The Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene

The Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene

by Liz Curtis Higgs

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Overview

The Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene by Liz Curtis Higgs

This giftable Bible study for the Lenten season explores the stories of three women who played a vital role in the life and ministry of Jesus, as well as in the events of that first Holy Week that first Easter.

With unforgettable insights and powerful life application for today's women, Liz Curtis Higgs delves into the biblical text to help us view Easter through the eyes of three women named Mary, each of whom has a life-changing encounter with Jesus: Mary of Bethany, who prepares the way for the Lord’s burial when she anoints His feet and fills the air with her perfume; Mary of Nazareth, who remains by His side from His first breath to His last, her loyalty unwavering; and Mary Magdalene, delivered of seven demons, who bravely supports her Teacher through His darkest hours, then proclaims the glorious news of His resurrection
What a trio. What a Savior!
 
Your mind and emotions will be engaged and your faith strengthened as each scene unfolds, preparing your heart for a richer, deeper Easter experience. Higgs, a seasoned Bible teacher and award-winning novelist, combines her storytelling skills with a thorough verse-by-verse study of Scripture as together you explore the remarkable lives of The Women of Easter. 

"The perfect companion for Easter and beyond!"
—Jennie Allen, visionary of IF:Gathering

“Liz Curtis Higgs is one of the most amazing teachers of God’s Word that I have ever experienced. Her in-depth knowledge of the Scriptures, gifting as a communicator, and personal relationship with the Lord make her unmatched in the ability to take biblical truth and make it applicable to anybody.”
—Priscilla Shirer, New York Times best-selling author of Fervent

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601426826
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/03/2017
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 349,288
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Liz Curtis Higgs has one goal: to help women embrace the grace of God with joy and abandon. She is the author of more than thirty books with 4.6 million copies in print, including her nonfiction bestsellers It's Good to Be Queen, Bad Girls of the Bible, The Girl’s Still Got It, and The Women of Christmas; her award-winning Parable Treasury for children; and several Scottish historical novels, including her New York Times bestseller, Mine Is the Night.
     A seasoned professional speaker and Bible study teacher, Liz has toured with Women of Faith, Extraordinary Women, and Women of Joy, and has spoken at more than 1,700 conferences in all fifty states of the United States and fifteen foreign countries. 
     Liz is happily married to author Bill Higgs. They share their life together in a nineteenth-century farmhouse in Louisville, Kentucky.

Read an Excerpt

A Season of Grace

She sat in the pew across from us, dressed entirely in yellow. No more than four years old, she was utterly adorable, from the circlet of yellow flowers in her hair to her lacy dress, pale tights, and Mary Jane shoes.

But here’s what struck me. This little girl hadn’t simply come to church. She’ d come to see God.

When we stood to sing “He lives! He lives!” she jumped upon the cushioned pew and kept on jumping, clapping her hands in perfect rhythm with the pipe organ. With each verse she grew more animated, not seeking attention, but simply caught up in the joy of the moment. While the rest of us sang, she worshiped.

What if I did that? I wondered. What if I offered God my whole self, nothing held back?

Despite her grandmother’s patient attempts to put a lid on all that enthusiasm, the girl just couldn’t help it. When the last chord rang out, her upturned face shone like the sun as she stretched up her hands to celebrate Jesus.

I don’t know her name, but I hope it’s Mary. She has all the makings of a woman of Easter: joyful, hopeful, faithful.

In the pages to come, we’ll meet three women of Easter who poured out their lives for their beloved Teacher in much the same way the women of Christmas—Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna—honored and served the infant Jesus. Mary of Bethany prepared the Lord for burial by anointing Him with a priceless perfume. Mary of Nazareth, who’d watched Jesus draw His first breath, bravely watched Him breathe His last. Mary Magdalene witnessed His resurrection and proclaimed the good news to His disciples.

Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.

When you turn the page, you’ll find our journey begins on a somber note. Jesus is our greatest source of joy, but He is also “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.”1 All through Advent we anticipate His birth. All through Lent we anticipate His death.

The word Lent means “the lengthening of daylight hours, ”the coming of spring, when purple and white crocuses push through the hard ground, promising warmer days to come. In many churches the forty weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter are devoted to fasting and abstinence, honoring the Lord’s forty days in the wilderness.2 Some believers focus on repentance and prayer during the Lenten season. Others scrub their houses even as they ask the Lord to cleanse them of bad thoughts and bad habits. Many of us choose to give up something for Lent, fully aware that nothing can compare to the life Jesus laid down for us.

His sacrifice is the heart of the story. But not the end of the story

The Lord’s resurrection is the most glorious, victorious moment in history. You and I will watch these ancient scenes unfold through the eyes of three women who were witnesses, who were there. Just the thought gives me goose bumps.

All three Marys will show us what happens when we encounter the love of our Savior and are transformed. That’s what Lent is all about. A time of renewal. A season of grace.

I’m so glad you’re here.

One

Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blest; Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.—Fanny Crosby, “Blessed Assurance,” 1873

Lost in His Love

He was dying. Of that Mary of Bethany was certain. She knelt beside him, fresh tears spilling down her cheeks. Her beloved brother, Lazarus, lay on a narrow bed, his skin as dull and lifeless as his dun-colored tunic. A twisted cord hung loosely around his waist. His chest looked sunken, empty.

Mary wept in silence, smoothing her hand over his brow, longing for answers. We need You, Jesus. He alone could heal her brother, make him well again, make him whole. If she sent word, would He come? Please, Lord.

