A woman read one of my posts on the Bible’s examples of God using women and men both to lead and teach, and she left a comment that said,
“I don’t know if you’ve heard this before but I’ve been taught that the reason God allowed Deborah to lead Israel in Judges 4-5 is because there was no man willing to take charge. God had to settle for a woman instead.”
Yes, I’ve heard people say that. There is not a shred of evidence in the book of Judges to support the position, but people say it anyway. It’s the only option for those who ascribe to a patriarchal view of faith. They have to explain away all mentions in the Bible of God building his kingdom by way of women teaching and leading. (See Silencing Women – the guaranteed way for men to stay in control.) Deborah doesn’t fit their agenda.
But let’s take their patriarchal logic (I use the word “logic” loosely) and apply it to another event: the Resurrection.
In John’s gospel account we read that Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ tomb first thing Sunday morning after the crucifixion and found it empty. She ran to tell Peter and John that someone had stolen the body. They ran to see for themselves and after confirming the barren tomb they went away. The context gives the impression they were quite befuddled.
Mary stuck around, though, and Jesus met her there in the cemetery garden.
He asked her, “Woman, 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”). (John 20:15-16.)
Reading this raises some questions for me. First, why didn’t she recognize him at first? It turns out (according to other instances recorded in the Bible) that many who knew him well had trouble recognizing Jesus after his resurrection.
Second, why did Jesus wait until John and Peter were gone before appearing in the garden? Talk about closest friends; Peter and John – along with John’s brother James – were the closest friends Jesus had. There they were, readily at hand, and Jesus chose not to reveal himself to them. He instead waited and spoke to Mary alone.
It’s almost like he was waiting for them to leave before he told her this:
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17.)
Mary did not suggest Jesus get a man to do it. She obeyed.
Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20:18.)
Mary Magdalene is the first person God called to preach the gospel. And for those who insist the only time God uses women to preach and lead is when men are unavailable, how do they explain the fact that John and Peter were right there?
The only explanation is that God did not want a man to be the first gospel preacher. He wanted a woman. In fact, he chose a woman over the available men who had been in discipleship under him for three years. And not only that; he chose her to go preach the good news of the resurrection to those very same men, his closest friends.
When she did, note what is absent from the Bible: no one told Mary she should have gotten one of the men to do it for her because she’s a woman; no one criticized her later for preaching to men; and not one New Testament writer ever explained away her actions as an exception to some rule about women never leading men or preaching to them.
So why do modern patriarchy preachers try to explain away events like Mary’s gospel preaching and Deborah’s leadership? Because if they don’t find some explanation for it they’d have to admit what the rest of us know – God uses women to build his kingdom just like he uses men.
How do I know? I’ve read the Bible and the Bible tells me so.