The Message in Easter

April 26, 2011 at 11:38 pm 1 comment

[ C ] Caravaggio - Martha and Mary Magdalene (...

Image by centralasian via Flickr

Matthew 28:1-10After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” (NIV)

This Sunday I celebrated Easter at church. It was great. The Mr. Brewsters and I went to MCC in Austin. It’s the second time I’ve been. Lots of churches in Austin claim to be inclusive, but this one may be the first where I’ve actually seen gay and lesbian couples and transgenders free and welcome to worship. They are comfortable here, and it’s a loving, affirming environment.

Also, this is a true Christian church. The theology is sound. It’s not all over the map. It’s not new age. It’s not read Eckhart Tolle and the Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra and believe whatever you want to believe like the Luby’s Cafeteria of theology — but neither is it dogmatic. And it seems to get the emphasis of Christianity just right. It’s about the love, the faith. We can debate and overthink the miracle of Christ until we suck all the joy right out of it, and that doesn’t make us any different from the atheists.

About a week ago a young man who writes his own very funny blog left a comment on a post of mine about Early Christianity, and he noticed that I seem to be concerned with women’s issues. He asked me to expound upon the significance of Jesus’ appearing to the women on Easter. And I think I’m ready to address that issue now.

First off, one of the things we know about Jesus and his ministry is that he was chiefly concerned with the “little people,” if you will. He ministered to people that his society shunned. In some cases these people were truly corrupt individuals and in other cases they were just people who were needlessly suffering.

Regardless of whether the person’s status in society was of his own making or simply a byproduct of blind misfortune, Jesus ministered to them all. He shook hands and broke bread with tax collectors and lepers and prostitutes.  If He were on this earth ministering today, He would be ministering to the gays and the transgender and the homeless and the crack addicts and AIDS victims and, yes, the prostitutes. Some things never change. Jesus said that the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Women, in Jesus’ time, as they still are in many Asian and African and Latin American countries, were considered to be second-class citizens. Actually, that’s a fallacy. They were literally considered property, like cattle or children. That Jesus ministered to women and that some of his most faithful disciples were female should come as no surprise. They might not be listed in our Bibles as one of the twelve “chosen” apostles, but make no mistake that Mary and Martha and Mary Magdalene were just as devoted to Jesus as any of the men. In fact, the women did not deny Jesus after His death; it was the men who did that.

On the morning that our Lord rose from the dead and the angel rolled away the stone, the women were coming to attend to Him.  This was woman’s work, preparing a body for burial. There is irony in the fact that the first eyewitnesses to the resurrection were women. This is because women in those times were not considered to be reliable witnesses. They could not give testimony in a court of law; it would not have been accepted.

This explains why, when the women obeyed the command of the angel and went to tell Jesus’ disciples that he was alive, they initially refused to believe. In fact, they would not believe the resurrection until they saw the empty tomb for themselves. And one of them would withhold his faith until he was able to literally poke a finger through the Lord’s wounds. But the women, faced with a rolled stone, an empty tomb, and an angel, believed. They didn’t question it. They didn’t ask for proof. They didn’t ask the angel how he pulled off that trick. When the angel offered a wholly implausible, insane explanation, they accepted the word of the angel without question.

God is the master architect. Don’t mistakenly think that the women coming upon the Lord’s empty tomb was by happenstance. The women were meant to be the bearers of the Good News, the most important and defining brick in the mosaic of our faith, the resurrection that is definitive proof of our salvation. What an honor, if you think about it. The last shall be first.

Entry filed under: Chrisitanity, Ethics, Faith, Gay Rights, History, Human Rights, Love, Social Commentary, The Holy Bible, Theology, Women's Rights. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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