If we think back just a few months, to the beginning of Advent, we remember how Luke’s Gospel begins. Angels appear to Zechariah and to Mary, and their responses, though similar, must have been very different in tone.
The angel says to Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth, who is well-past child-bearing years, is going to have a child. This child will have a special part of God’s plan. Zechariah replies, “How can THAT be?” We know the angel wasn’t pleased with his response because he was mute for 9 months.
The same angel appears to Mary and tells her she is going to have a child. This child will be special; he will be the son of God and bring salvation to the world. Mary’s response is similar to Zechariah’s, except apparently in tone of voice. “How can that BE?” she wonders.
Luke does not tell Joseph’s reaction, but Matthew does. He assumed Mary had been with another man. It took another appearance from an angel tto convince him otherwise.
The two pregnant women meet, and the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps. Elizabeth praises God for the gift of Mary’s child. As Luke tells the story, from the beginning, the women believe more readily in God’s activity than do the men.
Through the Gospel, Luke balances stories about men and women pretty evenly. When we get to the end of the story, once again, the women are more ready to believe than are the men. The women encounter the two men, who are identified as angels in Acts. These men announce the resurrection to the women and remind them of Jesus’ words, how he would suffer, and be crucified, and be raised from the dead.
When the women run to tell the men, the men look at the women like they are crazy. Luke does not tell us what happened when Peter ran to the tomb to see for himself that it was empty, but Luke does say that such an encounter did happen. Perhaps then, perhaps later in the day, Peter also had an encounter with the risen Jesus.
For those who believe easily, the story of the women at the empty tomb is enough. For those who need more facts, those are available too. For 40 days, Jesus was with the disciples and others. There are eye-witness accounts of Jesus talking with them, cooking for them, giving them final instructions for sharing the good news of his resurrection with the world.
I began by highlighting the comparison between women and men at the beginning and end of Luke’s Gospel. Luke’s intent is not to say that women are better than men, but to emphasize Jesus’ clear vision that women and men, children and adults, rich and poor, believing or doubting, all are equal and welcome in God’s eyes.
Luke’s message is also this: if God can raise Jesus from the dead, God can do the same for each and every one of us. No exceptions. Alleluia! Amen