A few days ago, I was asked by a friend to make a short video of myself saying something about my ‘job’ as a woman Vicar! It was to become part of a montage of women – each sharing just a snippet of their experience working in a job or role still considered by some to be ‘surprising’.
On the same day the news reported on the work being put into ensuring that girls in our Primary Schools are given the same level of access to the sport of football as their male classmates.
One of the details which can make me feel just a little uncomfortable when speaking to the younger generations about the life of the disciples – the followers of Jesus – is the fact that the band of 12 who took up the challenge to follow Jesus on his journey to the Cross, were apparently all men.
But if we read the gospel accounts more carefully, we find that there are in fact so many more key characters around Jesus than we may at first assume, and many of them are surprising.
One of the surprises about the Easter stories, as if someone ‘rising from the dead’ were not enough of a surprise, is the sudden visibility of women. Who were they? Clearly, they had not come from nowhere. They were the women who had always been there– the mums, the sisters, the admirers. They were the women who come rain or shine, had been on the side-lines, watching the action, cheering on the named players in ‘the Team’ (the 12), sourcing and cutting up the orange slices for half-time, taking away and returning ‘the kit’ when it really did need a good wash or a bit of a repair job!
And on that first Easter morning there they were again – making their bleary-eyed way to a garden tomb in the shadowy light before dawn, carrying with them the necessary items to anoint the body of a dead man they had in fact followed and loved. It was these faithful, practical, but often inconspicuous women, who are the first ‘to see’, the first to feel their bruised hearts dance, the first to dare to believe, the first to share the Gospel.
For me however, the significance of seeing these individuals at the heart of the Easter story is not so much that they were women, as that these partial characters are made complete as they step into the light of Jesus’ Resurrection. The man hanging on a cross alongside Jesus, known only to be ‘the other criminal’ (Luke 23. 40), is another partial character whose story Jesus completes. Jesus awards him the first entrance ticket to Paradise!
The Good News of the Christian faith, which reaches its climax on a cross and at an empty tomb, is that access to God’s love is open to everyone; that God’s invitation delivered in Jesus is ‘Life… in All its Fulness’ (John 10.10); that God especially delights in surprising those who think there could never be a place on the team for them!
May the Blessing of God’s Love Surprise You this Easter,