Today we’re continuing the laying out of some of the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yesterday we looked at the stone and the guards which had been placed in front of the tomb. As you know from reading the Gospels, the guards were surprised by a violent earthquake and the appearance of angels which descended on them. Understandably, these battle-trained warriors weren’t prepared in the slightest for this, and they fainted (trust me, you might do the same). The angel(s) then moved the stone--not so Jesus could get out, but so that witnesses could get in.
The women who got up at dawn in order to go the tomb were not going there to witness a miracle. They hadn’t had time to finish preparing the body before the onset of the Sabbath on Friday, so they were coming to pay their last respects to their beloved Master.
They found something very different from what they expected. Luke tells us that there were two “men” at the tomb, while Matthew only mentions one of them as the spokesman. The four Gospel accounts can be reconciled together, but they all tell distinct aspects of what happened. Here’s something that each one of them mentions, however: They all tell us that the first witnesses of the Resurrection were women.
In this modern day with an emphasis on equality of the sexes, it’s easy to miss the significance of that. Jewish society was pretty advanced in comparison with the rest of the world, but they still didn’t hold a very high view of women. Pharisees prayed everyday and thanked God that he had not made them a Samaritan or a woman. Women’s testimony was held in very low regard and they weren’t allowed to testify in open court.
One other thing to note before I get to my main point. Each of the Gospels mentions by name a particular woman who was a witness to these things: Mary Magdalene. She had once had seven demons inside her, and Jesus had cured her.
Now here’s the question we need to confront. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the Resurrection was all a big hoax. Let’s suppose that the early church had made it all up. If they were making up a story about the raising of Jesus, they would not have set it up so that women were the primary witnesses. If for some reason the apostles were brought into court on charges of preaching the Good News, they couldn’t present these women as witnesses. On top of that, they not only picked women, but this particular woman. Mary Magdalene, an ex-demoniac? Would you have picked her if you were making this up?
Why did the Father arrange this? Why did he provide that women, especially this woman, would be the first witnesses of the resurrection of his Son? I can think of two reasons. First, there is the fact that we discussed before. The Father wanted the resurrection of his Son to be indisputable, and this is one more piece of evidence that it happened.
Second--and this is more poignant than the first—the Lord has a soft spot in his heart for the “underdog.” The outcasts, the “has-beens,” the “nothings” and “nobodies” are special recipients of his loving attention. Women were treated like second-class citizens in that society (like in most others), so this is indicative of how he thought of them. They might be despised by the world at large, but he wants to honor them.
Yes, that’s the kind of God we serve. If you’re one of “those” types of people, take heart. If you place yourself in his care, he’ll honor you more than all the accolades that the world could ever provide.
Lord Jesus, do I honor the “least of these” the way you do? Or do I join in the world in passing them by? I think I need some adjustment, don’t I?