After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb…
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” – Matthew 28-1, 8-10
You don’t usually think of Easter Sunday as a feminist holiday, but it should be.
The resurrected Jesus first appeared to a number of women. That is a powerful statement that many people, looking at the event through 21st century eyes, miss.
Christ could have appeared to whomever he wanted. He chose to reveal himself first to some of his most loyal female followers. It was women who discovered His tomb was empty. The men they told didn’t believe them (Luke 24:11).
Women in first-century Palestine were second-class citizens at best. They had few rights and were under the authority of husbands and fathers. Jesus had already flouted social conventions, had already treated women as equals. By appearing first to women, Jesus was making a statement about equality and social structure. In modern terms, it was a feminist statement.
That the early church repeated the story testifies to its historical accuracy. A woman’s testimony in a court of law did not carry anything near the weight of a man’s words. Women generally weren’t seen as credible. The story of the empty tomb was not believed by Jesus’ disciples when the women first came to tell them. (In defence of those men, the news of a resurrected Jesus seemed incredible. It was outside their expectations, even though they had seen Jesus raise people from the dead.)
If the resurrection was a fiction invented by the early church, there would be no women in this story. Culturally it was a little embarrassing to have Jesus appear to Mary Magdalene before Peter or John. If you were making it up, you wouldn’t write your narrative this way.
That the gospel writers recorded the meeting of the women and the resurrected Christ is a powerful statement regarding the historicity of the resurrection. If you were going to make it up, you wouldn’t have done it this way.
As we celebrate Easter, on this Sunday almost 2000 years after those women first discovered that the tomb was empty, we can do so with confidence the story is true. It may not seem logical, that an event so long ago is supremely important today. I understand if you are skeptical about Jesus. He has always defied logic.
However, if you have never seriously considered the ramifications of that first Easter, what Jesus means to you and your life, you are doing yourself a disservice. The tomb is empty, Christ is risen!
On that first Easter Sunday the world changed – for the better and forever. That indeed is a reason to celebrate.