“He is Not Here–He is Risen!”

On Easter morning Christians everywhere will celebrate the resurrection of the Savior by meeting in their church congregations for a sunrise service. For many years our family celebrated Easter with a sunrise service all our own. In the early morning darkness my husband and I would wake our children gently with a kiss and a glass of juice, wrap them in quilts, and guide them out the back door to our little boat on Lake Virginia in Winter Park, Florida. Quietly we would motor to the middle of the lake, waiting for the sun to rise, just as the women had waited anxiously on that first Easter morn for the sun to signal the end of the Sabbath. Only then could they go to Christ’s tomb to perform their final act of service for Him. On the afternoon of His crucifixion the mourners had taken His body from the cross and laid it hastily in the tomb of a disciple, Joseph of Arimathea. No work could be performed on the Sabbath. There had been no time to anoint His body with sweet spices and prepare it properly for burial. So they waited reverently but impatiently for daylight to come.

Finally the morning after the Sabbath broke through. The first day of the week had begun. Carrying the precious ointments of myrrh and other spices that had been foreshadowed by the gifts of the Magi at His birth, the women moved hastily toward the tomb that stood just outside Jerusalem’s city walls, determined to express their love and respect through this final act of sacred service.

The women wondered how they would move the massive stone that had been placed at the opening of the tomb. Jesus’s enemies had demanded it be placed there, for fear that Jesus’s followers would remove His body and then declare that He had risen from the dead. Two Roman sentries stood guard at the tomb throughout the Passover and the Sabbath.

But when the women arrived, the sentries were gone. The stone had been moved. And the tomb was empty.


Inside sat a young man dressed in a long white robe who seemed to be waiting for them. “Don’t be afraid,” he told them gently. “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here. He is risen!” Then he added, “See for yourselves,” directing their attention to the roughly hewn burial shelf. “Behold the place where they laid Him” (see Mark 16:5–6). Two thousand years have passed since Mary Magdalene walked out of the beautiful Garden Tomb that sits below the Hill of Golgotha, just outside Jerusalem’s city wall. Many travelers have visited the Garden Tomb and “beheld the place where they laid him,” and they have felt the same thrill of realization: “He is not here. He is risen. Behold for yourselves.”

As the sky lightened our lake, birds would call to each other and fish would plash as they snapped at the insects. We listened to sweet hymns on the boat’s stereo system, and I read my favorite part of the Easter story, John 20. I have read that chapter aloud at least a hundred times, but I can never get through it without a catch in my throat when Mary recognizes the Savior’s voice as He speaks her name and she responds with the humble, joyous, “Master.” It is perhaps my favorite story in all of the scriptures. At its center is a theme of Christ’s deep, tender, and abiding love for His friends. May we all be counted among them when He comes again.

Matriarchs of the Messiah: Valiant Women in the Lineage of Jesus Christ is available at Amazon.com and selected bookstores.

From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday–A Special Remembrance for Easter Week

Palm Sunday

What would you do if you knew you had just one week left on earth? The parables Jesus taught between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday reveal much about what was on His mind in those final days.

During Easter week I like to read through the Four Gospels and reflect on what the Savior did on each of His final days. He cleansed the temple, taught several important parables, prophesied of the Last Days, and spent treasured evenings in the home of his dearest friends. He prepared for the agony of Gethsemane, the scourging of the guards, and the crucifixion by celebrating the Passover with his Apostles and establishing the symbol of the sacrament that would represent His flesh and blood.

I have gone through the Four Gospels and sorted out the scriptures for each day of Jesus’s final week, beginning with His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. (Well, I actually like to begin with the story of Lazarus raised from the dead in John 11, because I think that’s part of the Easter story too.) The reading schedule is listed below. I hope you will join me for a very special Easter Week remembrance as you read about what happened each day and contemplate the great love and sacrifice our Savior has for you.

I pray that we may each feel the Spirit of the Lord as we contemplate the gift of His infinite love and Atonement.

John 11:1—12:11

Palm Sunday:
Mark 11:1-11
Matthew 21: 1-17
Luke 19:29-40

Mark 11:12-19
Matthew 21:18 – 22:46
Luke 19:41-48; 20
John 12:20-26 (John doesn’t give a clearly chronological account, so these are approximations)

Mark 11:20 – 13:37
Matthew 23:1-26:16
Luke 21
John 12:27-50

Nothing is reported for Wednesday. Many people suggest that He spent Wednesday by Himself in prayer or with His family

Mark 14:12—15:47
Matthew 26:17—27:66
Luke 22-23
John 13-18

Easter morning:
Mark 16
Matthew 28
Luke 24
John 20 (my favorite chapter in the New Testament!)

