The gospel narratives Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John record the story of Jesus’ life: birth, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection. Each gospel tells of Jesus’ life differently and for different audiences. The gospel accounts have many stories of Jesus in common, and some that are different in their presentations. But, there is one story in each gospel account which share an important commonality – and this is the account of the resurrection of Jesus. All four of the gospels record women (or a woman) as the only witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus.
Each gospel account contains literary features of the empty tomb and Jesus’ resurrection unique to its own story; but, all of the Evangelists tell of women witnessing the story of the resurrection and carrying the news of the risen Christ to the world. The power of the biblical narrative for the good news of the resurrection is connected to the power of the witness of women in all four gospels. Women are the source of new life – first through carrying and bearing the world’s children, including that of the Messiah, and secondly by carrying the life altering, salvific news of the Risen Christ. God completes the circle of life through the power of witness by women and restores us to the status of equal humanity in the process.
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Matthew 28: (5-8) But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
Mark 16: (1; 6-7) Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him…. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.
Luke 24: (5-10) Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” “He is not here, but He is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee…. and they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.
The story of Jesus’ death and resurrection takes place in the context of Passover. Passover was and is the centerpiece celebration of Judaism. Passover week corresponds with Easter week (starts of April 4 this year), the week in which Christians all over the world contemplate the passion of Christ and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.
Passover commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. After 400 years of slavery, during the time in which the Israelites were subjected to the cruelty of slavery, God hear the distress cry of His people and responds with a mighty hand warning Pharoah, through the prophet Moses, to “let My people go.” When Pharoah refuses, God visits 10 plagues upon Egypt, of which the last is slaying all of the Egyptian’s first born children. In doing so, God spares the children of Israel, by “passing over” their homes; thus, the name of the celebration event marking this miracle in Old Testament history.
In the story of the women who first stand at the cross, while Jesus is crucified, and after encountering the angels and the empty tomb, the Bible reports this time as, “the time of Passover.” The women must wait until after the Sabbath to come to the tomb of Jesus with the intent of preparing His body for burial.
In all three of the synoptic gospels (meaning the same), the angel tells the women who have come to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus, the same thing: “He is risen! He is not here. Only the fourth Gospel (John), reports the story differently. Even John’s story records the event; whereby Peter leaves Mary Magdalene alone at the tomb, and Mary encounters Jesus just before He ascends to His Father. The 11 disciples, who deserted Jesus at the cross, are in hiding and fear for their lives. It is the women who seek the body of Jesus to provide a proper Jewish burial for Him; but, instead, receive the miraculous news of the resurrection when they reach the tomb.
These women demonstrate an unstoppable faith. Despite the threat of death (the Romans crucified women and children, as well as men), nothing on earth could prevent them from completing their assignment. Scripture records the women standing at the cross, watching the agony of Jesus and then seeking out his body to complete the burial ritual.
The text seems to present the following questions to us, as readers of the story:
Why would God choose the women as witnesses to the Resurrection Event, instead of the 11 disciples?
Why did the women seem to have the courage and faith which the disciples lacked?
Where did this courage and faith come from?
How do their actions speak to us, as contemporary women of faith?
What characteristics did God require from the women, which allowed them to complete their assignment from beginning to end?
How do their actions inform us about empowerment, collaboration, destiny, and purpose?
How did their time spent with Jesus, assist in their actions after the crucifixion?
Final Centering Thoughts:
When you want the assignment completed, send a woman!
As women, we often rise above the problem to find the solution!
We don’t wait to the future to come to us, we give birth to the future.
Nobody has a purpose which is not meant to be shared.