Women in ministry, part 3: the women at the tomb

This is the third installment of a series on women in ministry.

Early every Sunday morning, men all across our country rise and go to work.  These men are pastors.  They come to their pulpits to present the good news that Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and came back to life.  This ritual is repeated Sunday after Sunday.

I want to go back to the very beginning, to that first Sunday where this good news was proclaimed.  Who were the first ones to tell of Jesus’ death and resurrection?

In Luke 24, we find a group of women who decided to go honor their leader, Jesus, who was crucified three days before.  Much to their surprise, the stone was rolled away and the body was gone.  They didn’t have much time to panic before two shiny men appeared and uttered those famous words: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?  He is not here; he has risen!”

These angels proceeded to remind the women of Jesus’ words.  He was to be handed over, he was to be crucified, and then on the third day, he would rise again.

Handed over….crucified….resurrected….what does all this mean?

Suddenly, things must have clicked for these women.  This is a huge moment in history.  These women were the first to start to piece together the meaning of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  They immediately went and told these things to the men.  These women, you see, preached. 

One of those women, Mary Magdalene, gets spotlighted in the book of John.  The resurrection account in John 20 has Mary as the first to see the resurrected Christ.  After a brief interaction with him, she is commissioned: “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father.  Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”  She proceeds to go to the disciples and proclaims, “I have seen the Lord!”

Exactly what constitutes an “apostle” in the New Testament is not simple to nail down, but it is generally understood that an apostle is someone who meets 2 criteria: someone who has seen the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1) and someone who is commissioned with a message.  It’s interesting; Mary fits both of those criteria.

Maybe this is why the medieval Church began referring to Mary as apostolarum apostola – “Apostle to the apostles.”  So the next Sunday morning that you hear the phrase “he is risen!”, don’t forget who the first humans were to utter such a magnificent truth.

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