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. John 11:1

The original Greek tells us Lazarus was “weak, feeble.” He was not suffering from a common cold or an abscessed tooth. No, this illness held little promise of recovery. If you’ve lost a sibling, if you’ve walked in Mary’s footsteps, then you understand her sorrow.

Sadly, I know Mary’s heartache all too well.

When the first e-mail about my brother Tom appeared in my inbox, I assumed his liver disease was curable. Surgery. Medicine. There had to be a solution. He was fifteen years older than I was, but he wasn’t old.

This was the brother who took me canoeing, who showed me the beauty of nature, who talked our mother into letting me keep the kitten I brought home from the PTA festival. Tom was caring, funny, and wise, and he loved the little sister he called Rootie Toot.

As e-mails turned into lengthy phone calls, the reports grew dire. “Months.” “Weeks.” My sisters and I planned a trip west to see him, hoping Tom would rally and prove the doctors wrong. We loved him desperately. But we could not save him and arrived too late to say good-bye. Even now, years later, the missed opportunity and the tragic loss still weigh heavily on our hearts. It’s an ache that never goes away, a missing piece that can’t be replaced.

Mary of Bethany and her sister, Martha, surely felt the same way about their brother, Lazarus. Helpless, almost hopeless. Longing for their good friend Jesus to rescue him. It’s been rightly said “the sickness of those we love is our affliction.” Mary and Martha shared their brother’s every wince of pain, every halting breath.

Before we continue with their story, let’s step back to the first biblical scene that features these women encountering Jesus. We’ll do this not only to understand them better but also to learn more about the One these sisters loved and served.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. Luke 10:38

The village, situated in a pleasant spot surrounded by finetrees,3 is not named here, but the woman is. “A certain woman”(ASV) called Martha. Since the passage mentions “her home,” Marthawas likely the oldest sibling and therefore head of the household,the one in charge.4

Picture a two-storyhouse built of limestone with a dirt floorand a broad outer stairway leading to an upper room.5 An enclosedcourtyard, meant for socializing and cooking, was sharedby Martha and her neighbors.6

Since we find no mention in the Bible of parents, spouses, orchildren for Martha and her siblings and no gainful employmentis described, they may have received a sizable inheritance.7 If so,we’ll soon see it was well spent to care for those in need.

Like a first-centuryMartha Stewart, Martha of Bethanythrew open her door to this itinerant preacher, this miracle workercapable of casting out demons and healing the sick. She may nothave grasped the whole of it yet, that He was “God manifest in theflesh.”8 But Martha knew what was required—foodand shelter—andthat was enough for her.

Now a confession: I’m not a confident hostess. If a friend stopsby unannounced, I’ve been known to stand on our back porchand talk to her rather than invite her to come in and sit at mykitchen table. Why? Because it has crumbs on it. Because the sinkis full of dishes. Because I might be expected to serve her somethingworth eating. Because I’m still learning how to “offer hospitalityto one another”9 without fear of disappointing people.

Yet Martha gladly opened her home. Impressive.

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feetlistening to what he said. Luke 10:39

Though Martha was head of the house, “Mary seems to havebeen its heart.”10 We picture her seated on the floor—quiet,attentive,devoted. Not goofing off, not daydreaming, not avoidingwork. Just listening instead of speaking. “We hear Martha; we seeMary.”11

Having “settled down at the Lord’s feet” (PHILLIPS), Mary ofBethany fixed her gaze on Jesus. From her vantage point, no oneelse was in the room. What was Mary listening to? Literally, “theword of him.” In Greek, the logos of Him.12 “In the beginningwas the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word wasGod.”13 She wasn’t merely hearing His voice. She was “hearing theword” (YLT).

No wonder she didn’t move.

In the first century, sitting at a teacher’s feet was the markof a disciple, a follower, a faithful student. The apostle Paul explained,“At the feet of Gamaliel I was educated.”14 It was a physicalposition meant to show humility, respect, and a willingness tolisten. Jesus, who invited His followers to “learn from me,”15 welcomedMary of Bethany in His traveling classroom in an erawhen Jewish females were relegated to the women’s section in theback of a synagogue, hidden behind a screen.16

I stood in a similar place one October morning in Prague,visiting the oldest active synagogue in Europe, built in the thirteenthcentury.17 On the western side was a dim outer corridorwith small openings high up on the wall, permitting women tolisten to the Torah being read inside the synagogue proper. Imagineour medieval sisters huddled beside those rough stones, strainingto hear. Yet centuries earlier Mary of Bethany listened andlearned at her Savior’s feet right beside his male disciples.

Jesus did not rebuke Mary or remind her of her place. Hemade room for her. He invited her to stay. Gently but firmly Jesusdefied the culture and set people free, finding “no need to enforcethe strictest gender-rolecustoms of his time.”18 If Mary wanted tosit at His feet, she was most welcome.

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations thathad to be made. Luke 10:40

I always pay attention to the buts of the Bible. A few letters,easily overlooked, the word but raises a red flag each time it showsup. Here but makes a comparison—“by contrast” (CEB) Marthawas distracted.

Distracted. We know what that looks like. Martha didn’t needthe Internet or a smart phone to divert her attention. The Greekword for “distracted” comes from a verb meaning “to draw away,”19like dragging a heavy sword out of its scabbard. Martha was “pulledaway by all she had to do” (MSG) and became “overly occupied andtoo busy” (AMPC) to pay attention to their honored guest.

True, her preparations were her means of service, her brand ofministry. Martha was doing good things. Godly things. Usefulthings.

But . . .

