The Women in Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection [Part V]

sealed tomb

What does John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” [John 20:2b], have to say about the women at the empty tomb and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? Does John put all the information found in the Synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark, Luke] together in a neat chronological ordered package, since John wrote his Gospel last [around A.D. 85]? It would be nice to wrap this up in a box tied up with ribbons and bows, wouldn’t it? However, just as the three previous Gospels, John presents his narrative with his own observations, sharing his unique insights and focusing on what he believed was important to emphasize. It is true that “All Scripture is inspired by God” [II Timothy 3:16a]. It’s also true that the Holy Spirit used the unique personality of each Gospel writer to relay different perspectives concerning the women at the empty tomb and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

mary magdalene with candle

jesus has risen

Let’s examine what John’s Gospel says in chapter 20:1-10. The narrative starts just like the other three Gospels: “Now on the first day of the week….while it was dark” However, Mary Magdalene is the only woman mentioned who goes to the tomb and sees the humungous stone rolled away from the entrance. Instantly [or so it seems], Mary Magdalene runs to Peter and John to tell them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and WE do not know where they have laid Him.” [The pronoun “WE” indicates that Mary Magdalene was accompanied or was met by other women going to Jesus’ tomb.]

john and peter running

Next, Peter and John have a foot race to the tomb and Mary Magdalene follows. Peter was first to enter the empty tomb and saw “the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place of its own.” [It was the custom in those days for the master who is leaving his dinner but intends to return, to leave his napkin folded at his place, so that his servant would know that he was returning. When he was finished with his meal the master would just drop the napkin unfolded at his place. In the same way, the folded face cloth was a sign that Jesus was not finished because HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD!] After awhile John, who reached the tomb first, but stayed outside, finally went into the tomb, “and he believed.” What did they believe? John said they believed, yet they “went back to their homes.” Their belief was not all there yet, but their belief would grow as they began to “understand the Scripture, that [Jesus] must rise from the dead.” John and Peter were beginning to believe Jesus and what He said to them was making a little more sense because of Mary Magdalene’s “WAKE-UP CALL!” Sometimes, not always, some men need a little push to get out of their “Man-Cave“ and “keep on keeping on” and who better to do this than a woman? The opposite is also true. Men and women need to work together to spread the GOOD NEWS that JESUS IS ALIVE and wants to make a difference in people’s lives.

mary and peter and john

The Gospel of John is often called, “The Gospel of Belief.” An excellent example of a growing “belief” or “faith” is found in the life of Mary Magdalene. She, along with other women disciples heard Jesus’ teachings and watched Him live them out. They also watched Him die on the cross and saw where His body was laid. Mary Magdalene was the first one to rise early in the morning to go to Jesus tomb. Other women followed her lead. She got men to follow her lead. Even when the others left for home, she lingered at the empty tomb, hoping that something would happen. She had a faith that would not die. This is what John’s Gospel records when she was alone at the empty tomb:

mary weeping

“But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, ‘Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’ Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?’ Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you know where they carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’ She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, ‘Rabboni!’ [which means Teacher]. Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’ Mary Magdalene went to announce to the disciples, ‘I HAVE SEEN THE LORD’ – and that He said these things to her.” That very evening, what Mary Magdalene told the disciples came true – Jesus appeared to them ALIVE [John 20:11-18 and 23].

Magdenlena

Those of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior and Lord have no trouble believing in the four Gospel accounts concerning the women at the empty tomb and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus died on the cross to take care of our sins, as well as the sins of the world [Read John 3:16], and that He defeated death by RISING FROM THE DEAD AND IS ALIVE FOREVERMORE. Jesus‘ DEATH and RESURRECTION is the focus of our faith and is most important to us. In the four Gospels we also learn about the women disciples and their sacrificial service, their perseverance and endurance, their loyalty and trust, their bravery, as well as their leadership qualities. When there were no men to lead the way, women like Mary Magdalene and the other Marys and Joanna and Salome encouraged their brothers to believe that Jesus was alive. Jesus being alive made the difference and Christianity would spread all over the World.

Joyful Jesus

For the skeptics out there who read the four Gospel accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus and the women who first discovered the empty tomb, they have more questions they want answered. Do you believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ just as the women did or do you believe that finding out how many angels and women were there at empty tomb is essential to believing? Skeptics have so many questions. Let’s face it; skeptics are always gong to be skeptical. But those who believe in Jesus Christ will “walk by faith, not by sight” [II Corinthians 5:7]. We will trust in what the Bible says and learn important truths without worrying about “every jot and tittle.” As a woman, I have much to learn from Mary Magdalene and the other women disciples. How about you?

