By Rev. Dr. George Hancock-Stefan
Central Baptist Church
Atlantic Highlands, NJ
Photography by Marie ~ As of July 20, 2012 ~ 1122 Views
WOMEN – THE LAST AT THE CROSS; THE FIRST AT THE TOMB
On Thursday evening when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mark and Matthew tell us that all the disciples deserted Jesus and fled. (Mark 14:50, Mt. 26:56B) We do not find any women present at the Lord�s Supper or in the Garden. Most likely they were not in the Garden because of the Jewish custom regarding the presence of women outside of the house at night.
However, on Friday at the foot of the cross, we find only one disciple, John, and many women. All four gospel writers are careful to delineate the presence of the women at the cross.
Matthew 27:55-56 – Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee�s sons.
Mark 15:40-41 – Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
Luke 23:49 – But those who knew him, including the women who followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. 55: The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
John 19:25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother�s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, �Dear woman, here is your son,� and to the disciple: �Here is your mother.� From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.
There is a possibility that after John and Mary left, the other women moved at a distance from the cross, but were able to hear the voice of Jesus and the testimony of the centurion: �Surely he was the Son of God� (Mt. 27:54). They stayed until the body was placed in the tomb, so that they would return first thing on Sunday morning to anoint the body.
Instead of finding the body, they found the tomb open, and the angels seated at the entrance to the tomb. In the chronology of the appearances of the risen Lord on Easter Sunday, the women came first. There were five appearances on Easter Sunday. The first appearance of Jesus was to Mary Magdalene (Mark 16:9-11, John 20:11-18). The second appearance was to the other women from the cross – Mary, mother of James, Salome and Joanna (Matthew 28:8-10). The third appearance of the Lord was to Peter, which was the first appearance to one of the disciples (1 Cor. 15:5). The fourth appearance was to the two going to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13, Luke 24:13-32). The fifth appearance on Easter Sunday was to the Ten Apostles because Thomas was absent (Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-25).
One should not make too much of the appearance order, but one should not either dismiss it as of no significance at all. Is there a possibility that Jesus blessed the faithfulness of the women by making them to be the first ones to see him raised from the dead? All the men had deserted him and fled, but the women stayed with him through his sufferings, his death, his burial and also his resurrection. Jesus, though, was also doing something that elevated the position of the women. In the Jewish context, women were not allowed to be witnesses, because they were not considered credible. Jesus revealed himself first to women and told them to go and tell Peter and others that He is alive. He also chastised his disciples because they did not believe the women (Mk 16:14, Luke 24:11).
The argument that God only wants men to be preachers is pretty weak in view of the resurrection witnesses. If Jesus Christ only wanted men for witnesses, one has to assume that he made two faulty appearances on Easter Sunday. In fact Paul described his gospel as Jesus crucified, buried and raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. Those women who took care of the needs of Jesus in Galilee and Jerusalem fitted the requirements to proclaim the good news perfectly.
Isn�t it strange that 2000 years later there are still so many pulpits in which the women are not allowed to proclaim the resurrection message for the simple fact that they are women? Guess we have that problem, because the risen Lord did not.