She came to him and asked, . . . Luke 10:40

This wasn’t as polite as it sounds. Martha “burst in” (PHILLIPS),“interrupting them” (MSG). Mary remained seated while Marthastood before Jesus, in His face, determined to be seen and heard.

. . . “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me todo the work by myself?” Luke 10:40

Really, Martha? No one cares like Jesus. Even so, she was convincedHe would agree with her. “Doesn’t it seem unfair?” (NLT),she asked Him. Or here’s the lrv, the Lizzie Revised Version: “I’mupset. Aren’t you upset?” The original Greek suggests Martha felt“left behind, neglected, forsaken”20 by her younger sister, who was“completely oblivious to all the fussing and fuming of her sister—evenMartha’s disapproving looks did not penetrate.”21

Any hostess who has slaved away in the kitchen while herfamily and guests enjoyed themselves in the living room can empathizewith Martha. In her day a woman’s tasks included grindingflour, baking bread, tending the garden, spinning wool,washing clothes, and cooking all the food.22 I can push the Startbutton on my microwave oven and throw in a load of laundry,but that long list of tasks? Whoa. Easy to see why Martha wasweary.

“Tell her to help me!” Luke 10:40

The exclamation point reveals all we need to know about hermood at the moment. We can see and hear this “harried, frustratedwoman . . . bossing around the Creator of the universe.”23Rather than confront her sister directly, Martha asked Jesus tointervene. “Tell her to get up and help me!” (PHILLIPS).

Now it was Martha’s turn to learn from the Teacher.

I wonder if Jesus shook His head when He said her name.Twice.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worriedand upset about many things, . . .” Luke 10:41

“Martha, Martha.” The repetition was a “tender rebuke.”24Rather than applaud her work ethic, the Lord chided her for “fretting”(CJB) and “fussing” (MSG). “His concern was not for the stateof her home and table, but for the state of her soul and her heart.”25

No question about it, Jesus was scolding Martha. Not becausewhat she did was unimportant or unnecessary, but because Marthathought her efforts were of greater significance than Mary’s.

We know this woman. We are this woman. We fret, fuss, andfind a dozen reasons to be unhappy when we feel overworked orunderappreciated. Perhaps that’s why the Bible introduces us tothese two sisters side by side—toshow us by example what Godvalues most.

Jesus, who once cautioned His followers, “Do not work forfood that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life,”26 wasurging Martha to change her focus from standing in the kitchento kneeling at His feet.

“. . . but few things are needed—orindeed only one.”Luke 10:42

The things we actually need would make a short list. Veryshort. For those who believe in the name of Jesus, there’s “only onething that is essential” (CJB). Rather than fancy meals or tidyrooms, what matters most is Jesus Himself. “Martha thoughtChrist had need of her and of her services, but Mary knew that itwas she that needed Christ.”27

The truth? Martha’s well-tendedhouse long ago turned todust. Every wooden lintel, every clay lamp, every leather sandalgone. But Jesus? He is with us still and will be forever. Mary ofBethany grasped that truth and chose wisely.

“Mary has chosen what is better, . . .” Luke 10:42

“Martha had chosen duty and Mary had chosen Jesus.”28Mary knew the difference between temporal and eternal. “Hersoul had one great want,”29 and it wasn’t matching wine cups.She wanted Jesus. His presence, His teaching, His brotherlyaffection—thesesatisfied her deepest longings.

We know the one thing for Mary. And Jesus assures us that arelationship with Him is ours to keep.

“. . . and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:42

Physical things can be snatched from our hands but not Hismercy, His grace, His wisdom. They are sealed within us by theHoly Spirit.

As a devout Jew, Mary surely knew the psalms. We can imagineher whispering in her heart—oraloud so He might hear—“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lotsecure.”30

Mary understood what mattered most. If we learn from her,“if we become women who seek the one ‘needful’ thing, we willsee our lives transformed.”31 Such transformation isn’t a selfishlonging. It’s what Christ wants most for us: “To be made new inthe attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created tobe like God in true righteousness and holiness.”32

Mary of Bethany had that aim from the start, it seemed. Marthawas learning from her example and, most of all, from theMaster Teacher. Though Jesus knew their temperaments werepoles apart, it’s clear that He loved and understood both of themand thought no less of one than the other.33 He didn’t favor onekind of personality, didn’t suggest that women could serve Him inonly one way. In the kingdom of God “there is need for both vigorouscaregiving and quiet listening.”34 These women exemplifiedboth possibilities.

Now that we’ve met the sisters, let’s return to our openingscene with their ailing brother, Lazarus. He, too, needed a Savior.

So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you loveis sick.” John 11:3

When they dispatched a messenger to search for the Master,they didn’t say “Come running,” but surely that’s what the sistersprayed He would do.

Lazarus is described as the one Jesus loved. The Greek wordhere, philos, means “beloved, dear, friendly.”35 This is the kind oflove siblings share, which goes far deeper than a casual friendship.Mary and Martha reminded Jesus how much He cared for Lazarus,perhaps to ensure His swift response. After all, their brother’sHebrew name meant “God has helped.”36 A reason to hope, then.A reason to ask.

They “sent someone to tell Jesus” (ERV) that Lazarus was sickbut not that he was dying. In that time and place, with little morethan medicinal herbs on hand, any ailment could quickly lead toa tragic end. This family needed more than a pastoral visit. Theyneeded the Great Physician.

