A female perspective on the Resurrection of Jesus is desperately needed in our divided times. Though male myself, I have tried to see the resurrection of Jesus through the eyes of the women who went to his tomb as recorded in Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, and Luke 24:1-12. The following is my attempt to tell their story in a single narrative.
The Women’s Story
It was an early Sunday morning twenty centuries ago. Actually, we would probably describe it as night because the darkness had not yet been mixed with the faintest light of dawn. A small group of women–three or four–were on their way to do something that would break their hearts. They were going to finish preparing the body of their dear friend and honored teacher for his final burial. Over the past days, these women had experienced an emotional ups and downs. Just seven days earlier they had been convinced that their teacher, leader, friend was finally going to be acknowledged as the Messiah that their people had been expecting for centuries.
The Previous Week
Such excitement; such hope! Only a few days ago their expectations were all coming true. Now it had ended so suddenly, so tragically. The previous Sunday–just seven days ago–Jesus of Nazareth had arrived in Jerusalem to the acclaim of the cheering multitudes. He had entered the holy temple and called out the corruption of its leaders. The packed and eager crowds hung on his words. Though Jesus’ enemies had tried to discredit him, they were unable to counter his answers, and went away, publicly embarrassed. It had looked like the Messiah and his Kingdom had actually arrived at last.
Then on Thursday, Jesus and his closest followers sat down to the annual Passover meal–the traditional celebration of their people’s deliverance from slavery long ago. During that extended meal he taught them as usual about God’s coming Kingdom. But this time the teaching was more personal. Jesus addressed them as friends. It was hard to believe, but he had seemed to be saying that the covenant between God and Israel had been fulfilled, and that a new covenant was being established based on himself. There was talk of blood sealing this new covenant–but then he had always spoken in symbols and metaphors.
Later that night, though, the metaphor turned into reality. Jesus was arrested by his enemies. The next day, Friday, he was tried before the high Jewish council and, later, by the Roman governor. To the disbelief of his followers, he was quickly and unfairly condemned and executed after public humiliation and torture. Within forty-eight hours the women had gone from excitement and expectation to numbed grief and devastation.
The Lord is Dead
All day Saturday they were haunted by the memory of taking his shattered body off that cross. Along with two kind men–Joseph and Nicodemus–the only two members of the high council who sympathized with Jesus, they carried his body to a nearby tomb that Joseph donated in this hour of need. Together, they had done what they could to prepare Jesus’ body in the short time before the Sabbath came at sundown. The Romans sealed the tomb with a heavy stone and posted a guard.
Sunday: Everything Changes
Now the Sabbath was over and the little band of women were picking their way through dark lanes and streets of Jerusalem and then out of the city gate to the tomb where the final preparations would be made to lay their beloved master to his final rest.
Arrival. Shock. Confusion. Are we at the wrong place? No, this is surely the right place. How could we forget this scene of crucifixion so etched in our memories barely thirty-six hours ago? But something is dreadfully wrong. The tomb is standing open. That big, heavy stone door is laying way over there. How? There is a man sitting on it. Who is he? He is terrifying, powerful. Light seems to be radiating from him.
What is he saying? “Jesus isn’t here. He is alive from the dead.” What does that mean? We must look inside the tomb. Another man in shining clothes. An angel? ” Where is out master?” “See for yourselves,” he says: “He is not here.” We look at the niche where we placed his body, now just the empty shroud lays there.
Outside now. Bewildered. Where has he gone? “You there, sir. Are you the groundskeeper? What has happened to the body of our teacher? Where are the soldiers? Please help us!”
“Mary!” That familiar voice. Recognition! Tears. Fear. Joy. Alternate laughing and weeping. Questions. He is saying, “Don’t detain me. Don’t hold me–not yet. Run and tell my disciples that I am alive and I will meet them soon.” ” No, Lord. We don’t want to leave you. Don’t send us away. Alright. Yes Lord, we will go tell the others.”
The First Eyewitnesses
Stumbling, hurrying, running into the waking city as the light grows stronger. Pounding on the door of the safe house where the men are staying. We tell the story with words tumbling out of our mouths. Interrupting, talking one on top of another. Those infuriating blank looks from Peter and the others. More urgent attempts to make them understand. Questions. Disbelief. Off they go to see for themselves–just like men!
But oh the joy, the relief. Our hope is renewed. Morning has come. We sit down to an improvised breakfast. More talk. Is this a dream? More tears. Irrepressible joy. Nothing will ever be the same!