“Matriarchs of the Messiah: Valiant Women in the Lineage of Jesus Christ” by Jo Ann Skousen is available at amazon.com and selected bookstores. You can purchase a personalized autographed copy at http://www.matriarchsofthemessiah.com/buy-the-book/


“Ye Are My Friends”


A common misconception suggests that women in the Bible were treated as inferior beings. But that simply isn’t true. In fact, noted historian Paul Johnson has observed, “One of the most remarkable facts about the Bible—in some ways the most remarkable fact—is that it is history with the women left in. . . . From the very beginning, women are part of the Bible story, acting, reacting, talking, scheming, suffering and comforting.”

This is especially true of the New Testament. Jesus shattered the customs of the time in which He was born when he encouraged women to come out of the kitchen and join directly in gospel discussions (See Luke 10:38–42). He treated every woman—even those who were outcasts and sinners—with dignity and compassion. His example established the proper standard of respect for women. They were counted among His disciples, His friends, and His special witnesses.

Discipleship. The word “disciple” comes from the Latin “discipulus,” which means “learner or pupil.” Jesus recognized that women have a great capacity for spiritual and intellectual enlightenment and welcomed them as his disciples. Luke tells us that “Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, … ministered unto him of their substance,” indicating that they followed Him and helped Him in His ministry. We see an example of His appreciation for women as active disciples in the story of the woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria.

The Samaritans were a mixed race of people who traced their lineage to the Jews who had been left behind at the time of the Babylonian captivity. They intermarried with the non-Jewish invaders who had remained in Canaan with them, and their religion had become corrupted. As a result, the Jews looked down on the Samaritans and would go out of their way to avoid them, even walking extra miles to skirt the land of Samaria. In fact, Jesus’s disciples “marvelled that he talked with the [Samaritan] woman [saying] . . . why talkest thou with her?” (John 4:27).

woman-at-well-usable2Nevertheless, Jesus walked directly through Samaria, directly to Jacob’s well, and directly to the woman whose heart was ready for conversion. This woman had an unchaste past, and Jesus knew it. When she told him “I have no husband,” He responded, “Thou hast well said, ‘I have no husband’ for thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly” (John 4:17–18).

Many women would have been offended or hurt by such directness, but not this woman. Jesus knew something even more important about her than her promiscuous past. He knew her heart. She had felt her spirit quicken when Jesus had said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water [at the well] shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13–14).

This Samaritan woman would suffer any embarrassment or discomfort to drink of that living water. “Sir,” she said simply, “I perceive that thou art a prophet” (John 4:19). She then “left her waterpot, and went her way into the city, and saith to the men, Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?”

She knew Him, because He truly knew her. After she heard Jesus’s wonderful message, she shared her newfound faith with everyone she knew. She became a true disciple of Jesus Christ.

Friendship. The living Christ also formed strong, lasting friendships with women. In fact, every evening during the final week of His life He would walk the dusty road from Jerusalem to Bethany and the home of his two dear friends, Mary and Martha, and their brother Lazarus. There He found comfort and solace as He prepared to face the agony of Gethsemane and the Cross.

mary-martha-usableWe first meet these two sisters when Jesus is visiting and preaching in their home. Mary ignored the local customs that dictated a woman’s domestic role, abandoning her kitchen duties to “sit at His feet” and listen to the spiritual discussions with the Savior and his apostles. Martha complained about her sister’s insubordination to cultural rules that left Martha alone with all the work of preparing the meal.

With His infinite kindness, Jesus loved them both. “Martha, Martha, thou art careful . . . about many things,” he said gently, validating her generous contributions of food and service, but “Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:38–42). Food was necessary, and someone needed to prepare it. Jesus appreciated that. But Martha was “cumbered about” with the details of the serving, when a simple meal would have been fine. Just as He had offered the living water to the woman at the well, He wanted Martha to partake of the living bread He had to give. I like to think that Jesus reached out His hand to draw Martha into the room where she, too, receive that “better part.” He extends that same invitation to all.