Meanwhile, Jesus was in the countryside across the JordanRiver in Bethabara, where John the Baptist began his ministry.37Bethabara, perhaps twenty miles east of Bethany, was a singleday’s journey on foot. The messenger found Jesus there and conveyedthe sad news about Lazarus and his illness.

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will notend in death.” John 11:4

Only a God who knows the future could offer such hope!Though “the man is sick” (WE), Jesus told those around Him,“this illness isn’t fatal” (CEB). With His own death and resurrectionon the horizon, Jesus wanted them to know that Lazarus’sstory would end well. And so would His.

Jesus was assuring His people that God the Father would bewith them through the painful days to come—thewaiting, thesorrow, the grief. Even if “God does not spare those he loves fromlife’s difficulties,”38 He does promise to bring us through andmake the journey worthwhile.

“No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may beglorified through it.” John 11:4

It’s deeply comforting to know that sickness, even death, ispurposeful. Not random, not meaningless, not “Oh, what ashame.” Everything that happened to Lazarus was designed to“bring glory to God and his Son” (CEV). A wonderful plan, thoughextremely difficult for Lazarus and his sisters, who couldn’t fathomthe joy that was to come, who didn’t know that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that faroutweighs them all.”39

What they clung to—andwhat we must cling to as well—isthe Lord’s immeasurable and unconditional love. He knows ourneeds and He meets them. He sees our hurts and He heals them.He understands our fears and He overcomes them.

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.John 11:5

So personal and so endearing. An entire verse to capture theLord’s deep affection for three ordinary people. The Greek tellsus His love for them was “ongoing, continuing.”40 Not a one-timething but an all-the-timething. These siblings from Bethany“were His dear friends, and He held them in loving esteem”(AMPC).

Interesting that Martha and Lazarus are mentioned by namebut Mary is not. We find only the Greek word for “sister,”41 yeteach person is listed separately and emphatically with the wordand between them. Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,personally and individually. As we say in the online world,these were His friends In Real Life.

The Greek word for “loved” in this passage is agapaó.42 It’s ahigher, more spiritual form of love and conveys a sense of preference,of being chosen. Jesus not only loved these followers, but Healso made an eternal investment in His relationship with them,just as He has with us.

His friendship is “deeper, closer, and more tender still, inwhich all believers have their share.”43 Mary and Martha embraced His love like the lifeline it is. Have you done the same, friend? Doyou know how much He loves you and how precious you are toHim?

Though Jesus responded to the news of Lazarus’s illness in away that might seem unfeeling, even cruel, don’t lose heart. Thisis Jesus we’re talking about.

So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed wherehe was two more days, . . . John 11:6

Hmm. Knowing His close friend was sick, shouldn’t Jesus atleast have gone to see him? To comfort Lazarus? To pray for him?Instead—andrather “oddly” (MSG)—Jesus“stayed where he was”(CEB). Two. Long. Days. He got the news but didn’t move.

Here’s why: He loved them and planned to do “somethinggreat and extraordinary for them.”44 It would be a miracle unlikeany other He’d performed. People had witnessed Him healwounds, cure diseases, cast out demons, banish blindness, evenresuscitate someone newly deceased. What He planned for Lazarusrequired more time. Christ’s followers needed to see that resurrectionwas possible even several days after a body was buriedin a tomb.

While Jesus tarried by the Jordan, two women in Bethanywatched their brother slip away from them. His final hours are notdescribed in God’s Word, but we can imagine what they were like.Agonizing for Lazarus. Devastating for his sisters.

In our darkest moments, when we cry out to God and wonderif He’s listening, He sometimes whispers, Wait. It’s a hard word tohear yet comforting as well. It means He is there, He is with us,and He has a plan, even if it is not our plan.

Then Lazarus’s heart stopped beating. The brother they lovedwas gone.

So hard, my sisters. So hard.

All hope abandoned, Mary and Martha prepared their brother’sbody, anointing him with myrrh and wrapping him in graveclothes.According to Jewish custom, a corpse was to be laid in aburial cave as quickly as possible.45 The sisters could not delay.Besides, if Jesus did walk through their door, it would be too late.

But with the Lord it’s never too late.

Mind if I say that again? With Jesus it’s never too late. Nevertoo late for Him to mend a relationship you thought was broken.Never too late for Him to help you get clean, get sober, get a newstart. Never too late for Him to work a miracle in your life.

He’s on His way, beloved.

. . . and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back toJudea.” John 11:7

“We should go” (ERV), He told his men in Bethabara. It wasn’ta suggestion. The Greek means “to lead.”46 The Lord was fullyaware of what had happened in Bethany and knew it was time toreturn.

See how carefully He chose His words.

. . . he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus hasfallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”John 11:11

The disciples missed the Lord’s veiled reference to death.They thought only of the literal meaning—“to awaken out of sleep”47—andtold Jesus that if Lazarus remained in bed, he wouldsurely get better. These men were clueless about the miracle requiredto stir Lazarus. When Jesus said, “I go to raise him fromsleep” (WYC), the key word was raise.

It seemed Jesus needed to explain further. They had tounderstand.

So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, . . .”John 11:14

Their eyes must have widened in disbelief. Dead? The wordsounded so cold, so final. Yet Jesus spoke about His friend’s demise“openly” (WYC) and “freely” (YLT). From the Lord’s standpoint,Lazarus was merely sleeping—aminor issue for One whowould conquer the grave. As Paul later wrote to the believers atThessalonica, “Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to beuninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do notgrieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”48

Hope was exactly what Jesus offered His disciples that day onthe banks of the Jordan, wanting to strengthen their faith andprepare them for the challenging days ahead. As we read thesewords, their hope becomes our hope. Death is not the end forthose who love the Lord. It’s the beginning of a new and foreverlife.

