Easter Women – A Resurrection Sunday Reflection
* This is not by any means an exegetical piece. It is more in the nature of a fictitious retelling of the events of Friday and Sunday from the imagined perspective of the women at the tomb and cross. Some details come directly from Scripture, some are creative licence ... Sunday morning creeps in. Dawn is only just now touching the horizon pink, but already they are on their way – the women who loved Jesus. They are no weaklings, these women. In defiance of all that their culture and religion says about their “role” in life, of all the proprieties that go with being female, of all the expectations of their parents, husbands or children, they have followed Him. Sat at His feet, listened to His teachings, asked deep questions about God and life and purpose…learned from Him as true disciples. During these weeks, months and years, each one has been so deeply humbled and unbelievably elated. For women from a culture which largely dismissed and ignored them, well, this experience of walking as disciples of Rabbi Jesus had brought a richness of life they had never anticipated.
They had, at some point, pondered together that curious and glorious statement of Hagar in the Old Testament, when she gave a name to God – “You Are the God Who Sees Me.” They had come to know that this Rabbi was no mere man, but was truly Immanuel, God With Us. And, they whispered to one another, these women accustomed to invisibility in a man’s world, this Man-God truly was the God Who Sees Us. He knew their frailties and failures more than any human being could, and yet He saw so much more – their potential, their gifts, their worth, the cry of their hearts.
And yet now…the unthinkable. The events of the past two days…oh, this situation had been painful beyond belief. Standing at the foot of the cross on Friday afternoon, cheeks wet with tears, they thought perhaps they would never breathe again. It seemed as though with the slipping away of His life, as He called out, “It is finished,” their lives had somehow been whisked away. Finished, indeed. They knew death. It was women’s work, the laying out of the dead bodies. They had all done it before, and death was no stranger to them. They knew its permanence, its coldness.
Yes, it is finished…no dodging this cold, hard reality. Accept it and find a way to move on, back to “real life” – what else could they do? But…no, not yet. Not yet. Indulgent emotion, perhaps, but for the One who had given them so much, there was no way they could leave Him until they had mourned properly and somehow come to understand how One who was God With Us could become this broken, empty corpse of a human being.
So, here they are, at daybreak, those women of strength, who “came from Galilee to care for his needs” (Matt 27:55), ready to do that one very last thing to demonstrate their devotion to Jesus, and their close relationship with Him. They are sombre, silent, with no sound between them except the gentle flup-flup of sandals on the dirt road. What is there to say on a day like this? To speak would only be to invite more tears than they have already shed, both together and alone. Eyes filled with tears, hearts full of pain, arms filled with a cumbersome load of spices – on they went, one foot in front of the other, as they followed the path to the garden tomb. More than one sent the only little prayer of gratitude they could bring themselves to offer – God, bless Joseph for the provision of this tomb! Our Jesus may have suffered an undignified death, but there will be dignity befitting who He was in His death, at least. And if bringing more spices is all I can do for you, my Lord, then that is what I will do. This one little thing, Lord…here it is, my offering of love.
The path ends as they come to the tomb. Nothing could have prepared them for what came next. Precious spices tumbled to the ground as a violent earthquake sent them stumbling. Eyes were shielded, as the bright and glowing presence of the angel of the Lord appeared before them. For a second they were distracted from the celestial beings, as the guards tumbled down in a dead faint. Brave centurions of the Emperor, huh? Courage today is not clad in studded battle sandals, greaves and helmet. Courage today wears the common, woven cotton dress and headscarf of ordinary peasant women. While the guards lay prostrate and senseless, the women stand before the angel, trusting and yet barely believing the evidence of their senses. That gossamer thread of belief would be twisted into a strong cord of hope as the angel messenger’s words sunk in. “He is not here, he is risen, just as he said.” Just. As. He. Said.
Surely it could not be so? But…well, this was their Jesus, after all. They had seen him conquer death before – one minute, they had been joining the weeping and wailing of Jairus’s household, and moments later, they shared tears of joy as the dead girl lived again. And they had joined the throng before Lazarus’s tomb, creeping forward to put arms around Martha and Mary of Bethany. “I am the resurrection and the life,” He had said then, as the four days dead man walked.
How, though, could He possibly raise Himself? But oh, if anyone could possibly do such a thing, He – He! – was the One to do it. Could they dare to even imagine the angel’s words could be true? With Jesus, they had dared to hope many things. And so, clinging tightly to that cord of hope, with trust and shock, joy and disbelief, confusion and amazement warring in their hearts and minds, they did the only thing they could do. They turned and ran – not from the angel in fear, but to the disciples with joy. Precious spices lay spilled on the ground, unheeded, but a so-much-more precious message was now carried on their lips.
He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Bronwen Speedie is the founder of the Western Australian-based ministry, God's Design-Perth, which seeks to bring clarity, healing, and encouragement through the biblical message of the equality of men and women. She is the author of a Bible study and resource kit about biblical equality titled, Men and Women: God's Design, and blogs at www.godsdesignperth.org. While writing, working full time as a chaplain, and parenting keep her busy, Bronwen also manages to make time for activities that bring her joy, like singing in an acappella choir and gardening (presumably by using a Time Turner borrowed from Hermione Granger).