The Easter season makes me hope for the day when women achieve full membership in our Church because, you may ask, they would take Jesus down off the cross, every Sunday, not just once a year. Jesus died on the cross once. Then he was raised to life forever. Our Church has put him back on the cross. When women are at the table where the Church agendas are set, they will correct this long-standing mistake. Let us go to the beginning.
The early Church experienced Jesus’ crucifixion in two ways, fear and scandal. Fear that they too may be singled out and die the same death. Romans crucified anyone in their far-flung empire who they thought were a problem. There are stories told of roads being lined with crucified people, and on the day Jesus died, two others were crucified on the same hill. Crucifixion was a common event, put where people would see it, with the implied message – this could happen to you if you cross the Romans. So fear was real and justified.
You didn’t brag that you had a family member crucified any more than today you would brag that a family member was in prison or worse. The early Church didn’t talk about how Jesus died. It was not a point of pride that their leader died a criminal’s death. Writers today and even scripture accounts themselves tell us that Jesus was crucified because he was seen as a dangerous criminal threat to the prevailing order. So why have we left him on the cross? Men took over the Church’s agenda and convinced themselves that Jesus’ death by crucifixion “satisfied God’s justice” (a quote from the Baltimore Catechism). Men projected their own perceived need for justice onto an infinite God, who needed infinite justice, and giving Jesus a painful death would accomplish that. They believed. So, they put him back on the cross and have left him there. Women will take him down. So why is this so important? What would happen if we experienced the resurrected Jesus? Paul, our great evangelist tells us.
Paul didn’t know Jesus until he met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. He tells us of the power of this experience when he asks Ananias, “What am I to do?” and then Paul, who had been attacking the Church took the message of Jesus to the Gentiles. We call this conversion.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were like Paul. They did not know Jesus until they knew him as resurrected from the dead. We know this because they answered the call to collect and write about Jesus, decades after Jesus died. There were other prophets and other people, who had been crucified by the Romans, but only one person who was raised from the dead. It was the Risen Jesus that they came to know, and then asked, “What are we called to do?” The result is our four Gospels.
We almost certainly would know nothing about Jesus (there is one short paragraph in an obscure history book) unless Paul with his letters and the Gospel writers had not come to know the resurrected Jesus and asked, what am I to do? There would be no memory of Jesus; no community of believers if they had not come to know Jesus as raised. But how do we know that women will help us find opportunities for us to meet the resurrected Jesus? Let’s go back to the beginning again. Women did not respond to Jesus’ death and resurrection in the same way as men.
Who was at the foot of the cross? Women and one man. All the other men had fled. Women overcame their fear. Women went to anoint the body. They were not ashamed that Jesus died a criminal’s death. And, they were rewarded by being the first to meet the resurrected Jesus, who told them to go tell the men. It was the women, who were first given the message of resurrection. That commission continues today.
It is my expectant hope that when women achieve full membership in the Church that they will take Jesus down off the cross. Every Sunday will be an Easter Sunday where we will meet the resurrected Jesus, then ask ourselves, “What are we called to do?”
Peace and happy Easter!