“. . . and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so thatyou may believe.” John 11:15

Jesus stated clearly His intended purpose: He wanted His disciples“to trust and rely” (AMPC) on Him. “Now you will have a chance to put your faith in me” (CEV), He told them. “Now youwill really believe” (NLT).

Weren’t they already believers? Yes, in the same way many ofus are. We identify ourselves as Christian, we attend church, weput money in the offering plate, and we pray. Jesus was asking Hisdisciples to take another step—ifnot a leap—andtrust Him completelyin every situation, however difficult or uncertain.

Though we may believe with our heads, Jesus wants us tobelieve with our whole hearts. To place our lives in His hands andput our faith in God, who is “trustworthy in all he promises andfaithful in all he does.”49

Mary of Bethany believed in Him. Martha did too. Even so,Jesus said to His followers, “You’re about to be given new groundsfor believing” (MSG).

That’s what we want, Lord, this Easter and always. We wantto believe.

Believe in His power to change us. Believe He can bring usback to life.

Reading Group Guide

How to Use The Women of Easter as a Bible Study

A Leader's Guide from Liz Curtis Higgs

I'm thrilled you are considering one of my books for your Bible study group!

Like The Women of Christmas before it, The Women of Easter is designed as a meaningful Lenten read for you, a lovely gift book for friends, and a powerful Bible study for a gathering of women who want a fresh encounter with the Savior.

"In The Women of Easter, Liz takes us right into the days surrounding the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, where we find our contemporary concerns reflected in the faces of the women who witnessed His ministry firsthand. And we see for ourselves the love of a Savior who laid down His life so that we might live free. This book is the perfect companion for Easter and beyond!"
—JENNIE ALLEN, founder of IF:Gathering and author of Nothing to Prove

"This book will stir a resurrection in your own heart and open your eyes to the wonder and beauty of the cross."
—MARGARET FEINBERG, author of Fight Back with Joy

What you'll find inside

My heart's desire was to take my Bible study sisters there. First we see the Lord raise Lazarus from the dead, and then watch as Mary of Bethany anoints Jesus in anticipation of His own burial. We stand with Mary of Nazareth and other women at the cross, and then run with Mary Magdalene as she hurries back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples, "I have seen the Lord!"

Drawing from nearly forty English translations, as well as twenty commentaries and other trustworthy resources, I did my best to create a biblically sound and emotionally moving journey with The Women of Easter, as we follow the Lord from the cross to the grave to the sky. He is risen indeed!

How the chapters unfold (the titles were chosen from Easter hymns)
One: Lost in His Love
Two: Mary Went to Meet the Lord
Three: I Still Would Choose the Better Part
Four: With Palms Before Thee
Five: O Most Afflicted!
Six: Thorns Thine Only Crown
Seven: At the Cross Her Station Keeping
Eight: I Know That My Redeemer Lives
Study Guide
Notes

Everything you need is in the book

Rather than creating a separate workbook, I included the Study Guide at the end of the book, featuring three in-depth questions per chapter. Women may want to use a notebook, iPad, or other device for taking notes. For Bible study leaders who like to know where various details and quotes in the text are drawn from, it's all there for you in the Notes section immediately after the Study Guide.

Weekly preparation time

For your members, it should take about twenty minutes to read each chapter and perhaps twenty minutes to answer the questions. (If my estimate doesn't match your experience, please let me know, so I can adjust those numbers here.)

Four-week study / Eight-week study

If your group meets for an hour or less each week, and your time together includes prayer, refreshments, and socializing, an eight-week study may be the best plan for you, covering one chapter and three Study Guide questions each time you meet.

Possible format for one chapter a week for eight weeks

10 minutes - Gathering time
10 minutes - Devotional or thoughts based on week's reading or video clip
30 minutes - Discussion of three Study Guide questions
10 minutes - Closing thoughts and prayer
If you gather for ninety minutes or more weekly, The Women of Easter can work as a four-week study, with two chapters to read and six Study Guide questions to answer and discuss each session.

Possible format for two chapters a week for four weeks
5 minutes - Gathering time
5 minutes - Devotional or thoughts based on week's reading or video clip
30 minutes - Discussion of three Study Guide questions for first chapter
10 minutes - Break
5 minutes - Devotional or thoughts based on week's reading or video clip
30 minutes - Discussion of three Study Guide questions for second chapter
5 minutes - Closing thoughts and prayer

A video option

Since we didn't record video teaching sessions for The Women of Easter, I found a different way you might include a video portion at the start of each session.

After reviewing several movies and miniseries based on the life of Jesus, I decided Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth was the best choice for this study. Also, the acting and production qualities are strong, with Anne Bancroft, Sir Laurence Olivier, James Mason, Olivia Hussey, Anthony Quinn, Rod Steiger, and Robert Powell as Jesus.

Sadly, as is the case with every movie I researched, Jesus of Nazareth veers from the biblical account in several key scenes. The sympathetic film treatment of Judas in no way parallels the man we meet in Scripture, who stole from the disciple's money purse (John 12:6) and in whose heart Satan entered (Luke 22:3), prompting Judas to betray Jesus (Luke 22:5). And the prostitute (Luke 7:36-50) who anoints the Lord's feet is mistakenly identified as Mary Magdalene. A common error, but still unfortunate.

