The place God carved out for women in the Bible’s account of Christ’s death and resurrection is astonishing. To be noticed in the scenes at all in the religious climate of their day was revolutionary. To be recorded by name, an immeasurable gift wrapped in the incarnation.
As women of Christ seeking to identify with those first female followers who were eyewitnesses of His life, parts of His ministry (Luke 8:1-3), His passion, His death, and resurrection, we try to place ourselves in the unfolding drama that has made room for our kind. Imagining what it was like to be Mary, the mother of Christ, on the lurching patch of ground near the Cross is soul-wrenching. To see your child, grown though he may be, thrashed into disfigurement, unclothed and exposed and hung by nails through the flesh of your flesh for hours on end, fighting for breath, is too much to wrap our imaginations around.The seconds must have dragged their feet like a suffering man dragging a cross.
To try to stare into the eyes of the women at the crucifixion of Christ and imagine the lung-heaving weight of their grief and the crashing of their hope is endurable only because we know the rest of the story. On the third day through the pool of a woman’s tears, the face of the risen Son of God was beheld, the sun piercing the black hole of an empty tomb.
Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?
Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.
And Jesus spoke just one little word to the woman from Magdala.
She turned and said to Him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”
Haven’t most of us imagined being her?
The account of the women over that weekend of earth-altering events doesn’t skip from the Cross to the tomb. Luke 23:56 records a single piece of information that scripts hours of silence. I’ll include the surrounding verses here so that you can see it in a loosely draped timeline:
50 Now there was a man named Joseph, from the Jewish town of Arimathea. He was a member of the council, a good and righteous man, 51 who had not consented to their decision and action; and he was looking for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down and wrapped it in a linen shroud and laid him in a tomb cut in stone, where no one had ever yet been laid. 54 It was the day of Preparation, and the Sabbath was beginning. 55 The women who had come with him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how his body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.
On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
24 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. 5 And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 8 And they remembered his words, 9 and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, 11 but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Luke 23:50-24:11 ESV)
Go with me there again: the women saw how His body was laid. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments.
Then they had to sit and wait and bide their agonizing time until the Sabbath was over so that they could tend to the deceased body of their beloved.
No work. Just wait.
Sometimes waiting is the work.
Nothing makes us sweat like waiting.
Sometimes rest is imposed on us when what we want to do more than anything on earth is work.
I’ve got to do something.
To women, there is always something to do in a catastrophe.
If you can’t fix it, fret over it. Flail. Demand. Make yourself heard.
But do something.
To us the answer is never do nothing.
I’m not sure womanhood had ever been put to trial more thoroughly in the Gospels than in the still shot of Luke 23:56.
I don’t want to wait and see. Let me see to it myself. Nothing mauls a sober woman’s sensibilities like staying put in a crisis.
We want to wrap things, even if they’re dead.
At our bravest and most selfless, we want desperately to bring fragrance to the pall of death and give it, if not beauty, dignity. If we cannot, we feel useless.We do not realize that our presence right there before God in the trust of our worklessness can be fragrance. It’s not in the spices and ointments. It’s in us.
It is Saturday. Not only a day in a week of seven but maybe a season in your own pain and bewilderment. Maybe something terrible has happened; that which could make many you love lose hope. Maybe it looks like God did not come through. You keep taking up for Him but He doesn’t seem to be taking up for Himself.
But you believe…because you’ve seen so much. You know God can work things for good and you volunteer almost violently for Him to use you to do it but, still, resurrection waits. Nothing you’re doing is working. Your hands are tied. You feel useless. After all, what good is a woman who’s forced to rest?
Go with me to one more scene of women. Rewind the sacred clock to the week before Christ’s death and resurrection. The place is John 11.
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.
Moments later, that dead man came walking out of the tomb, grave clothes dangling.
You cannot fix it.
All your panting will not resuscitate it.
Resurrection is divine. We can’t help God with it. He alone can do it.
And He will. He is life. He cannot leave death well enough alone.
Tomorrow is Sunday.