Luke 24:1-12 was the sermon text for yesterday’s Easter service at College Park Baptist Church. Reading this, you’ll notice that the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were women. If you go back one chapter to the account of his crucifixion and death, you’ll notice that women were the witnesses to that event, too. In fact, there is a male presence only in the Gospel of John. My question today is why? Why were women there when no one else was?
The obvious feminist answer is that women are the stronger gender. And, in many ways, they are. Oh, not physically, of course; but emotionally and spiritually, women kick men’s asses. Women actually feel and express their emotions and, therefore are much more in tune with them. Meanwhile, we men have been taught all our lives that feeling, much less expressing, emotion is a bad thing. If you cry, there’s something wrong with you, so cram those feelings down and don’t even acknowledge them. This acceptance of emotions gives women a leg up on men when it comes to the spiritual. They have the ability to go from imminently practical to totally emotional (in a good way) in the blink of eye. I envy that. Like most men, letting go of logic is difficult for me and if there’s nothing spiritual about logic. But, I don’t think the “stronger gender” argument is all that’s at play here.
I believe that these women stuck by Jesus to the bitter end because they were much more experienced with adversity than their male counterparts. Life wasn’t easy for any peasant in first century Palestine, but women had it particularly rough. A woman was a second-class citizen, barely more than livestock to traded away to a husband not of her choosing, her was worth determined by her reproductive ability and she could be divorced at will by that husband solely on his word. It was not a good time to be a woman. That they would follow Jesus is not surprising, as he offered hope to the oppressed and women definitely fit that description.
When the disciple’s world crumbled around them with Jesus’ arrest, trial and execution, the men were devastated. They were so sure that Jesus was the messiah come to rescue them from Roman oppression and, logically, you can’t do much rescuing if you’re dead. Even Peter, whose name came from his rock-like faith, abandoned his friend and rabbi. But the women?They stayed true and saw it through until the end. And, when he rose on third day, they were the first to see that. I suppose you could consider it a reward for their faithfulness. If it was a reward, it wasn’t much of one as their tale of the empty tomb was discounted as nonsense by all of the men hiding out in the aftermath of that awful day. All the men but Peter, that is. He still had enough hope to believe it might not all be over, even if he didn’t understand what happened.
During this year’s Maundy Thursday service, Pope Francis washed the feet of two young women at a Rome youth prison. This act earned him the ire of traditionalists because, according to the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship “only chosen men” can be included in this rite. Considering all that women have done, and will continue to do for the Christian faith, the words of College Park pastor ring true: “How dare they exclude the women.”