Given the above, I have chosen ten scenes with care. Though the action will not always align perfectly with the chapters you'll be reading that week, I do believe adding a dramatic, visual element could greatly enhance your learning experience. I'd encourage you to watch the DVD sections at home first to be sure you are comfortable finding the various time and dialogue cues.

Details on using Jesus of Nazareth

The entire miniseries is more than 6 hours long. We'll only use a total of 70 minutes from Disc Two.

If you plan to incorporate the video, you'll need to adjust your weekly schedule accordingly, perhaps letting the video serve as your opening thoughts.

Including the movie with your study is only a suggestion, which may not work for your group.

I just wanted you to know a viable video resource was available.

Here are the scenes I'd suggest for an eight-week Bible study. If you're leading a four-week study, simply view two chapter sections each week.

CHAPTER ONE: LOST IN HIS LOVE
Disc Two, Select Part III
Start at 2:18 Crowds following Jesus, Mary Magdalene among them
Stop at 7:57 Mary Magdalene eats the miraculous bread and weeps
Total: 5:39 minutes

CHAPTER TWO: MARY WENT TO MEET THE LORD
Disc Two, Select Part III
Start at 38:23 Jewish pilgrims dancing en route to Jerusalem
Stop at 46:11 Jesus says "...but he were dead, yet shall he live"
Total: 7:48 minutes

CHAPTER THREE: I STILL WOULD CHOOSE THE BETTER PART
Disc Two, Select Part III
Start at 18:43 Jesus walking, says "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers..."
Stop at 21:43 Mary of Nazareth says "...his brothers, his sisters, his mother"
Total 3:00 minutes (Since the video does not include the scene from John 12 of Mary of Bethany anointing Jesus, perhaps discuss why that might be so)

CHAPTER FOUR: WITH PALMS BEFORE THEE
Disc Two, Select Part III
Start at 50:55 Palm Sunday crowd, shouting "Welcome to our city..."
Stop at 56:56 Scribe says "Rabbi, I understand better than you think"
Total: 6:01 minutes
and Start at 58:16 Mary riding into Jerusalem on a donkey
Stop at 1:01:55 Jesus teaching, says "...least of My brethren, he does it to Me"
Total: 3:39 minutes

CHAPTER 5: O MOST AFFLICTED!
Disc Two, Select Part IV
Start at 1:48:27 The Lord's Supper in the Upper Room
Stop at 1:57:43 Jesus says to Judas, "You betray your Master with a kiss?"
Total: 9:16 minutes

CHAPTER 6: THORNS THINE ONLY CROWN
Disc Two, Select Part IV
Start at 2:15:28 Pontius Pilate meets with the Sanhedrin
Stop at 2:25:40 Jesus says, "...if it had not been given you from above."
Total: 10:12 minutes
and Start at 2:33:36 The road to Calvary begins
Stop at 2:40:41 Jesus says to the thief, "Today you will be with me in Paradise."
Total: 7:05 minutes

CHAPTER SEVEN: AT THE CROSS HER STATION KEEPING
Disc Two, Select Part IV
Start at 2:40:42 Jesus on the cross, Mary of Nazareth appears
Stop at 2:51:30 Jesus says, "It is accomplished."
Total 10:48 minutes

CHAPTER EIGHT: I KNOW THAT MY REDEEMER LIVES
Disc Two, Select Part IV
Begin at 2:53:49 Women coming to the tomb in the morning
Stop at 3:00:14 Mary M says again, smiling, "Go to my brothers and tell them."
Total: 6:25 minutes

Bless you for considering The Women of Easter for your Bible study group!

If I can help in any other way, feel free to reach out to me: liz@lizcurtishiggs.com

"Your sister, Liz "Liz Curtis Higgs has crafted a book that is unique and profound in its intimate look into the lives of the women who served Jesus throughout His ministry. The Women of Easter reminds us that Jesus has always used women to propel His kingdom in mighty ways."
—CHRISTINE CAINE, founder of A21 and Propel Women, and author of Unashamed

"Liz knows the women of the Bible, and she loves the women of our day. Most important, she knows what it means to have a dramatic encounter with Jesus. You will be inspired by the insightful prose of Liz and the life-changing power of the Savior."
—KYLE IDLEMAN, author of Not a Fan and Grace Is Greater

