2 April 2010 (Sheshi/Friday)|
Day #18, 5934 AM
Chag haMatzah 2010
Joanna and Two Marys at the Tomb
It cannot fail to have escaped the serious student of the Scriptures how prominent a rôle women played in the hours immediately after the resurrection. Three are named with an undisclosed number of others in attendance. Why are their names mentioned in particular? Why not all of them?
"Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Master Yah'shua. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, 'Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.'' And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened" (Luke 24:1-12, NKJV; cp. Mt.28:1-8).
Joanna is the female equivalent of Yochannan or John meaning 'Yah is gracious'. She was the wife of an officer in Herod's household called Chuza (Lk.8:3). When we think of John we associate the name with the prophet and apostle of the same name. When I think of John I think of the sublime Johannine writings which have always been my chief inspiration in the Bible. John was the only one of the twelve apostles who escaped martyrdom, dying at an old age in Ephesus. What a contrast his life was compared to that of John the Baptist who lived frugally in the desert and ended up beheaded at Salome's behest. Who, I wonder, was Joanna? What, if any, connection does she have with her two distinguished namesakes? We don't know. But we do know she was one of the first witnesses at the empty tomb.
Mary is our anglicised version of the Hebrew Miriam or Miriyam meaning 'bitter'. Altogether, seven different Mary's are mentioned in the New Testament - Mary the mother of Yah'shua, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James (who was present at the tomb - Mt.27:56; Mk.15:40), the wife of Cleophas (Jn.19:25), Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus (Lk.10:39), Mary the mother of John Mark and nephew of Barnabas (Ac.12:12), and Mary a female believer in Rome who helped Paul (Rom.16:6). Of these, two were present at the tomb along with Joanna. Their namesake is the sister of Moses who wrote such an inspiring song of praise after the crossing of the Red Sea but who blotted her copybook and was rewarded with leprosy when she complained about Moses' headship (feminism) over her and complained about his polygamy and/or marrying a non-Hebrew (monogamy-only mindset and/or racism - Num.12).
I have been wondering if there is any symbolic significance to these three named women. Mary Magdalene is, of course, famous, and was a prominent talmid (disciple). Some believe she was Yah'shua's wife, others think she was an apostle or even higher. But the other Mary who accompanied her we know little about other than she was the mother of the first James who was the senior apostle for a while. The fact three women are named makes me think of the three senior apostles - Peter, James and John - and to speculate if they were the senior female disciples. That there are seven Marys makes me wonder about the seven Ruach haQodeshim. Might there have been seven women in total? Could any of these speculations mean anything? Maybe, maybe not.
One thing is certain. Yahweh chose some women to be the first witnesses of the resurrection and ensured that three were named. They took this witnesses of the resurrection to the initially sceptical apostles. They were qualified to do so because they had the faith to believe, and they had the faith to believe because they had the right attitude of submission. They "bowed their faces to the earth", showing the proper respect to Yahweh's messengers, listened attentively, and obeyed, conveying the angel's message back to the apostles. In spite of the initial scepticism of the men, Peter went and verified the ladies' report out, confirmed it, and spread the word! The ladies had been the spark to set the world ablaze!
At this Chag haMatzah let us acknowledge the positive rôles played by all genders, nationalities, races and ages in helping us remove the leaven of sin out of our lives through their faithful witness! Let us thank those stalwort sisters for being true to Yah'shua and bringing forth His witnesses as they only know how in their unique feminine way.