Countless are the glories of spring in Minnesota! As winter’s cold, dark days become warm and sunny, the thawing earth bursts with flowers, delighting my senses. These dazzling reminders of life out of death celebrate God’s faithfulness in Christ, speaking to my spirit that sin’s grip over creation is doomed. Vividly, the events of Easter recorded in Scripture declare God’s conquest over sin to all creation. Both sin and redemption began in a garden: one was a paradise where sin and male-rule distorted Adam and Eve’s mutuality, the other was outside Christ’s tomb where sin and male-rule were conquered.1
Echoes of Eden
Who has not been enchanted by the glories of Eden? In God’s perfect world, man and woman are both clothed in flesh. Without shame, they stand side by side in God’s image. They share the same identity and calling. God calls both to care for the world as God’s representatives (Gen. 1:26–29). Neither Adam nor Eve has authority over the other. Their rule over Eden is mutual. In oneness of body and purpose, man and woman cared for the world in God’s image, with God’s character. And this God said was very good (Gen. 1:31).
Tragically, the harmony of Eden did not endure. Both Adam and Eve chose to defy God, and now the consequences of sin distort God’s perfect world. Male dominance upends their shared governance, and male-rule disfigures women’s essential dignity. Male authority declares women as men’s inferior rather than God’s image-bearers and co-governors. This marginalizes women’s gifts and silences their voices. No longer is there a shared authority where men and women’s moral influence and leadership care for the world God has entrusted to them.
Without the oneness of male and female mutuality so vividly celebrated in Genesis, a sin-driven world presents woman not as a kindred image-bearer, but as one who needs to be ruled. Her diminishment as a strong rescue for Adam (Gen. 2:18) to one ruled by him (Gen. 3:16) has been the source of enormous abuse and trauma throughout history. It creates gender roles, systems of impunity, dominance, power, and an absence of empathy—qualities of abusive systems.2 In such a world, men and women both navigate the perils of patriarchy.
Yet male dominance could not destroy God’s image in women. Despite a patriarchal culture, women in the Bible served God as prophets, as judges, and as military and business leaders (Judg. 4:4–5, 17; Judg. 5:7; 1 Sam. 25). These are echoes of Eden—where Eve governed beside Adam as a strong rescue in a sinless world—reminding us that we await the promised Savior, the child who would crush sin our behalf (Gen. 3:15).
In Jesus, we encounter the sinless man who welcomed women as God’s imager-bearers created for shared spiritual dominion. In Christ, women found healing from the shame and trauma of patriarchy as Christ opposed the demeaning of their bodies and as he challenged gender roles by including them as students, teachers, reliable witnesses, leaders, and apostles. Which other teacher from antiquity (or even the modern era) went first to women at the margins? Christ honored the Samaritan woman shamed by many husbands (John 4:3–42); the Syrophoenician woman considered a dog (Mark 7:24–30); the bleeding woman excluded from the temple (Mark 5:24–34); the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1–11); and the woman whose priestly anointing Christians have celebrated for two thousand years (Matt. 26:10). Christ crushed the head and heel of patriarchy, making visible women’s dignity and worth.
We see this clearly after his death and resurrection when Christ appeared first to women and enlisted them as witnesses and evangelists, even and especially in a world where women’s experiences were ridiculed and deemed unreliable. At the apex of human history, on Easter morning, women were the first to declare that for which all creation longed: God’s victory over sin and death!
Then, as the men struggled to believe the women’s account from the garden outside the tomb, Christ appeared to them behind locked doors. What did Christ do? He breathed on all of them and said, “Shalom—Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you. . .. Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (John 20:21–23). Jesus gave his disciples, both male and female, spiritual governance, just as God gave Adam and Eve shared governance in the first garden in Eden (Gen. 1:26–28).
For this reason, we find women and men leading side by side in the early church. Many women served as Paul’s coworkers, planting and leading house churches, serving as teachers, deacons, prophets, evangelists, and apostles (Rom. 16:1–15). Throughout Christian history, women preachers, Bible translators, missionaries, and martyrs carried their crosses, declaring Christ risen to every corner of the world. The strength of the church has depended on women’s witness and leadership on Easter morning and every day since. Thanks be to God. He is risen and we are restored! He has risen indeed! Alleluia!
Photo by Austin Tate on Unsplash.
- Many of my reflections here are inspired by N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: HarperOne, 2008).
- See William Wan, “What Makes Some Men Sexual Harassers? Science Tries to Explain the Creeps of the World,” The Washington Post, 22 Dec 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/12/20/what-makes-some-men-sexual-harassers-science-tries-to-explain-the-harvey-weinsteins-of-the-world/.