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The Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
GratefulGrandma More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me by one of the women in my weekly devotional group. She also commented that Liz Curtis Higgs was doing a daily Lenten focus of the book on her facebook page. Well, that had me hooked. I got the book and very much enjoyed it. I did refer to the facebook page periodically, but I read it through with great interest. What a great concept, seeing the lead up to Easter through the eyes of women in the bible. Higgs breaks down the stories in the Bible starting with Mary of Bethany. I loved hearing more about the life and times of the people. The culture of what was going on interested me and helped me to understand the powerful messages so much better. It was almost like I was there and could see things so much more clearly. The questions at the back of the book were extremely thought provoking. They made you really think about the stories. As other reviewers said, there were a lot of notes, but I chose to ignore them because I did not want to interrupt the flow when I was reading. I really enjoyed this book and it was a great experience leading up to Easter. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.
VillaSyl More than 1 year ago
In This Season of Grace, Deepen Your Faith in a God Who So Loved the World that He Gave Us His Son. In this latest book from Liz Curtis Higgs, you will meet three women named Mary; each of whom has a life-changing encounter with Jesus. Mary of Bethany prepares the way for the Lord’s burial when she anoints His feet and fills the air with her perfume. His mother, Mary of Nazareth, remains by His side from His first breath to His last, her loyalty unwavering. Mary Magdalene, delivered of seven demons, bravely supports her Teacher through His darkest hours, then proclaims the glorious news of His resurrection. Your mind and emotions will be engaged and your faith strengthened as each scene unfolds, preparing your heart for a richer, deeper Easter experience. Liz Curtis Higgs, a seasoned Bible teacher and award-winning novelist, combines her storytelling skills with a thorough verse-by-verse study of Scripture as together you explore the remarkable lives of The Women of Easter. This beautiful book only has 8 chapters and begins with a thought provoking introduction “A season of grace” and ends with study questions and notes. Liz Curtis Higgs has an incredible way of giving us a deeper understanding of God’s word. A perfect book to read thru Lent but also appropriate for any time of the year. I recommend this book for yourself and to give to others. I received a copy of the book from Blogging For Books and WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing, for my review.
MissTadoodles More than 1 year ago
I have loved every single of of Liz Curtis Higgs books that I have read. He verse-by-verse Bible studies are always so eye opening and thought provoking. I was ecstatic to see her coming out with Women of Easter, since her Women of Christmas was a big hit in my world! Going through these three women: Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene, even a bit of Martha! We get to see the transition and details leading up to Jesus's death and then after his resurrection through this verse-by-verse study. I was in tears more than a few times after some mind boggling verses came to life; life breathed into them after reading this book. If I could, I would get everyone I knew a copy of this book! Women of Christmas was amazing but the power and knowledge of Christ dying for us and coming back to life is a miracle that evokes a power of emotions. But not only does she going over the verse she shares real life stories of her family to compare feelings and emotions to connect with the people like Mary and Martha when Lazarus died. Needless to say, you don't want to miss this book! I give this book a 5 out of 5! MUST OWN. WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group provided this book to me for free in exchange for my honest and unbiased review as part of their Blogging for Books program.
michelemorin More than 1 year ago
Some were mentioned by name. Others were never identified, but throughout the life of Jesus, we learn that there were “certain women” who traveled with Jesus, who welcomed Him when he needed a meal or a place to stay, who “provided for Him out of their means.” It is significant that there is no record in Scripture of any of these women flagging in their loyalty, denying Jesus, or abandoning Him when the chips were down. A group of them were present at the cross, and then, without even realizing the significance of their actions at the time, certain women showed up at the tomb and bore witness to the resurrected Christ. It was clear that God had chosen them to be there. Liz Curtis Higgs honors The Women of Easter with her carefully constructed re-telling of the final weeks of Jesus’ life. Liz focuses on Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene, but also shares the stories of other women as they meander across history’s stage. Rather than lifting her protagonists out of the story one by one with three distinct bios, she considers them in context as they interact with each other, with Jesus, and with other major players within the narrative arc of Scripture. With her characteristic humor, insight, and thorough research, Liz shares powerful wisdom from the lives of first-century women that (if we let it!) will impact the way we follow Christ in the 21st century, because, the truth is that you can spot a Woman of Easter by the way she lives: Women of Easter are transformed by seeking what is “needful.” Mary of Bethany understood that there is a time for bustling around and being productive — and there is a time for quietly listening. Big Sister Martha must have eventually absorbed some of that lesson along the way, because when their brother Lazarus died, “she who served the food also dished out the truth: “It is for Your coming, [Jesus,] that the world has waited.” God had chosen one of His faithful women to make the bold proclamation that Jesus’ decisive “I am” was a revelation of His identity. Martha’s response was a resounding, “Yes, I see that YOU ARE!” Women of Easter recognize that Jesus endured the cross because we were “the joy set before Him.” Mary of Bethany understood that when she anointed Jesus’ feet with valuable oil, she was performing an act of worship. John 12 informs us that “Martha served” that day, and so together, the sisters showed up and met a need in preparation for Jesus’ future act of redemption which, at the time, they could have only dimly understood. All our worship and all our acts of righteousness flow from the cross. Just as Jesus took joy in the small gift of a widow, He sees our small gifts, and He rejoices, calling them “good.” Women of Easter know when to stand back and watch Jesus at work. Mary of Nazareth (Jesus’ mother) shows up in quiet maturity at the Wedding in Cana, and she set the stage for her Son to perform the first of many signs “through which He revealed His glory; and His disciples believed in Him.” Scripture does not record Jesus saying, “Thanks, mum!” but actions speak louder than words, for while He was hanging on the cross in agony, He made provision for her future by asking John to take her into his home. While four soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ clothing, four women stood with Him in quiet support: Mary, Mary’s sister (possibly Salome?), Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. Finish reading at Living Our Days . . .
Baranski1987 More than 1 year ago
