Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Women at the Empty Tomb

I've often wondered why Christ chose to appear to women first after His resurrection. Was there something special about the women? Was there something symbolic about it? This Easter I really poured over the scriptures in the gospels talking about the resurrection and as I was reading I realized something I hadn't thought of before-- that the reason these women were privileged to be the first witnesses on this earth of Christ's resurrection was because they were some of the few disciples who didn't leave Christ during His great trial, they were with Him at the cross when some of his other disciples had betrayed or deserted Him. They never left Him, even after Christ's dead body was brought down from the cross and laid in the tomb, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sat guard in front of the tomb for as long as they could without breaking the sabbath (Matt 27: 60-61). It was only later that the Pharisees asked to set a watch outside the tomb and seal the stone so that Christ's disciples wouldn't try to steal His body (Matt. 27: 62-66).

Not only did these women never desert their Savior but they never stopped serving Him, even in death. The scriptures tell us that on the morning after the Sabbath, as early as they could possibly come with out breaking the sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the lesser and Joses (also called "the other Mary"), Joanna, Salome the wife of Zebedee and the mother of the apostles James and John, and "other women" who followed Jesus out of Galilee, came with spices to anoint and prepare Christ's body for burial. This task of anointing the body was just another of the "woman's tasks", like cooking, cleaning, washing, and sewing, that these women were accustomed to doing, and which I imagine they had done for Jesus many times during His ministry. I think it is significant that because these women were doing a "woman's task", taking care of Jesus' s physical needs, that they got one of the greatest privileges and blessings of all of Christ's disciples-- to be the first witnesses of His resurrection. I think that this shows that Christ acknowledged the faithful and loving service that these women had given him throughout His mortal life, and realized that what women do to sustain and provide physical life is important and valued in the eyes of God. He knew that their willingness to take care of his His physical body, even after He was dead, was a sign of their great love and devotion and so he blessed and rewarded them for it.

Another significant thing about these women was that they
were the first to touch the nail prints in Christ's feet and to physically know that He was indeed resurrected. In Mark 16:6-7 we read that when these women got to the tomb they found the stone rolled away and a young man, an angel sitting inside, who told them "Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him as he said unto you." (Mark 16:6-7). On hearing these words they immediately ran from the tomb to tell the disciples, and as they were going they were stopped on their way by the resurrected Jesus. They fell at His feet, and worshiped Him, knowing that He was indeed their Lord. He bade them to "Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me." (Matt. 28:9-10). From that moment on, even when others (like some of the apostles) questioned their testimonies, they never doubted what they had seen and felt but bore continuous witness that they had seen the empty tomb, that they had seen an angel and they had touched and seen the Resurrected Savior. I believe this is why these women were among the most privileged of all Christ's disciples, because they never deserted the Savior, their testimonies of Him never faltered, and they never stopped bearing witness of His divinity.


  1. Another beautiful post. Thank you for all the research and information you generously share!

  2. Wonderfully written. I would like to refer to your post in a talk I am giving about women on Mother's Day. I will be sure to cite you as the author of anything I use if that is OK. Thanks.

  3. I noticed that the Angel told the women to tell His disciples, then Jesus told them to also tell His brothers to go to that meeting, too. I find this significant, because His own (half-)brothers didn't believe in Him until after His Resurrection. Then His brother James became the church leader in Jerusalem (see Galatians 1:19 when Paul refers to him as Jesus's brother, also Acts 15:13 and Acts 21:18 as James speaks as the leader of the Jerusalem church).