To be continued…

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The Women in Jesus’ Life, Death and Resurrection [Part IV]

joseph of arimathea

What in the world were they thinking? Did their grief over Jesus’ death cloud their judgment? Were they acting impulsively “as women tend to do?” The women disciples in Jesus’ life were faithful and courageous followers during His life and in His death. In PART III, we left the women watching Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, both Jesus’ disciples, prepare Jesus’ body for burial with seventy-five pounds of spices and they wrapped the body with linen cloths. They placed the body in Joseph’s new tomb and rolled a giant boulder in front of the entrance [Read Mt 27:57-61, Mk. 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42]. Didn’t Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses [See Mark 15:47] know about the amount of spices on the body? Didn’t they remember the giant stone? Two women could not roll that stone away, could they?

sealed tomb

I believe the women did not stop and think about the obstacles in the way. Instead, they focused on their goal. That goal was to do one more kindness for Jesus by going to the tomb where Jesus’ body lay and finish the burial preparations, as was the Jewish custom. Yes, Joseph and Nicodemus did prepare Jesus’ body “on the day of Preparation, that is the day before the Sabbath” [read Mark 15:42]. Because it was almost the Sabbath, when all work had to cease, these two men might have been in a hurry to get things done, in order to place Jesus in the new tomb, on the same day Jesus died, as was the custom. The women did not act impulsively. Luke 23:55-56 records, “The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. Then they returned [home] and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” To these women this Sabbath rest must have felt like the longest Sabbath rest ever! But, it was worth the wait!

The women did rest on the Sabbath, but they didn’t waste any time the day after the Sabbath. All four Gospels give different details and together they paint one big picture of what happened on that awesome day!

two women

“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary [mother of Joses] went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen as He said. Come see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him…’ So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his [men] disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me’” [Matthew 28:1-10].

The Gospel of Mark adds a few more details and has its own uniqueness:

angels and women at empty tomb

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the MOTHER OF JAMES, and SALOME BOUGHT SPICES, SO THAT THEY MIGHT GO AND ANOINT HIM [JESUS]. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. AND THEY SAID TO ONE ANOTHER, ‘WHO WILL ROLL AWAY THE STONE?’ And looking up, they saw the stone had been rolled back – it was very large. AND ENTERING THE TOMB, THEY SAW A YOUNG MAN SITTING ON THE RIGHT SIDE, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.’ AND THEY WENT OUT AND FLED FROM THE TOMB, FOR TREMBLING AND ASTONISHMENT HAD SEIZED THEM, AND THEY SAID NOTHING TO ANYONE, FOR THEY WERE AFRAID’” [Mark 16:1-8].

There are also verses in Mark [in our Bibles] that were not in the earliest manuscripts. For instance:

Jesus with Mary

“Now when He [Jesus] rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that He was alive, and had been seen by her, they would not believe it” [vv. 9-11]

TWO ANGELS IN TOMB

In Luke’s account of the Resurrection of Jesus [24:1-12], the main details are similar. On the first day of the week, the women left very early in the morning and brought spices to the tomb [v.1]. The women found the stone rolled away [v. 2] and did not find Jesus body in the tomb [v. 3]. But, instead of one angel or young man, “TWO MEN STOOD BY THEM IS DAZZLING APPAREL” [v. 4]. The two men in dazzling apparel knew the women were afraid [v. 5], so they encouraged them with these words: “Why do you seek 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 delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise” [vv. 5b-7]. The women did remember and returned “to the eleven disciples and all the rest” [v. 9]. In Luke’s account of the Resurrection, he identifies the women to be Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James “and other women with them who told these things to the apostles” [v. 10]. Luke wrote that THE APOSTLES DID NOT BELIEVE THE WOMEN AND SAID THAT “THESE WORDS SEEMED TO THEM AN IDLE TALE” [v. 11]. All except PETER wanted to see for himself and “ROSE AND RAN TO THE TOMB; STOOPING AND LOOKING IN, HE SAW THE LINEN CLOTHS BY THEMSELVES; AND HE WENT HOME MARVELING AT WHAT HAD HAPPENED” [v. 12]. John’s Gospel includes John and Peter running to the tomb [Read John 20:1-10].

PETER AND JOHN

What about John and his Gospel? Surely John [“the disciple whom Jesus loved”] would be able to present the events of the Resurrection of Jesus in chronological order and also tie up loose ends; wouldn’t he? It’s important to get all the facts right, isn’t it?

To be continued…

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