By Stacey Monaco, Crosswalk.com
As the calendar moves forward toward the sacred beauty of this coming Good Friday, Silent Saturday, and Easter Sunday, we have the opportunity to once again look to the scriptures that detail the passion of our Lord.
A careful reading of Luke 22-24, John 19-20, and the other gospel accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection, may cause your eyes to be opened afresh and for you to stand astonished at the courage of the women of Easter.
Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome were among the women of Easter. They watched from a distance as nails pounded through the flesh of the hands and feet of Jesus, the Lord whom they loved.
These women had become steadfast disciples and followed Jesus, tenderly and generously caring for his needs. Joanna is also a mentioned as one of the faithful women of Easter, and as a biblical narrative notes; “Many other women who had come up with him (Jesus) to Jerusalem were also there” (Mark 15:41).
The Easter story is alive with women whose quiet courage was exhibited from the garish heartbreak of the cross, to the wonderment of the tomb and first appearing of the resurrected Christ.
It is easy to slip past the women in these passages, overlooking them just as they might have been in the patriarchal system of their day. Women of their society were not considered to have a voice in community affairs, to be trustworthy as messengers, nor were they counted as reliable witnesses to testify in court.
As biblical characters and disciples, these women could appear anecdotal to the greater drama of the unjust and brutal trial and crucifixion of the Son of God. They may even seem a small part of the Easter story when contrasted with the delight of a Savior risen on that early Sunday morn.
Courage and deep-rooted confidence was exhibited by each one of these women as they stood in the face of stark adversity and the death of their deepest longing and hope.
They believed they had found the promised Savior, but the events of that first Easter gave them every reason to be overwhelmed with fear and doubt.
Here are 3 elements of courageous faith shown by the Women of Easter:
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1. They Exhibited Love in All Seasons
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34
These same women who aided Jesus in his ministry were near enough to learn from him, listening and growing as disciples. He had taught them to love God, and to love others. To love as God first loved (John 3:16). They were shown by example that God’s love was all-encompassing. It was a love that stayed the course.
The Jesus in whom they had placed their faith, the very one whom they believed was the promised Messiah, had been condemned to death by a dangerous and riotous crowd that made an important and powerful man such as Pontius Pilate crumble. Their would be Savior was now a condemned criminal.
Was it possible that they could be implicated as complicit in his insurrection? They risked both reputation and life to show their love at the foot of the cross.
Scripture records that many of the disciples, including Peter, had deserted Jesus in fear at how the authorities of the day might treat his followers. The women of Easter remained when others retreated. Their grief-drenched souls stood firm in the shadow of horror of Jesus death.
Love was exhibited in the courage of his mother, her sister, and Mary Magdalene as they stood near enough to the cross that Jesus could speak to them (John 19:25). They could not take him down; they could provide him with not a breath of comfort, nor the relief of loving human touch.
Mary, his mother, was there enduring the grievous and torturous death of her son before her, with no way to relieve his suffering, but she remained. They remained, together holding a vigil of love.
Related: Listen to Our FREE Podcast: The Characters of Easter with Dan Darling. Listen below to his episode on the women of Easter. You can listen to all of our episodes at LifeAudio.com.
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2. They Loved God with Their All
“Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all of your soul and with all of your mind.” Matthew 22:37
Throughout his ministry Jesus elevated and dignified women honoring them as joint heirs of his kingdom, sharing the gospel with the woman at the well, restoring health to one whose life was literally bleeding from her, bringing the dead young girl back to life, and including them amongst his disciples. This was an especially radical move, as only men at this time were permitted to be disciples. Women weren't permitted to even talk to rabbis in public.
Jesus noticed and valued women in a society where they had been considered as simply an attachment, or an addition to something of more worth than themselves. They were shown the overwhelming love of God in tangible ways, that caused them to respond with a desire to love God with their all--even if it involved risk.
Scripture records that the women remained at the cross until the body of Jesus was removed, and then they followed to see where he was placed, desiring that his body be properly anointed.
Their love for God emboldened them to be willing to risk being in situations that had great potential for harm and endangerment. They were women alone, in places and at times that women did not usually venture without the accompaniment of men. They had been invited into the fellowship of suffering, the first women disciples working out their love for their Lord with courage.
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3. They Were Unafraid to Look Foolish
“But they did not believe the women, because their word seemed to them like nonsense.” Luke 24:11
Mary the mother of Jesus had become pregnant outside of the union of marriage by the Holy Spirit. Mary Magdalene had been delivered from seven evil spirits, and Joanna was also noted to be among those who had traveled with Luke, and had been delivered from demons. Each of these women had come into relationship with Jesus in a manner that challenged cultural norms, and gave opportunity for great humiliation.
It was women such as these that rose “very early in the morning” (Luke 24:1) after the Sabbath and traveled together to honor their Lord with a proper burial. They did not turn away from him in death, or disregard him because they might look foolish for continuing to regard a hoped-for Messiah, now crucified.
The tomb was closed with a great boulder, with Roman soldiers as guards. It was sheer folly to think they could move away the stone, or get past the guards. Still, they bravely went to the grave, only to find that the stone was rolled away, and the body of Jesus was not there.
It was these women who found themselves bowing, frightened, but very much present and listening, as angels declared that their Savior lived. In a society where they were deemed unreliable to testify in court, the women of Easter were the first to carry a message of hope and resurrection to an audience that would consider it foolishness. They carried the message despite their likely knowledge that they might not be believed.
In courage, the woman of Easter exhibited their love in the dark abandon of the cross and remained until the last.
In love, they endured the silent soundlessness of a Sabbath marked by confusion and disillusion, but still they prepared to anoint their Lord.
They were the first at the empty tomb, and unafraid of looking foolish they were the first to declare the glory of the Easter message.
John 15:5-18 records that Mary Magdalene was the first to see Jesus alive after he had risen from the tomb. Jesus had freed Mary from oppression and enslavement, and she had given him the whole of her heart, soul and mind. Jesus then entrusted to her a message such as had never been uttered. The one message that would alter the future of all mankind, and without fear of looking foolish she exclaims the news,
“I have seen the Lord!” John 20:18
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