported role of women in the Bible, and the often underappreciated role of Jesus in the lives of women.


Growing up, I used to think ruefully that God only really liked men. Of course he loved women and died for them and all that, but it seemed like only men got to do the exciting kingdom work.

I realize now that there were just a few flaws in this idea, starting with my strange division between "like" and "love," and continuing with my narrow definition of "exciting." But it still makes me sad that such an idea could ever seem feasible to me.

In Scripture, women prophesy, kill bad guys, help establish the church and get raised from the dead. Of course, they also lie, kill good guys, persecute God's people and get struck dead. I'm not saying the record is all rosy, but I am saying that Scripture portrays women, like men, as fully vested in humanity's struggle to learn how to relate to God.

Jesus is particularly willing to engage women in this process. From the woman with the issue of blood, to the Samaritan woman at the well, to the women who followed Jesus and supported his ministry, we see throughout the Gospels that Jesus intentionally invested in women. Jesus specifically commends one woman for her great faith and another for seeking him above all. And the first person on earth to witness Jesus' resurrection was a woman, Mary Magdelene:

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?"

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."

Jesus said to her, "Mary."

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).

 Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.' " (John 20:14-17)

Leaving aside (for now) the observation that Jesus' first resurrected act is to appoint a woman to proclaim his word to men, I love this passage because such a glorious accomplishment is being revealed. But Jesus doesn't declare it with a cool quote like, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" (Revelation 1:18). The big moment of revelation is hidden in a single word: her name. It's a surprisingly intimate moment.

If I could chide my younger, disgruntled self, I'd tell her that (1) this moment was probably one of the most exciting things anyone in the Bible got to experience, and (2) Jesus died for us all, but the corporate doesn't exclude the individual. In the same way that he spoke Mary's name and suddenly she understood who he was, Jesus is still calling out to each of us. Regardless of whatever qualities we have that make us think he must not like us too much, he calls us into our true identities as witnesses to his gospel that changes everything.
Posted by Dave Zimmerman at March 15, 2010 9:28 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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