Who were the women at the tomb of Jesus and why are they important?
Luke mentions Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and “the others with them” (Luke 24:10). We don’t know who the “others” were, but Mark adds Salome, the mother of the disciples, James and John, to the group (Mark 16:1). The “others” could have also included Mary, wife of Clopas, and sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus, since John lists her as being with her sister at the cross (John 19:25). Mark also includes Susanna as part of the female entourage that accompanied Jesus wherever He went (Luke 8:3). Perhaps she was there, too.
These women were not part of the Twelve, but they were no less disciples of Christ. Luke mentions at least two of them, Joanna and Suzanna as women of wealth who helped financially support Jesus along with “many others.”
That the women were the first to the tomb, the first to see the resurrected Jesus, and the ones to carry the news of His resurrection to the other disciples is significant. Was this just a coincidence, since they were going early in the morning to anoint the body? Why weren’t any of the men with them? Did they forget to set their alarm clocks? Anointing the body was not strictly a female task. Joseph and Nicodemus had anointed the body the night before.
I can think of a few possible reasons why the women, and only the women, were first. There were no egos to confuse the issue — no jockeying for position. They had neither denied or betrayed Jesus. Nor had they run away as many of the men did. If there was reason for them to fear for their lives, they overcame that fear. They didn’t even know how they were going to roll the huge, heavy stone away from the mouth of the tomb, and that didn’t stop them. They were without fear.
Case in point, when the resurrected Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene and she didn’t recognize Him and thought He was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him” (John 20:15). She will get Him? Really? How is she going to do that? Mary is going to go marching off to find the dead body of Jesus and then what? Drag it back to the tomb? The confidence she is expressing is a factor of her intense faith. She didn’t know what she was going to do, but she had to get there. After all, they had found the stone already rolled away; should she find Jesus’s body, she had no doubt she would know what to do.
Actually I think the women knew something was up. In other words, they were not entirely surprised by the fact that Jesus wasn’t there. Jesus had talked about this. He told them more than once that He would rise again after three days. I liken this a little to Abraham taking Isaac up the hill to sacrifice him on an altar because God commanded him to. Hebrews 11 says that he believed that if he followed through with this, God would just have to raise Isaac from the dead, because Isaac was the son of the promise. God would have to come up with something. Abraham also knew something was up. That’s why the women went anyway, even though they were filled with questions. They believed that God would provide.
Jesus loved these women; He treated them with utmost respect; and He knew they would be the first to the tomb. He was there, waiting for Mary to merely turn around and face Him. He knew she would come.
Jesus saw women as equal to men. He trusted them. He considered them disciples like the others. He taught them, asked them questions and answered their questions. They were part of the ongoing discussion. He relied on their support and confided in them.
Jesus met women with the same amount of respect He had for everyone — men, women, children — indeed, the same amount of respect that He had for Himself. If Jesus is asking us to love others as we love ourselves, you can be sure He does the same, and that would mean He has a great love for Himself. Indeed, I believe He sees Himself in every one of us since we are all made in God’s image just as He is.
So on behalf of the Catch, we salute women everywhere — first to the tomb, first to the heart of God, last to give up.
So get ready, this week I’m starting a series on women vs. the traditional Christian thinking. We’re going to call it “While She Was Sleeping” because Marti is going to be in bed a lot this week trying to get over a sinus infection and she doesn’t have the energy for the knock-down-drag-out sessions we can have over things like this. So I’m just going to slip these out while she sleeps. Well … maybe not quite, but it makes for a good story.