hello monday: vol. 14
Hello Monday. Today is a special Monday.
Known as Easter Monday, it is the one Monday each year that we celebrate the resurrection of our Risen Savior.
This year, as I have for I'm almost every year since 2002, I participated in my church's Easter production. It's quite the elaborate affair with full-blown costumes, set, and a crucifixion scene that still gives me chills, even after watching it — on stage or off — for almost two full decades.
Because of this tradition, as you might call it, Easter Monday is usually spent in a weird haze that's a combination of pageant withdrawal and complete exhaustion from having spent the last couple of weekends performing eight shows. This year is no different.
For various reasons, I've started reading through the Gospels and making note of a special group of people who followed Jesus throughout His ministry — the women.
If you're familiar with the Gospels, there are probably some names coming to mind — Mary Magdalene, Mary, Martha. These three women are probably the most well-known amongst the women in the Gospels, aside from Mother Mary, but when you start reading the Gospels a bit more closely, there was a whole group of them who followed Jesus from Galilee and throughout His entire ministry.
Different Gospels name different ones, but if you take all the Gospels collectively, we know a few of them by name — Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of the sons of Zebedee (aka the apostles James and John, also referred to as "the other Mary"); Salome, the mother of James the younger and Joses; Joanna, the wife of Cuza, King Herod's steward; and Susanna — and also know there were "many others."
This group of women fascinates me.
Some, like Mary Magdalene, had a life-changing encounter with Christ — He healed her from possession by seven demons — and she spent the rest of His time on earth following Him until the very end, witnessing His crucifixion, following the body as it was laid to rest in the tomb, and coming to the tomb early on the first day of the week to anoint His body.
Others, like the other Mary and Salome, were mothers of Jesus' disciples. We don't know what it was specifically that caused them to follow Jesus, but most likely, they witnessed the encounter their sons had with Him and chose to follow as well, also witnessing His crucifixion when many of the disciples, including their sons, had deserted. With Mary Magdalene, they followed Joseph of Arimathea as he laid Jesus' body to rest in the tomb, prepared spices, and went to the tomb on the first day of the week.
Still others, like Joanna and Susanna, we know very little about. But knowing Joanna's husband was a member of Herod's household, it reminds me of words the apostle Paul would later write to the church in Philippi — "All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household." Even before the Resurrection happened and the work of the Gospel complete, its good news was spreading into the homes of the some of the most powerful people in the world at that time.
We know so little about them. We don't know where they came from or when or how their paths crossed with Jesus for the first time.
What we do know is their encounters with Jesus were enough to change their lives, to literally flip them upside down and, ultimately, grant them the incredible privilege of being the first people to proclaim the Gospel in full — that the tomb is empty and our Savior lives.
Different Gospels tell it different ways, but on a few points they all agree — it was these women, whether one or three or five or more, who witnessed Jesus' death after His disciples fled and denied Him. It was these women who followed Jesus' body to the tomb. It was these women who prepared spices to anoint His body.
It was these women who, after observing the Sabbath, rose early on the first day of the week and went to the tomb. It was these women who first saw the stone rolled away. It was these women who saw the empty tomb. It was these women who heard the most important words ever uttered in the course of human history — "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen."
And it was these women who shared those beautiful words with everyone they knew. It was these women who spoke the Gospel in full for the first time. It was these women who were the world's first Gospel evangelists.
In a world that valued women so little, He lifted them up. In a world that tied their worth to the men in their life, He granted them the greatest privilege. It's no wonder they followed Him. It's no wonder they dedicated their lives to caring for Him and listening to His teaching.
Their world was never the same after He entered it. And, praise God, because they shared what they heard, our world was never the same, too.