When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it.
When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women,
Fake news is in the news and there is lots of advice about how to identify or spot fake news:
Some of the best advice is probably to always consider the source and check the author. Here in the UK, if a news story isn't being covered by the BBC and Sky ... well, then it's probably fake news. If the reliable news agencies don't think it's a true story ... it's probably not a true story.
Reliable witnesses are what we want ... and it's always been this way. The Bible has quite a bit to say about the importance of reliable witnesses. At the time of Jesus, the interpretation of the Scriptures, of the Law, the Torah, was that women were not reliable witnesses. There are several reasons for this standpoint, not least the fact that in the OT the word for "witness" is always recorded in the masculine form. Interestingly, when the Jewish state of Israel was formed in 1948, the law disqualified women as witnesses (this was abolished by the Equality of Women's Rights Act, 5711 – 1951 see here for more info).
The point I want to make is that at the time of Jesus, if you were in trouble with the law and your only witness or witnesses who could prove your innocence were women, you were in trouble ... because the testimony of women carried no weight and was inadmissible. If you wanted something to be believed, you made sure you had male witnesses.
Easter Sunday celebrates the greatest news event of all time ... a man who three days before on Friday had been brutally tortured to death using the most vicious execution method known ... a man who after his death had his side pierced and his blood drained ... a man who had then been buried in a tomb ... that man was raised to life by God on the Sunday morning ... that was news, in fact it became known as Good News, gospel, and when people heard it they began to ask "Who was this man, what did He do before His death, what did he say, what did He teach" and as all these questions were asked and answered, it became clear that this man must have been God Himself in the flesh ... and the rest is history ... millions and millions and millions of people today ... gather to celebrate that truth.
Now, when God was planning all this, He and Jesus and the Holy Spirit had to decide: "Who shall I reveal myself to first?" This is big news ... this is going to change the world ... this is going to open up heaven to earth ... who shall I reveal myself to so that the news will spread and people will hear and believe?
When 10 Downing Street is making a big announcement, they don't call the editor of the school newspaper down the road, do they? Who will God choose to be the first witnesses of the Resurrection .... who will He give the task of "Go quickly now, and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from death"
"Who shall I reveal myself to first?" ................. Let me think ... hmmm ... Yes, that's it ... Hmm ... I'll choose Mary ... Mary who had all those demons ... Mary, the one with the reputation and that background ... Mary, that's who I'll reveal myself to first ... and some of her women friends. They're not who anyone else would choose as reliable witness, but they are who I choose. My disciples probably won't believe them, but they still have so much to learn. It'll be good for them to realise and learn from the fact that I chose a woman rather than any of them to reveal myself to first. Whether it'll change the way they feel about women ... I'll have to just wait and see. But my mind is made up ... Mary and her friends will be my first witnesses."
Jesus' resurrection turns the world and its ways upside down. The kingdom of God turns the kingdom of this world upside down ... in this kingdom, which you and I are invited to be a part of here and now, in this kingdom those who the world says should be first are in fact last ... in this kingdom those who the world says are the greatest are in fact ... the least.
What does that mean for you this Easter?
In whatever part of your life you are tempted to say: "I'm just ... this or that ... I'm only ... I have to be so careful here that I don't insult anyone ... but the truth is we're often made to feel less than what we are in God's eyes. For some reason Stephen Hawkins who did his job well for 40 years gets a grave in Westminster Cathedral but the train driver who died the same day after doing his job well for 40 years doesn't.
I know that many of you are made to feel less than you are in God's eyes by the people around you. They see ... a woman, or an old person, or a young person, or a depressed person, or a divorced person, or a single person, or a gay person, or a rich person, or a poor person, or a beggar or a thief or a drug addict or a pervert ...... GOD sees in you someone He loves, someone His Son died for, God sees in you someone worth dying if, for some reason, He had to do it all over again, God sees in you, whoever you are, and whatever the world might think of you ... He sees in you someone He can reveal Himself to, someone He can live in and live with and live through ... and as you are thinking to yourself right now, "Yes Cedric, I've heard it all before but you don't get what's going on or gone on in my life..." ... it's at that very place in your life that Jesus meets you this morning ... with love in His eyes and a smile on His lips ... and says your name in a way that invites you to cling to Him and never let go.
Mary was the last person anyone would choose to do anything important for the Lord ... and she knew it ... and because she knew it, and because she least expected it, He could reveal Himself to her. If as you sit here you are tempted to think ... hmmm, I can understand why God would choose me ... He probably won't and hasn't revealed Himself to you. If as you sit here, like I do, and think "I'm the last person you would ever choose to reveal yourself to today in this place" ... well then, keep your eyes open ... you might find yourself surprised by Him in the place you least expect it. He meets us at our weakness ... so that He can be strong ... if you have no weakness, you have no need of Jesus.
So I invite those who are weak to pray with me now ...
I cannot undo the past,
or make it never have happened!
-- neither can You. There are some things
that are not possible even for you
-- but not many!
I ask You,
and from the bottom of my heart:
would You write straight
with my crooked lines?
Out of the serious mistakes of my life
will You make something beautiful for You?
Teach me to live at peace with You,
to make peace with others
and even with myself.
Give me fresh vision. Let me
experience Your love so deeply
that I am free to
face the future with a steady eye, forgiven, and strong in hope.