The violent darkness that enveloped the crucifixion gave way to a peaceful light at the resurrection of Jesus. It was barely sunrise, dawn on the first day of the week. The women who had always been with him – Mary Magdalene; Mary the mother of James, and Salome – had come to the tomb in an act of loving care. The day before, they had seen where his crucified body had been laid; they had seen the stone rolled in front of the tomb. They knew what to expect, bringing with them the anointing spices needed. The two Marys and Salome had come on the edge of a new day to attend to the dead body of Jesus.
Love is often sacrificial, frequently unnoticed, sadly unreciprocated; at times, love can feel wasted in the giving. These women had come to the tomb, not expecting anyone to acknowledge their tender ministrations, but simply knowing they had been loved to the end. Had he not said, do unto others what I have done unto you? How appropriate, then, that these women, who had themselves loved Jesus to the end, would be the first to experience his love as it broke through from death.
It was not some tall tale about a miraculous resuscitation that the Marys and Salome stumbled upon in front of the empty tomb. The angel of light was not there to report a cheap trick. “He is risen”, not resuscitated; “he has gone ahead”, not stayed behind. Something in the very order of the world had shifted: the hold of death over life had been overcome. Jesus Christ – God’s own, yet one of us – had bridged the unbridgeable gap that had existed from the time of Adam. And these women would be the first to know this.
I am so grateful for Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome; we all should be. It was to them that the news of Jesus’ resurrection was entrusted. It was through them that others would come to know of it. What they first bore witness to – He is risen! – has been passed down through the generations, to eventually reach us on this day, “that all [of us] who believe in Jesus will have [our] sins forgiven through his name.” (Acts 10.43)
We would all do well, then, to walk in the footsteps of these courageous women of faith. They knew violence personally and directly; they had stood there, at the foot of the cross, and watched the way violent power corrupts our humanity. They did not walk away. Instead, they walked ahead, to the tomb, in faith, there to be met with light and peace, and with the hope of a new life, risen from the dead. These are the women chosen to first witness something new in the world: the peace of the resurrection that had, in an outpouring of love to the end, overcome the violence of the crucifixion.
Whether spiritual, psychological, social, sexual, physical, verbal – no matter what form it takes – violence of any kind is death. (Sadly, this is a reality known in a particularly insidious way by too many women and girls today, as we individually have lost sight of a resurrected life in society.) Whether accepted or hidden; whether recognised or dismissed; whether maximalised or minimalised – the path of violence is darkness for our humanity, and nothing else.
Jesus took this dark path to his death, not because he had been personally consumed by it, but so that we might escape its violent antecedents and walk instead towards the dawn. His sacrificial love would not be wasted. This is why Jesus rose from the dead, so that the violence of sin and death might not have the last say over our humanity. A bridge was created for us at the resurrection; and the body of the risen Jesus is that bridge.
So, we need the Marys and the Salomes, the trustworthy witnesses who stand up to the violent darkness, and who show us a way in which to walk across this bridge. We need their encouragement, built on their courage and faithfulness. We need their hope, built on simple acts of care and tenderness. We need their acts of love, so that we might see that our acting from love is not wasted. We hope for all of this, because Jesus is risen, and goes ahead of us.