Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
1 Corinthians 15:19-26
April 21, 2019
Without Women, We Would Not Know
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Alleluia, Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! I cannot tell you how happy I am to say this greeting to you. Alleluia, Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! For six weeks, we have been on this journey together. Six weeks of fasting from these words. Fasting so that we might focus on our own spiritual well-being. Fasting so that this moment, this holy moment that we have experience this morning, can truly be transformative.
Do you come like the women to tomb this morning? Do you come bearing spices because that is what the law requires? I don’t know about you but I find that to be a pretty weird thing to do especially in light of all the rules that forbid touching a dead body. So, I did a little digging and according to the Social Science Commentary, "In the Roman World, providing proper burial was one of the most important obligations of contractual friendship. Throughout the Mediterranean world it was one of the strongest obligations of family members. That Joseph of Arimathea undertakes the obligation of providing a tomb indicates that he considered himself a member of Jesus' surrogate family group" [p. 409]. That the women bring spices indicate they consider themselves to be surrogate family members of Jesus. "Taking spices to a tomb is a gesture of family members" [p. 410].” The women are doing exactly what they are suppose to be doing, if they were dealing with anyone other than a guy who doesn’t do well staying dead. They appear shocked at the words from two men in dazzling white clothes yet, Jesus told them three times before this that the Son of man must be handed over to the Chief priest and scribes, be crucified, and on the third day rise from the grave. They have heard this message, yet, they forgot.
“In Luke the "two men in gleaming clothes" do not give words of comfort as they do in the other gospels. Matthew and Mark say something to the affect, "Do not be afraid. You are seeking Jesus [of Nazareth] who was crucified. He is not here" Rather, in Luke’s recount, the two men rebuke the women with their question: "Why are you seeking the living among the dead?’" The women do not believed that Jesus could be raised from the dead. Instead, “the women were dutifully serving Jesus in the best way they knew. They had prepared spices to anoint his body and had gone to the tomb early to finish the burial customs. They have come to fulfill their solemn obligation as a friend and surrogate family member, yet they are met with challenge, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"
The two men chide not just women, but they chide us a bit too. I think we all have come to the tomb this morning unsure what we are going to find. What is worship on Easter Sunday in 2022 going to be like? These two new pastors keep on changing everything… we all need this chiding… But notice that angels do not take the women’s spices and kick them out—instead, the two men give the women a quick refresher on the passion predictions of Jesus. They remind the women, and us as well, of the prediction Jesus made three times before. And through the refresher, The women remember and they believe. They then do the work of the church. They go back and tell the others that he is not dead. The group, made up of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women—all women—go back and tell the other disciples what has happen. They preach the good news. They do exactly what I and thousands of others preachers are doing this morning. They tell the others that Jesus is not dead. And of course, the disciples believe and they throw a huge party with lots of confetti and pancakes...singing, “Jesus Christ is risen today.”
Verse 11: “But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” The word “idle” is an interesting word in Greek. λεροσ (lay’-ros) occurs only once in the entire Bible. Here in this book; in this verse. An idle tale. The other traditional way translating λεροσ (lay’-ros) is to say “non-sense”. Some of the non-traditional ways include saying garbage, fake news, gossip. The men of the group, upon hearing the good news that we so joyful proclaim this day, do not believe what the women say. They think that the women are just trying to start something with gossip. Luke’s gospel is often recognized as elevating women and women’s voices, and here at this key moment, the disciples view their testimony, their good news, as mere gossip? That sounds so strange and weird…
Jurgen Moltman, a theologian who has written many books including one that I had to read for seminary called, “The crucified God” once said, “Without women preachers, we would have no knowledge of the resurrection.” How is it possible that God would use these women to proclaim the good news and they not instantly believe? What is Luke trying to say?
Notice, what do the women do after the men do not believe them? If this would have been me, I probably would have left, called them a bunch of morons, and went and told people who would actually take me serious. But do the women walk out of the house? Do they call them a bunch of morons? No, the women do exactly what they were sent to do. They don’t give up on the other disciples. They stay with them and try to help them remember just as the two at the tomb helped them remember the words of Jesus. And it works. Peter believes something about their message that he goes to the tomb. He doesn’t fully comprehend, but he knows there is something to the women’s story. That it is not a λεροσ (lay’-ros) tale—an idle tale. That something is happening here.
"A large part of the what the women are sent back to the disciples to do is help them remember. The two men say, "Remember how he told you..." This same word is used by a criminal on the cross, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (23:42). Did the criminal expect Jesus just to think about him in the heavenly throne-room? I think not. Jesus' answer indicates something more than a mental activity: "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise." Remembering this criminal meant making him present with Jesus in the kingdom." Helping the disciples to remember is how the women bring them into this new reality that God is doing.
"This "remembering" is more than just "thinking about," but "re-presenting" the historical event of the resurrection, so that we, in the present, are also made participants." This is most evident in the Eucharistic meal that all share in. Jesus commands us to remember him whenever we eat and drink this bread and wine. We remember all that Jesus has done for us, for you and for me, and we are made a part of the story through hearing and remember his words as we share in this holy supper.
A big part of what we will be doing here today and in the months to come is to help each of us remember this good news of Jesus Christ. To help each of us to remember what Jesus taught us that lead up to this moment. It is our job as Christians, as witnesses of the resurrection, to help people remember the passion prediction Jesus makes, to remember the good news that led to this moment in time, that lead to this holy day when the gates of hades could no longer hold one of us in their grave. But let us not forget, the first ones to help us do this important work were women. Women, who according to the society of their time, were second class citizens. Through the resurrection, God destroys that notion that women have no place in church leadership. Through the resurrection, God elevates women and makes them one of the most important parts of the story. God uses them and makes them ambassadors of the good news. And it is because of the work of these women and countless other women that all of us are here this day.
Easter is also the time we are reminded why the church exist today. It is not because Zion is a historic property. It is not because we have clothing closet or food pantry. It is not because we have the oldest Sunday school program in the synod. We exist to tell the others that he is not in the tomb. That Death has lost its sting. That we no longer need to fear the grave. That he is risen. He is risen indeed. We need this yearly reminder to focus our attention, as a congregation, on those things that point us to Christ. We can’t continue to let those things in our church and in our personal lives which have been holding us back knowing resurrection because we follow a God who knows how to bring the dead things back to life and transform them into a new state of being.
We are a people of resurrection. And we can’t remain weeping, wanting to hold onto the ways things use to be. If you are wanting church be like it was in 2019 before the pandemic or the way it was when you were a child, I am here to tell you that the message from our Lord at the tomb to Mary still applies to us to day. We can't hold onto the past. Horrible things have happened, but God has given us a new day, a new week, a new time to be heralds of the good news just as the women were on that first Easter Morning. It is not the task of the church to remain in the garden and weep for what use to be. It is not the task of the church to hold onto the old Jesus; hold onto the way things use to be. Lent is over. Today is a new day. And you are invited to embrace God’s new resurrected reality, and proclaim this good news first proclaimed by Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women: Alleluia, Christ is Risen. He is Risen indeed, Alleluia!
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.