He is victorious. The empty tomb declares that He is even victorious over death. The grave couldn’t hold Him. The resurrection of Christ was not disputable then because there were too many eye witnesses. And it remains indisputable today by those who call Jesus their King. This truth sits as a foundation of our faith.
Most of the time, when I read John’s account (chapter 20) of the empty tomb, I find myself in tears…first, because of the beauty and hope found in the resurrection and secondly, because of a very special Easter spent in Italy.
Prior to this vacation, I felt a bit bruised and battered spiritually. First, I was told by someone I respect tremendously that a woman should never be allowed to lead a small group in the church if men were attending. Qualifications did not matter. Next, I attended a small house church gathering where the discussion centered around women in ministry. There were quite a few who were adamant that women should not be allowed to preach. Pulpit prohibited!
I tried to stay quiet and listen, until one young woman who is crazy about Jesus, gently asked, “What happened between the Old Testament and the New? What about Deborah and other women in the Scriptures who were respected for their roles of leadership?” And the crowd came down hard, telling her to read the two verses in the New Testament prohibiting women from speaking in the church. They knew nothing of the context of the Scriptures they were using as reference. They were holding hard to what God said would happen as consequences for the sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). They failed to fight for the beautiful kingdom God created before the fall (Genesis 1 and 2).
I admired the young woman’s courage to ask questions that should be asked and I offered comments about context. Since then, I’ve learned more about what happened in the 400 years between Old Testament and New Testament. By the time, Jesus was born, women were held in the lowest of regard. For the most part, they were considered inferior and often walked in shame.
Until Jesus. He turned everything upside down. He lifted women up from positions of shame onto seats of honor. Every. Single. Time. Every encounter He had with a woman elevated her and expressed her value.
So…I arrived in Italy feeling downcast about how women are sometimes treated within the very community who should be fighting hardest for them.
We were traveling with dear friends. Over Saturday dinner, my husband and the other man said they wanted to go to Easter mass. I looked at them in shock and said, “We won’t understand a word being said!” They answered, “But, it’s Easter!”
I agreed but stubbornly told them, I would be taking my Bible with me so I could at least read the lesson. Yes, that was before we had access to the Bible on our cellphones, so I travelled with my Bible – even to other countries.
We sat behind the ropes in the cathedral 👆🏼separating church members from the tourists. I opened my Bible to the passage the priest was reading and discussing. I understood absolutely nothing that was being said except…the names of Jesus and Mary Magdalene. I heard their names repeated time and time again. And the tears started flowing.
I considered Mary Magdalene. Multiple demons had taken residence within her. She was deeply tormented by them until she encountered Jesus. She was radically set free and began faithfully following Jesus. She, along with other women, could be found at the foot of the cross when He breathed His last breath and they were also at His tomb. She surely felt lost, alone and frightened but most of all, her grief must have been consuming. She had sinned so much and had been totally, radically healed and forgiven. And the One who had given her life value and meaning was gone.
And that is where Jesus met her. Mary was the first person to experience the risen Christ. He spoke her name, “Mary.” And then He commissioned her to go and share the good news with the men and women.
John recorded this and almost 2000 years later, Mary’s name would be the only human name I would recognize in an Italian Easter service. My spirit would catch a glimpse of the Savior who lifted women out of shame into places of honor. I would remember that He revealed Himself as the risen Christ to a broken hearted woman first.
I was (and I am) so touched that Jesus met me when I was struggling. Across an ocean, on foreign soil, He lifted my chin, soothed by battered heart and reminded me that all people have purpose and are of value to Him – male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free. All are one in Him.
What a Savior!
Question to ponder:
Do I fight for “Thy kingdom come” as found in Genesis 1 and 2 or do I settle for the consequences of sin as defined in Genesis 3?