Monday, March 25, 2013

Females Preach the First Easter Sunday Message

by Gregory A. Johnson

By Alexander Ivanov (1806 - 1858) (Russian) (Painter, (Google Art Project:  Home - pic) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The most important day on the Christian calendar is Easter. The most important day of the Christian week is Sunday. Jesus died on Friday evening, and He was buried in a borrowed tomb before the start of the Jewish Sabbath at sunset. On that Sunday morning, Jesus arose triumphant over death, hell, and the grave. Easter Sunday is celebrated once per year, but on every Sunday Christian churches meet around the world to celebrate an empty tomb. He has risen!

All day Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, the women mourned the loss of Jesus. They went to bed that night in sorrow, not realizing that the next morning joy would replace it.

At dawn on Sunday morning, the women went to the tomb to minister to the body of Jesus. After seeing Jesus die a horrible and violent death, they were still fearful, but their loyalty to Jesus got them up that morning. They were determined to go to the tomb where they had seen Jesus' body placed. Their main concern that morning was how they were going to move the heavy stone, so that they could spread spices on the body; they would have no help from the men. The men were hiding while being full of fear and sorrow.

The wording is different in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, but all the writers of the Gospels declare that it was a group of women who went to the tomb at the dawn of the first day of the week. It is not recorded as to how many women were in the group. Matthew mentions Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who was the mother of James and Joses (Matthew 28:1). Mark also names Salome (Mark 16:1). Luke adds Joanna, the wife of Chuza, to the group (Luke 8:3).

Matthew's account: "Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.' So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples" (Matthew 28:1-8).

Take a moment and try to imagine the splendor of what these women experienced when they got to the tomb. As you ponder this spectacular happening, realize that the stone was not supernaturally rolled away to let Jesus out. There was no grave that could keep Jesus in; He is the resurrection and the life. The stone was moved away to let the women see that the tomb was empty.

These women witnessed Jesus' death, they witnessed His burial, and now they were witnessing the empty tomb. With everything they had seen since Friday, they were overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty. The angel tells them to not be afraid, they would see Jesus again. They left the empty tomb and the angel in "fear and great joy." The fear was still there, but now it was mixed with joy. Jesus did not want them to have any fear—just joy.

"And behold, Jesus met them and said, 'Greetings!' And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me'" (Matthew 28:9-10).

As did the angel, Jesus addressed their fear. He wants the joy to stay, and the fear to leave—His presence accomplishes this. Jesus is also concerned about the disciples' fear and wants the women to "go and tell" them of the resurrection and that they will see Him in Galilee, the headquarters for most of His ministry.

Notice that Jesus calls the disciples "brothers." Although they had forsaken Him at the cross and were hiding behind locked gates and doors, He still considers them His family. He loves them and will come to them to dispel all of their fears and anxieties. Although Jesus was able to deliver the message to His disciples Himself, He sent His female followers instead.

The Jews did not value the testimony of females, but these women had a story to tell; they had a sermon to preach. It was the female followers who were the first to be ordained and commissioned by Jesus to go preach concerning the empty tomb and the risen LORD.

It was appropriate that females preach that very first Easter Sunday message. Jesus had already utilized a woman to evangelize Samaria, instead of the disciples, who were too busy looking for food to minister to others. Now, it was only fitting that Jesus utilize women to be the first to preach—go and tell—about their resurrected LORD.

Excerpted from the book, The Kingdom According to Jesus by Gregory A. Johnson. Copyright © 2012 by Gregory A. Johnson. All rights reserved.

Know that you are loved,
gaj

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