The Women of Easter: Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene by Liz Curtis Higgs. This is a moving book that will have you wanting to learn more. I for one have never studied the people of the bible like I should have. This book has made it so much easier for me to get to know the women of the bible. It helped to open my eyes more about their significant impact in the bible. A great read. I received a complimentary copy of this book. This review is my honest opinion. 4 stars!
TLPPA More than 1 year ago
What don't I love about The Women of Easter by Liz Curtis Higgs?!? A sort-of companion book to The Women of Christmas, Liz takes the Easter story and unpacks it verse-by-verse to analyze, study, explain, and illustrate the roles of Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth, and Mary Magdalene. Liz includes Scripture throughout the book (literally every single page) and utilizes probably a dozen or more translations to help the reader understand the nuances of these women's interactions with Jesus. My review cannot do this book justice. While I believe that scripture is "interesting" enough to be read on its own, The Women of Easter drew me back into the Easter story with fresh eyes, and in a way I never read it before. I could physically feel the adoration that Mary of Bethany felt when anointing the Lord with the jar of spikenard. I wept with Mary of Nazareth while she watched her precious Son be crucified, yet never neglecting to honor her as His mother, even on the cross. I wanted to cry out "Rabboni!" with Mary Magdelene as she realized that her Lord and Master had been resurrected and conquered death once and for all. There's so much more! This is not JUST an Easter story, but Easter is an appropriate time of year to consider the events of Gospels. And Liz writes, as always, in her signature style - speaking to women as if they were her friends and she was sharing a cup of coffee with them. Liz points out some small but mighty truths that we might also tend to miss in Scripture, which is perhaps what I love about her the most. And I haven't even begun to address the unique way that Liz included hymns, both old and new, in her chapter titles. The Women of Easter is a book I will read again and again. You should too! I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. However, the opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.
SouthernGalLovestoRead More than 1 year ago
In The Women of Easter, Liz Curtis Higgs uses her awesome gift of Bible-based storytelling to take readers into encounters with the Savior through the eyes of three women named Mary. Based on scripture from the gospels, Liz focuses on the days leading up to and including Christ's crucifixion and resurrection from the perspectives of this trio who knew Him well. The presentation of scripture provides an easy to follow flow of events that strongly engages readers. It can also encourage readers to dig deeper into the Bible for greater understanding. On her website, Liz offers a free leader's guide for anyone interested in using her book for a group Bible study. I highly recommend The Women of Easter for anyone who wants to better feel and understand what it was like to personally share in the experience of these important events in the life of Christ. Thanks to the Blogging for Books program for providing a copy of The Women of Easter. I was pleased to share my thoughts about the book.
JLYoung More than 1 year ago
I received this book for free in exchange for my honest opinion. To be honest, when I first picked it up I didn't really know what to expect. I didn't know what it would be about. I was pleasantly surprised. Higgs brings to life familiar stories I grew up hearing, in such detail I could imagine myself there. I could feel what they felt. They were so relatable. They became real people instead of just a story from so long ago. The Women of Easter is the story of Mary & Martha and their brother Lazarus, the story of the Week before Jesus was killed, the story of Easter. Jesus held fast to the purpose for his pain... our redemption. It subtly makes you think and ponder if you are living the way the people in Jesus time lived... giving of myself fully out of complete unselfish unassuming love for my savior. The writer illustrates that "beauty was revealed in brokenness". (p61) I loved how the customs of the times were explained in such great detail. I often just skimmed over these details of the story not thinking much of them. I now have a much greater understanding of the ramifications and implications of the small (yet big) details. The incredible use of numerous different translation of the scripture was helpful. It's often recommended to study different versions when studying a passage to gain greater understanding. The author did a great job of this. She highlights Old Testament prophecies and shows how they came to pass in the New Testament. She ties all the gospels together to tell the amazing story of Jesus from the perspective of the women closest to Him. This quote sums it up nicely: "Throughout these extraordinary scenes from scripture we've watched Jesus bridge the gap between his male disciples and his female followers." (Page 193) The book ends with an extensive study guide for further study. This is a great book. I now want to read more from this author. You won't be disappointed. I would give it 7 out of 5 stars if I could!
4aussiegirl More than 1 year ago
The Women of Easter By: Liz Curtis Higgs Encounter the Savior with Mary of Bethany, Mary of Nazareth and Mary Magdalene As Liz tells the story of Lazarus Mary and Martha’s brother a story I have read in the Bible. Liz explained this story so well and in detail so you’d understand it. Remember when Martha “burst in”, “interrupting them” when Jesus was talking? Well Liz goes Really Martha? Remember Martha was upset that she was fixing dinner and Mary took off to listen to Jesus sitting at His feet. Martha was thinking Jesus would be on her side. As you read what Liz has to say and questions she ask I wonder if you were like me NEVER thought of those questions or felt something like Liz pointed out for you to ponder on. As the story unfolds in your mind and you feel the hurts and pain as the tears fall down your cheeks in streams as they did Mary and Martha’s. You could feel the pain in Jesus heart for He loved Lazarus. Yet you know the story of Lazarus he rises Jesus knew this would be one miracle to be told by Mary of Bethany. Then the story of Mary of Nazareth as the Mother of Jesus held Jesus and loved Him from His first breath to His last. Mary of Nazareth loyalty never wavered none in the least. Mary of Nazareth loved her son Jesus will all her heart. So as you read this story with Liz and her words to have you look even deeper into this story of Jesus from His first breath until His last breath you will ponder on the words that Liz leave you with. The time that the men left Him but the women never left Jesus. Mary Magdalene is the one that Jesus delivered seven demons from. Mary Magdalene was brave and stayed by Jesus her teacher side and was the one that told of His amazing resurrection. Liz again has questions for you to ponder on and things she thought about as she did the other two Mary’s that will have you seeing things in an entirely different way. Remember one amazing thing if nothing else these three Mary’s did not leave Jesus nor did they ever deny Him as the men did!!!!!!! Doesn’t that tell you who the brave ones are? At the end of the book there is a study guide which is very helpful. I feel with Liz and her questions or statements makes you stop and look at the three Mary’s in a deep way then before. I recommend this book highly. This book is a new way to see the stories of Jesus and also the three Mary’s that were faithful to Jesus. As you read this book you will find a new depth to Jesus and His relationships with these women. I received this beautiful book free from Bloggingforbooks for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review just an honest one. The opinions I have expressed are entirely my own and no one else’s. 5 Stars