When the Lord arose on the first day of the week he appeared first to Mary Magdalene. Then he appeared to two others who were walking in the country. Each of these people then went to the apostles and others and told them they had seen Jesus.
And what was the reaction of the apostles? Were they overcome with joy? Were they ecstatic that what the Lord had earlier told them, that he would rise on the third day, had come to pass? Did any of these things happen?
No! They did not believe those who had seen the Lord and testified to his resurrection.
Now think about this for a minute. The Son of God had told the disciples earlier that he would arise, and yet they did not believe. Remember too that it was only three days since they had last seen him. How could they have got it so wrong? Did they think that the word of the Lord could not be trusted? Did they think those who had seen him were untrustworthy or were hallucinating? Or perhaps they did not want to get their hopes up too much in case they were dashed when he did not return. Whatever the reason we see that Jesus did rise as he said he would and he did appear to a number of them.
Now why did he not appear to those who were closest to him first? Why not go directly and stand amongst the apostles and speak first to Peter, James, John and the others? Well there is an interesting twist in this event that is often missed.
We see that the first person to see him was Mary Magdalene. Then there were two others who were not of the twelve. In the Luke version of this event (Luke 24:1-12) we see that there were other woman also to see him appear at the tomb including his earthly mother Mary and Joanna. When these people testified to the apostles that Jesus had risen, they were playing a part that we today also play. They were testifying to the resurrection of the Lord. In fact what Jesus had done was to give the first testimony and ministry to preach the resurrection to people other than the disciples, and most of them were women.
In my post yesterday I stated that resurrection is the most important message in the Christian message and the one which sets it apart from all other forms of religion. And here we see that Jesus entrusted this commission to preach the resurrection first to the apostles to a group of women. If you consider some of the arguments that rage in the church today about women in ministry, and then look at the fact that the first people Jesus entrusted with this most important teaching were women, it rather makes a mockery of the arguments today. Jesus showed no partiality in who could preach the word and neither should we.
And the apostles did not believe those who had seen the risen Christ. Did Jesus say to them, “Oh well, I guess seeing is believing!” Absolutely not! He upbraided them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed those first eyewitnesses to the resurrection.
These women and the others should have been trusted by the apostles. Today we initially believe because of the testimony from the Bible written by men who could be trusted. Jesus entrusted the preaching of the Gospel to these men who wrote the Bible we use today, and unlike their lack of belief when the Lord appeared, we must believe. This is the second lesson from this section of the scripture. Believe in the Lord and accept the word of his eyewitnesses for they can be trusted.