Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Witness of a Woman

Women will come yet again in the story of the empty tomb. Much has been said about the worthlessness of a woman's testimony and how odd it was, indeed, that a woman would be the first witness to the resurrection. But what if a woman was there because of the image she represented - the same image she has represented throughout all of Scripture - the covenantal people of God?

We have no reason to believe that the women who first witnessed the tomb were in any way unfaithful women; in fact, we are plainly told that they had gone to the tomb to properly prepare Jesus's body, which had not undergone the customary burial rituals of the Jewish people because of the late hour of the Sabbath approaching.

And in fact, these women are shown as particularly faithful because the Scriptures attest that they said to the only breathing being they could find, "I am looking for my Lord. Do you know where they have put Him?"

It's so easy for us to want to get modernly political with these narratives of women at the tomb, saying how radical it is that Jesus would have His greatest miracle - His own resurrection - attested to by the lowliest of society. Saying how forward-thinking the disciples must have been to include such a countercultural thread in their narratives, giving authority even to women! Saying how this alone shows equality between men and women or illustrates so well Paul's point that in Christ, there is no male nor female, or any other number of gender war-fueled narratives that have clouded our minds on these sorts of issues.

But there's nothing radical here. Rather, there is only something faithful.

Throughout His Word, God has referred to His people as His bride. Throughout His Word, He has held Israel as His "she." Throughout His Word, the image of His people has been the image of a woman. Just because in the story of Jesus, the women happen to have actual flesh and actual breasts does not make them any less of a symbol for what God has been saying all along: it is His people who are His witness.

Look again at what's happening with the women at the tomb. They have come to do the ceremonially-necessary thing and anoint the body of Jesus according to proper custom. This is a reflection of the ritual/purity covenant that exists between God and His people. They are troubled to not find what they were certain would be there and express in plain word their searching for their Lord. This is a reflection of Israel's constant seeking after Him. And indeed, if she had not been searching, no one ever would have noticed a newborn in a manger, star or no star.

And in so coming to the manger, they bear a powerful truth: it ain't over 'til it's over.

It looks like it's over. He looks like He's dead. But the covenant is not yet fulfilled. The duties are not yet complete. When they come to anoint the body, they are saying there is still an obligation left to be fulfilled. The people of God are still indebted to what He has done, still bound by His promise...still drawn by His promise. There's an ongoing something here that doesn't end at darkness, and that's amazingly important. Vital, even.

Without the testimony of the women, without the witness of God's faithful people, we just don't get that. 

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