When Jesus was crucified, many of his followers abandoned him. Most of those who remained were women who watched from a distance as he died and was buried. Roman guards were stationed outside the tomb to prevent any attempt to steal the body. We can imagine the fear and devastation Jesus’ followers must have felt, particularly the women who remained faithfully watchful and attentive.
Three days later, after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary returned to the tomb (Matthew 28), and an angel appeared to them telling them that Jesus had risen from the dead. As the women hurried away filled with fear and joy, they encountered Jesus and their joy was made complete. He instructed them to go to his other disciples so that they could share in this good news.
Meanwhile, the guards went into the city to report what had happened, and that the body was missing. The religious and military powers devised a plan to say that Jesus’ disciples stole his body away in the night. Matthew tells us that “this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day” (Matthew 28:15). Many people took this message to heart, accepted it, and assumed Jesus’ life was over, and his body stolen.
It is interesting to see that Jesus sends women to report this to the disciples. In that society and time, women were not considered reliable witnesses, yet Jesus chose to appear to them first, and to give him his first instructions after the resurrection. At the same time, the religious-military powers tried to counter the resurrection, using their platform and influence to propagate an alternative message.
Today, as believers, we accept the resurrection as a true event. But would we accept it if we were faced with this dilemma 2000 years ago? Would we accept the word of a marginalized part of society, women, and believe their message that Jesus is alive? Or would we accept the message of the powers-that-be, the religious and military establishment, those who said Jesus was dead, and his body was stolen? What would we do if faced with such conflicting information?
In our time we continue to be faced with conflicting information, hopelessness, and a message of doubt from our political establishment that wants to maintain its exclusive privileges. This narrative of hopelessness is not the only narrative however. We know there is hope, that Jesus is still changing lives, and that he seeks for us to be in fellowship with one another.
I am encouraged by our growing women’s ministry, and the women in Musalaha who faithfully meet with and pray for each other in spite of the negative messages coming from our societies, and the disparaging attacks and intimidation from some in our own communities. Like the women who met Jesus and ran to bring his message to others, these women return to their own communities with the message of reconciliation.
How can we respond today, in light of the conflicting messages of hope and hopelessness? We can continue to meet together, to talk of God’s goodness to us, and to be a testimony of the unity we have because of Jesus’ death and resurrection. When Jesus appeared to the women after his resurrection, they sat at his feet and worshiped him. But the story does not end here because Jesus told them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell…” As we remember what Jesus has done for us, let us not stop by only sitting at his feet. Let us fearlessly bring his message to those around us, for it is a message of power, a message of hope.
By Salim J. Munayer, Phd.