I love Easter Sunday, especially the early morning hours. Every year I get up while it’s still dark and spend some time imagining what that first Easter Sunday must have been like, starting with deep grief and fear, then moving to confusion, then astonishment and, finally, joy. I try to put myself in the women’s place, as they walk through the dim light of early dawn, carrying spices, planning to go to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body for a proper burial. All their hopes had been dashed, and their friend, their teacher, the one in whom they had wholeheartedly trusted, was dead.
They get to the cemetery and find that his grave has been violated, opened; his body is not there! And then an angel appears (!) and tells them that Jesus isn’t there, that he has risen? What could that mean, risen? Jesus is dead; he died a horrible death, beaten and mutilated, and killed. They saw it happen and saw his dead body.
And then the angel tells them to go tell the disciples that Jesus has risen. Like the disciples are really going believe that! Men wouldn’t take a woman’s word for anything in that time and place in history. Women weren’t considered reliable witnesses and their words weren’t admissible as testimony in court. And yet, these women are the first ones to receive the announcement that Jesus has risen. And then they are the first ones to whom the risen Jesus appeared! I think often about what that says to our world about how Jesus esteems women…
And now these women, afraid and yet filled with joy, have a message to carry to the disciples, a message that resonates through centuries and cultures, a message I meditated on this morning as birds sang their joy in the new day and that I will continue to ponder for many mornings when I rise early and look out at the new light of dawn breaking in and dispersing the dark of night.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.