The male disciples were painfully absent at the crucifixion. John was the only one who stuck around. Besides him, remarkably enough, only Mary, the mother of Jesus, and a few other women, stood at the foot of the cross when Jesus died. And when Jesus was taken from the cross, and had to be ‘buried’ as quickly as possible, the men who had been Jesus’ disciples were not there, and left this task to Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus.
But then it is Easter morning. At dawn a number of women go to the cave where Jesus had been laid. They went there to care for his body, since there had not been time to do so on Friday afternoon, as the Sabbath was near. They were greatly worried about the big stone that had been put before the entrance of the cave. Who would be able to roll it away? Their concerns were, however, unnecessary. The stone had already been rolled away. The tomb was empty. Two angels tell the women that the Lord was risen!
The gospels inform us about a series of ‘appearances.’ Jesus meets with individuals and some groups of people. Would it not have been more logical for Jesus to appear first to the eleven men who were going to be the apostles of the early church? We would have expected that in a society where men always came first. Yet, the first witnesses of the risen Lord are a women. It is a powerful affirmation of the important role Jesus attributes to women.
How tragic it is that almost two thousand year later we must conclude that many who claim Jesus as their Lord, have still not paid attention to this aspect of the resurrection morning, and still do not give women the status in the church that is rightfully theirs. And this also applies to many Seventh-day Adventists. Unfortunately, many have closed their ears for the powerful statement Jesus made by first appearing to women.
Could things change before we celebrate another Eastern? I am not very optimistic when I consider the bureaucratic preparations for the new round of meetings (during the GC autumn council of 2018), which will once again discuss what must happen to those church leaders who have agreed to ordain female pastors, or at least have taken measure to ensure that male and female pastors are treated equally. Must there be punitive measures? It is as if we hear the apostles say to Jesus: ‘Lord, excuse us, but should you not have appeared to us first?
What might be done to change the minds of those church leaders who continue to discriminate women? Perhaps the only way to put this across is to ask all women to discontinue their activities in and for the church during a few weeks. How would the church function if all female pastors and elders would stay home, and if all women who serve in some capacity in the Sabbath school, who play the piano or the organ, or serve as greeters or in whatever other role, would just sit in the pew and passively listen to the men? Would that perhaps get the message through to those who oppose ordained women pastors that putting women in second place goes against the Spirit of the gospel?
In any case: On Easter morning Jesus made clear that for Him women come first.