Summary: The women to and from the tomb.
Set the stage first:
Read the verses:
Just as the dawn was beginning to break, the women make their way to the tomb, there are soldiers supposed to be there guarding the tomb to make sure no one comes to steal the body. They expected that the stone would have to be rolled away so they could go in to anoint Jesus with the spices they were bringing for that purpose. But, the stone was already rolled away, the soldiers were not there and they went in to the tomb, but the body was not there.
Suddenly, as they were standing there perplexed to say the least, there were two men standing there in shining garments. Two of Gods angels, messengers to tell them that Jesus was not there, that he had risen as he had told them when he was teaching in Galilee. These women, these first evangelists, go and tell the disciples what had happened at the tomb, but they were not believed, partly because of women's role in the world of that day. Speak about the roll of women in God's world.
There is a lot of discussion about the early church, but the truth is that we don't get the full and true story of what happened, we get only snips and pieces of the reality of the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We hear about the men, the hero's of the faith, we know about Paul and Peter being killed in Rome, Paul beheaded and Peter crucified apparently upside down. We know that the others also died sometimes violently, the only one who died of old age was John. When we read the scriptures we find that Paul asking that one of the men of the church to help, Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2-3 ESV).
“I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Do you hear what Paul says?
Help these women, who have labored side by side with me. These two women worked to spread the good news alongside Clement and Paul. They were considered to be a part of the team, not inferior to the men, but rather fellow workers.
As the church grew and spread there were numerous persecutions of Christians, women and men. Most of these were local, and some were in Rome but there were many years where there was peace in the Empire and Christians were not persecuted. One of the worst of the martyrdom’s came under the Emperor Septimius Severus who reigned from 202 to 211 AD. The horror of it was localized yet word of it spread throughout the empire.
Under Septimius Severus, a further step was taken in opposition to the church. Conversion to Christianity was specifically forbidden, even though Septimius had some Christians in his own household. Another martyrdom that left a lasting impact on the church occurred during his reign. It took place in North Africa, where Perpetua, a young mother nursing her infant, and her servant Felicitas, pregnant and close to delivery, were arrested. They were then mangled by hungry beasts before a cheering crowd in the amphitheater and finally stabbed to death by soldiers. Then came another interlude of relative peace, breathing space marked by rapid expansion of the church, with thousands of new believers coming into the faith.
Martyr by the way, in the Greek, means witness and those who died so horribly were not folks who killed and maimed others in the name of God, they were nursing mothers, farmers, and even 90 year old bishops of the Church.
They were killed because they refused to renounce the faith they had in Jesus Christ. We know very little about Mary Magdalene, or Mary the mother of Jesus after the crucifixion, his mother was taken by John to Ephesus and was cared for by the church until her death. Mary Magdalene disappears from the scene, although I would think that she continued to deliver the truth to whoever would listen to her. After all, you don't have the kind of relationship she did with Jesus and not want to share that with others. She was saved by Him, and she had met him on the road going back to the disciples. What an effect that had to have had on her life.
We celebrate today the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the seal of the promise of eternal life. It is that promise though that brought so many men and women into the church, that also caused so many to go to their death in persecutions across the Empire. Personally, I believe that one of the worst things that happened to the Church was when it became a part of the empire, when it was legalized, when it became the Holy Roman Empire. The church was no longer ostracized, they were no longer persecuted, the church became leaders of the empire.