- Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 65:17-25
- Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
- 1 Corinthians 15:19-26 or Acts 10:34-43
- John 20:1-18 or Luke 24:1-12
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Alleluia! Alleluia! He is not here, but has risen! Alleluia!
Today we celebrate the most important thing in the history of all time. We celebrate the raising to life of Jesus of Nazareth - the Christ, and king. Now there are so many things we could talk about with regard to the resurrection - we could discuss the importance of its conquering power over death, and what that means for all of us who have placed our faith in Jesus... hint it means that death will have no hold on us just as it had no hold on Christ! We could talk about the significance of the crucifixion which lead to the resurrection - that moment in time when Jesus took upon himself the sin of the world and opened the door to a life in relationship with God for all those who seek it.
What I want to talk about though is the people who Jesus surrounded himself in his life, his death and his resurrection. Jesus, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, did not surround himself with nobility, he did not surround himself with upright individuals who were well respected. He did not surround himself with the righteous, but weak sinners.
Jesus closest companions along the way were a band of manual workers - fisherman - tax collectors, and even lower in the social order than tax collectors - women. Jesus opened the door to salvation to all of humanity, and to demonstrate that all were welcome, and that all were loved, he chose the weak and oppressed, the sinners and the poor to be his witnesses. Nothing speaks of this more than the role that women played in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
We discovered in our 4th Sunday of Advent readings (Luke 1:39-55) in December that the first proclamation of the the coming of the Messiah who will redeem Israel, and indeed the world, is anticipated and proclaimed, not by archangels or high priests or emperors or even ordained preachers. Rather, two marginalised, pregnant women—one young, poor, and unwed, the other far beyond the age to conceive—meet in the hill country of Judea to celebrate (and possibly commiserate about) their miraculous pregnancies.
Yes, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings is first acknowledged and proclaimed by two women... Two women who were no doubt the subject of much ridicule and stigma - Mary after all was an unwed pregnant teenager - consider how today's comparatively liberal society still denigrates and looks down on women in the same situation, and then consider how it would have been for her living in ancient Jewish society where such a situation was not just embarrassing - but shameful. Likewise consider how society still treats women who have reached their mature years without ever having had children - there is, shamefully in today's world still a stigma, a view that these women, are incomplete - not real women, or that they are simply selfish. Imagine then the views expressed of barren Elizabeth, who had not born any children, in a society where family and heirs were how your worth were expressed - Where a woman's worth especially was determined by how many sons she bore her husband.
Yet it was these two, ostracised, marginalised women whom God chose to bring the final prophet of the old covenant - John - and the fulfilment of that covenant - Jesus - into the world. It was these two women who first proclaimed the coming of the King! We see in this account the first tearing down of barriers to the Kingdom, the first signs of what the coming reign of Jesus will be like.
When we move forward to the cross, we find that at the foot of the cross, it is predominantly women who remain with Jesus, along with the Apostle John. Then we come to the tomb on that Sunday morning, and who do we find going to the tomb - before the Sun has risen? Yep, it is those who are the weakest, and most powerless in the society that yet again are chosen to be the first to hear, and then first to proclaim the news - Jesus is not in the tomb, He is risen!
Again and again Jesus chooses those who society would say are not worthy. Again and again God blesses those who are not the well to do, not the rich, not those that society would deem to be 'worthy' of association with God. So how does this relate to us today?
Well, let me break this to you gently - you aren't worthy. Neither am I - in fact not one person on this planet is 'good' enough to get into heaven. We can never - ever- earn our way into the eternal presence of God through our own actions, because we all sin - and even one sin means we cannot enter his presence.
Now, for the good part - just like the women in Jesus life, whom society deemed to be not worthy of real respect, and little more than objects, but whom Jesus deemed to be so valuable that he entrusted them with the greatest of honours, to be the first to proclaim his birth, to be present at his death and to be the first witnesses and proclaimers of his resurrection. Just like these women you are valuable in his sight, you are worthy of his love, and you can be redeemed and have your sin wiped away so that you can get to live eternally in the presence of God after all. All he asks is that you place your faith and hope in him.
I pray that you have had a blessed Easter celebration, and that your coming week is a good one.