I share the following extract from Raised With Christ today because I am certain that no disciple could ever have thought about the death of Jesus without his or her sorrow being tinged with the wonderful joy of the resurrection. This quote shows how, in these pivotal events, Jesus chose to honor women:
Matthew tells us that Jesus died more quickly than many victims of crucifixion, and his death was associated with some miraculous signs. “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Matthew 27:50–53). These remarkable events demonstrate that even as he died, Jesus remained in control of nature. The Lord of all was continuing to sustain the universe “by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Even as he died, he still had life-giving power that could empty tombs.
Although his divine nature shared in the experience of the agony of death and separation from the Father, only his body was placed in the tomb. His spirit returned to God, and he promised the repentant thief, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus effectively experienced hell on the cross, since hell means being separated from God . . .
Watching that day were some women who later played an extraordinary role in the events of the resurrection. We must spend a few moments understanding why this is so surprising. For Jesus to have a group of women traveling with him as disciples was very unusual in those days and revealed that he was no mere conservative follower of the culture of his day.13 Jesus gave great dignity to women. He treated them as friends and was willing to sit with them and teach them, defying all traditions of the day.
As an example of his amazing attitude toward women, we see the way he gently showed a Samaritan woman the way of salvation. Here was a teacher who did not despise women. He did not see them merely as servants to wait on the men. On one occasion he honored Mary, Lazarus’ sister, for choosing to sit with him and learn like the men rather than bustling about preparing the food. As a result of Jesus’ radical acceptance, many women followed him as part of his group. Unlike the male disciples who all “fell away” and deserted Jesus, the women remained faithful, even when Jesus was being crucified.
It was in the events of the resurrection that Jesus gave the highest honor to women. In the world of first-century Israel, the testimony of women did not count for much, and they could not testify in court. It is astonishing that Jesus made his first post-resurrection appearance to women including Mary Magdalene, who had been demonized and is believed by many to have had a dubious moral past. To then appoint them as the first messengers of the good news that he was risen from the dead shows the total absence of prejudice in Jesus. This astonishing aspect of the resurrection story is very strong evidence for the genuineness of the account. No one would have invented an account so dependent on women as witnesses.
As the disciples scattered and were apparently nowhere to be seen, the women followed Joseph of Arimathea to see where Jesus would be buried. Their love for him was such that they wanted to care for his body. Only the arrival of the Sabbath could delay their tender care. As soon as it was practical, just before sunrise on Sunday morning, they rushed to the tomb. Approaching the tomb together were Mary Magdalene, another Mary, Salome, Joanna, and probably several other women. Their discussions on the way about how to move the stone were interrupted by an earthquake and an angel who appeared and dragged the stone away from the tomb. The soldiers who were guarding the tomb fainted, then fled back to the city. The women looked down, turning their heads from the frightening sight. It is possible that all of this occurred simultaneously with the actual resurrection of Jesus, although it is just as likely that his body had already vanished from the tomb, passing through the graveclothes and the rocks with equal ease . . .
The risen Lord of glory made his first appearance not on television or on YouTube, not before kings, not even before the future leaders of his church. Rather, he tenderly greeted a woman who, no doubt, felt that the meaning he had given to her life had been snatched away when he died. Jesus appointed her as a messenger to his disciples and then told her that he would soon ascend to be with God. READ MORE