Witness. Prophets and apostles are called as special witnesses that Jesus is the Christ, but this kind of witness is not limited to apostles. Women too have been blessed with this special testimony. Mary and Martha were two of those witnesses. Martha’s straightforward declaration, “I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world,” (John 11:27) is just as powerful as Peter’s own testimony, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” to which Jesus responded, “Upon this rock [of revelation] I will build my church” (Matthew 16:16-18). Her testimony indicates that she did indeed accept the “better part” of Jesus’s message.

the_prophet_anna_ab28-usableAnother woman who acted as a special witness was the prophetess Anna, an elderly woman who “departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:36-37). On the “day of purification” when Mary and Joseph presented the baby Jesus at the temple, a man named Simeon “came by the Spirit… and took [the baby] in his arms … and prophesied that He would be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of [His] people” (Luke 2:27-32). The elderly Anna came to Mary with the same passionate desire to behold the Child. She too recognized the Messiah in His cherubic face, and “spoke of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38) for the rest of her life. Kings and queens had not bowed down to Him, but those who nurtured the Spirit of God in their hearts had recognized and borne witness of Him. These special witnesses included women as well as men.

One of the most powerful witnesses of Christ’s divinity was Mary Magdalene, who was first to see His resurrected body as she stood near the Garden Tomb where His body had been hastily laid. Mary and other women had waited anxiously for the first rays of light that would signal the end of the Sabbath and the moment when they would be allowed to perform a final act of service for their dear Friend—anointing His body with spices for burial. But His body was not there. Mary hurried to tell the apostles.

His chief apostles, Peter and John, raced to the tomb and, finding it empty, went back to the house where the apostles were gathered (John 20:3–10). Other women, including perhaps Jesus’s own mother, had also been on the scene that morning. Nevertheless, the Lord withheld Himself in a shadow of the Garden until the others had gone. Then he asked, “Woman, why weepest thou?”

mary-magdalene-usableGrieving, Mary turned to a man who seemed to be the gardener and pleaded, “Sir, if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” The man uttered a single word in response: “Mary.” And she knew. She knew His voice as He called her name. With a heart full of joy she turned and responded, “Rabboni, Master!”

There is something extremely special about Jesus’s relationship with Mary Magdalene, who appears only once in the scriptures before the Crucifixion scene and then plays such a significant role. I believe she represents each of us as we contemplate the magnitude of the Crucifixion, the Atonement, and the Resurrection. The story of the Bible begins in a Garden with a woman, Eve, who falls, and it ends in a Garden with a woman, Mary Magdalene, who is redeemed. In both cases, the Lord called them by name. May we each become true disciples, friends, and witnesses of the Christ, and may we recognize His voice when He calls our name.

Matriarchs of the Messiah: Valiant Women in the Lineage of Jesus Christ is available at amazon.com, Costco, and selected bookstores.

God’s Definition of Eve—and of All Women


As God was organizing the earth, he paused at the end of each creative period to admire his work and say, “It is good.” The earth was beautiful and glorious, fit for a king. But it was not good for the king to remain without a queen. God had created light, water, mountains, valleys, plants, fish, birds and animals. He had given Adam dominion over all the earth. But as God admired His final creation–Adam–He remarked, “It is not good.” Something was missing. That “something” was Eve.

“I will make an help meet for him,” God says, according to the King James Version of the Bible, and so He created Eve to be Adam’s eternal companion. What does “help meet” mean? What is God’s definition of Woman? A closer look at the phrase as it is written in the original Hebrew Bible casts new light on the very nature and calling of Woman. In the Hebrew text it is written as ezer kenegdo, which means much more than our modern understanding of a helper. “The verb azar, from which the noun ezer derives, means to succor, … to save from extremity, … to deliver from death” (Terrien 1985. 2004, 10). The word is most often used in the Bible in reference to a king, an army, or even to God Himself. It is a word that connotes superior benevolence or godly help from above, not inferiority or servitude.

What a powerful definition of Woman at the very moment of her creation! She is a benefactor, a rescuer and a savior. In fact, the authors of Eve and Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender contend that the word “ezer should be translated as ‘power’ and [coupled with the adjective kenegdo] the verse should read: ‘a power equal to him” (Kristen E. Kvam 1999, 28). Other characteristics associated with ezer kenegdo include royalty, achievement, pioneering and risk taking (Terrien 1985. 2004, 11).

These heroic characteristics fit the women whose stories are written in Matriarchs of the Messiah. Biblical scholar Carolyn Custis James proclaims, “Eve and all her daughters are ezers—strong women who stand alongside their brothers in the battle for God’s kingdom” (James 2005, 36). Nor is it only in motherhood or wifehood that women exercise this great endowment from God. James adds, “We do not have to wait until we’re grown to become ezers. The doctor who announces the birth of a girl might just as well exclaim, ‘It’s an ezer!’ for we are ezers from birth” (James 2005, 36). I would suggest that it happens even before mortality. The very essence of womanhood is to be a powerful savior and rescuer. It is inherent in her character and in her essential spirit.

Matriarchs of the Messsiah is available at amazon.com. Read the book, and then post a review for other Amazon readers–it’s easy!