But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. John 20:11-18
All four Gospel accounts agree that it was the women followers of Jesus who first encountered the empty tomb and it was a woman who first encountered the risen Christ. Why is this important? Because it speaks to the veracity of the Gospel accounts. In the ancient world women were not considered to be capable witnesses. In fact their testimony in court, if allowed at all, had to be corroborated by a man. So to have women as the first witnesses to the resurrection would not have been anyone’s first choice.
If as many critics content, the Gospel accounts were written long after the events they portray and were written to bolster a new religion rather than record historical events then why have women as your first witnesses? How about John the apostle Jesus loved. Wouldn’t he have been a good first witness? Maybe Peter, the first great evangelist of the church and a person who took the Good News to both Jew and Gentile. Or, how about Paul. What a great story that would have been. A Pharisee who discovers the risen Christ at the tomb and goes on to preach to the world. If you are making up a story there were plenty of other choices as your first witness to the risen Jesus than a woman.
No, the only reason to have women as the first eyewitness is because it was the truth. We see this throughout the Gospels and for that matter the entire Bible. We see both the good and ugly. We see men and women just like us warts and all. In fact the Gospels go against how histories were written then. It is said the victors write history and they are almost always very kind to their own. Victors are good and virtuous and the vanquished were evil and deserved their fate.
Not the Gospels. The writers of the Gospels felt compelled to tell the truth no matter how it made them and their friends look. So we see Peter denying Jesus. We see the disciples hiding and scattered. We see Jesus followers not understanding and constantly trying to make things turn out their way rather that how Jesus wants. I see people just like me, inconsistent, uncomprehending and anything other than heroic. The people ring true and the message rings true because they are true.
Have a blessed day,