Today is Easter Sunday, or known as “pascha” to most non-English speaking Christians around the world. We join Christians around the world, and throughout history, in remembering the culmination of God’s “passover plot” to liberate enslaved creation from sin and death through the Jubilee ministry, crucifixion and resurrection in the flesh of a Jew named Joshua/Jesus. It is the single defining moment since the dawn of creation. Creation’s redemption began that day through the dawn of God’s renewed creation. In fact we remember gratefully this every Lord’s Day.
Have you noticed that in the Gospels, all four, this singular event rests upon the testimony of a group of rather oppressed people, women. The Gospel of Luke goes out of its way to literally stress this remarkable fact. And it is an embarrassing fact at that. Yes, the first preachers of the Gospel of the Resurrected Messiah are … women. As in the Psalm, it is a “great company of women” who at “the Lord’s command” preach the “gospel” (Ps 68.11).
Several years ago biblical scholar Russ Dudrey published an article called “What the Writers Could Have Done Better.” He documents how controversial it was among non-believers (and even some believers!) in the ancient world that Christian claims rested upon the testimony of women.
What the writers could have done better, in the ancient world, was hide or just omit references to women, never mention them. But to not only mention them but to draw attention to the fact they are the ones who knew which tomb was Jesus’s in the first place, that they are the ones who went to the tomb on that fateful day, that they are the ones who received angelic visitation, that they are the ones who preached to the apostles themselves was simply beyond belief! Pagan critics, like Celsus, mercilessly castigated Christianity as an absurd religion of beguiled ignorant women. So, when Luke speaks of the women he does so purposefully. And it was not even necessary as a look at Paul’s summary in 1 Corinthians 15 makes crystal clear. The presence of women in Jesus’s ministry and especially at the tomb argued against Christianity in those early centuries.
But Luke (again all the Gospels bear witness) stresses the women. Luke does not just draw attention to them but he appears to be smacking us with a bat to get our attention. He forces us to see the women. He does this throughout his Gospel, but I begin at the cross in Luke 23 and go to the resurrection in chapter 24. Note these texts. By this time the Twelve male disciples of Jesus had already fled and abandoned the Lord.
“A great number of the people followed him, and among them were the women …” (23.27)
“those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance and watched these things” (23.49)
“The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, they [the women] saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they [the women] returned, and prepared spices and ointments.” (23.55-56)
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women, … they found the stone rolled away … but when they went in, they did not find the body.” (24.1-3)
“the women were terrified [angel speaks to the women]” (24.5).
“When they [women] returned from the tomb, they [the women] told these things to the Eleven, and to the others.” (24.9).
Luke then goes out of his way to name the women
“It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women who told these things to the apostles. But these words seemed to them like an idle tale and they [the apostles] did not believe them” (24.9-11)
“Moreover, some women of our group astounded us” (24.22)
“Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said” (24.24).
In the space of chapter, Luke stresses “the women” nearly a dozen times. Why? Because through the Jubilee ministry and resurrection of Jesus the curse has been removed. Men, not God, declared women to be inferior, unfit, unreliable, less than rational … and Luke comes along and says the Gospel message itself rests upon the faithfulness of women!
The same women that embraced the scandal of following Jesus camping around Galilee (8.1-3 contains the same names as 24.19) are the ones who were faithful to the bitter end.
Peter ran away, Mary Magdalene did not.
John did not go to the tomb, Joanna did.
Matthew did not talk to the angels and find the empty tomb but a whole troop of faithful women did.
Paul was nowhere to be found.
It was the women who preached, who announced, the resurrection, to the apostles themselves. All four Gospels testify to this but Luke is the one who rubs our noses in it. And while the pagans scoffed, because women supposedly could not be entrusted with such earth-shattering authority and news, the writers tell us that Christian faith itself rests upon the Easter morning experience of women from Galilee.
The end of the Gospel of Luke bears witness to Luke’s inspired understanding of the Hebrew Bible … women, old ones and young ones, will become prophets in the new world along with men. Men and women are equal in the grace saturated new world.
One page away, in Luke’s book, we read this amazing quotation whose emphasis is actually on every page of the Gospel.
“I will pour out my Spirit upon ALL flesh,
and your sons and your daughters
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves,
both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit
and they shall prophesy”
This is why Luke goes out of his way to stress “the women” because even two thousand years later some men still hold the same cursed view of women that dominates so much of human relationships. But Jesus in his resurrection brought a redeemed world into existence and the church is supposed to be the redeemed world on display before the fallen world.
Welcome to God’s Brave New World.