The Women of Easter

Women at the Tomb by James Tissot

 

The Women of Easter

Easter morning. Today, for Christians, that evokes images of an empty cross and empty tomb, lilies, hymns, and new outfits to wear to church. On the actual day when Jesus was raised from the dead, there were other images. Of course, there was the empty tomb, but there the similarities between then and now end. We, in the twenty-first century, have the advantage of time. We know what happened, the rest of the story. We know that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah, the Christ. We have several translations of the Holy Bible to tell us all about it. We have hymns which reflect holy scripture, and we have the Holy Spirit, but the very first persons to know of Jesus’ resurrection and to report it, were women.

The first Easter Sunday did not start out joyfully as it is today. There were no Easter bunnies or patent leather Mary Janes. Jesus’ disciples were in hiding, fearful of being arrested and crucified as their Teacher had been. Jesus had been crucified on Friday; it was now Sunday (by our terminology today).  There was confusion, fear, and suspicion among Jesus’ followers. No one knew what was to become of the group or the new religion. Everything seemed lost. All the years of walking with Jesus, taking in the sweet message of salvation had come to an end. Jesus had captured their hearts and minds and the dark void left behind was numbing.

Though grieving as fully as the men, the women made their way to the tomb where Jesus had been lain to properly wrap his body and apply spices and ointments. The Sabbath had prevented more than the minimum care of Jesus’ body on Friday. It was time to perform the proper burial tasks. All four Gospels mention Mary Magdalene, but Luke’s Gospel mentions several women:  Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of James, Joanna, and other women who had followed Jesus. These women had prepared spices and perfumes the evening before.

Think of it! God chose women to be the first to know the Good News and to see the resurrected Jesus! When we usually think of who followed Jesus during his ministry, we immediately name the Apostles, but women followed Jesus as well. They listened to Jesus’ parables and sermons. They had drunk fully from the fountain of the sacred messages and now, in humble devotion, they sought to restore dignity to their blessed Lord by applying the spices and perfumes to his broken body.

They entered the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed and found it to be empty. They must have thought that Jesus’ body had been moved or stolen. As they stood there wondering, “Two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning appeared beside them” (Luke 24:4). The scripture doesn’t say the men walked up to them, it says they “appeared beside them” Certainly, these were no ordinary men! If the glowing clothing didn’t give a clue as to their identity, the sudden appearing of the men would. Angels of the Lord were standing before the women, no less!

Scripture says the two guards present fell to the ground unconscious, but the women simply bowed down before the Angels. Here, we get to the good part. The sadness and hopelessness of the previous two days was about to be transformed to joy! The entire world would soon hear of the Good News the Angels were about to proclaim to the women. Jesus was alive! I’m sure the women had mixed thoughts at that moment. Didn’t they see for themselves the crucifixion and the burial? They saw the lifeless body of their precious Teacher. They saw the wounds for themselves. Their confusion was soon to be relieved, however. The Angels explained, by quoting Jesus’ own words of how he would be killed and raised up on the third day. Just so there would be no confusion, Jesus himself appeared and spoke to Mary Magdalene. What a story she had to tell! She rushed to the place where the Apostles were staying and told them what she had seen. Jesus was alive!

The signficance of this story is monumental. Not only the Gospel of Salvation, which is the most momentous in all history, but the fact that God chose these women to be the first to know of and to see Jesus in resurrected form. Jesus cared for women. He included them. He taught them right beside the men. These women had been witness to Jesus’ miracles and they accepted without hesitation His divinity.

I have known men and women who bellieved that women had no place in worship. It was fine for them to arrange the flowers for the altar or to prepare a meal, but no women was allowed behind the pulpit or even permitted to lead a Bible Study. Scripture shows us that women have a place in worship, in Bible Study, as well as preparing meals and arranging flowers. Jesus was inclusive. Women were welcome to join him as he preached from village to village. They didn’t disappear to the kitchen when He began to teach. They drank the sweet nectar of his words and believed that he was the Messiah.

This knowledge of how Jesus treated women with deference and respect should motivate women to step up and be leaders in their churches. We have a beautiful story to tell from our feminie perspective; we should not hesitate to tell it.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, thank you for coming to us to provide forgiveness for our sins and everlasting life. You are Lord over all creation. Help us to be bold and proclaim the Good News to the world.

Debra Ison