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.
2 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.3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 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.”
8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:1-10 NIV