Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Listen, Do You Want to Know a Secret?

The first people ever to testify of the resurrected Jesus were women, and Jesus himself is the one who told them to take the message to the disciples.

I don't mean to sound biased, but on Sunday morning the disciples were cowering in a locked room, while as soon as the sunlight flickered across the horizon, the women who had devotedly followed Jesus were on their way to his tomb to anoint his body with the spices they had prepared.  Their grief absorbed them; I imagine they were crying and glad to have something to do after spending an endless Sabbath waiting, according to the law, to prepare Jesus' body with the spices.

Scripture mentions at least five women who went to the tomb:  Mary Magdalene; Joanna; Mary, the mother of James the lesser; Salome (probably the wife of Zebedee and the mother of James and John); and Mary, the wife of Clopas.  References say that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was probably with John, who was instructed by Jesus to take care of her.

After their experience at the empty tomb, the women "fled", as Mark describes it.  They were in a hurry to tell the good news, the news that Jesus was not dead as they all thought.  He gave them a message to tell the disciples.  Luke says that when the women got back from the tomb, they told all these things to the disciples and to all the others.  They could not shut up about it.  The women had a message to tell, and no one could prevent them from telling it.  May Christian women today not shut up about the message that Jesus is alive.

But, then, they were only women.  At that time, women were not considered reliable witnesses.  Luke tells us that the disciples did not believe the women, because their words "seemed to them like nonsense."  The resurrection of Jesus is an incredible thing to hear.  But Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves.  The empty tomb and folded-up burial clothes proved that the women had told the truth.  They weren't hysterical women; they were bearing witness to the risen Christ.

I've come to love the story in the Bible about the road to Emmaus.  I can't read it too many times.  It seems that on the evening after the women had brought the news to the disciples, two men, also disciples of the recently crucified Jesus, walked on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a village about seven miles northwest of Jerusalem.  Why were they going to Emmaus?  It doesn't say.  Perhaps that's where they lived, and after the death of their teacher and leader, they were going home, or perhaps it was the first stop on the trip back to Galilee.  As they walked along, another man joined them.  They excitedly told him of strange goings-on in Jerusalem at the Passover.  They said, "Some of our women amazed us."

They couldn't believe he hadn't heard this news, but when he began telling them of how these things were prophesied to happen to the Messiah, their emotions were aroused.  As they approached Emmaus, the stranger appeared to be going on, but the disciples convinced him to stop and have supper with them.  When he gave thanks over the bread, they recognized him.  I can just see the slight smile on the face of Jesus as the pair comprehended who he was; he disappeared as they sat at the table.

This is not the only instance of women leaders in the scripture:  Deborah and Esther in the Old Testament, Lydia who held prayer meetings in Philippi and was converted to Christianity by Paul.  These women were followed by many generations of female teachers, missionaries, and evangelists.  Don't underestimate the love, devotion, and purpose of women who are committed to Christ.   If we can put our biases aside, their messages will amaze us.

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