Easter brings to the egalitarian mind the fact that women were the first evangelists to proclaim the risen Lord. One of the gospel accounts attesting to this historical fact is Luke 24; verses 9–10 say, “…and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles” (NRSV). I believe the gospel record, and I consider this point important. But to be honest, I don’t make much of it in my teaching. Why? Because someone who doesn’t value this historical fact may respond, “Yes, but what those women did is far different from modern preaching. That they spoke in private to their friends doesn’t mean modern women can preach!” And thus this wonderful gospel verse becomes something to argue about instead of something to celebrate.
Rather than focusing on verses 9–10, I tend to focus on the words of the angels in verses 5–7, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again” (NRSV). Consider especially verse 6, “Remember how he told you …” It doesn’t say, “Remember how he told them” or “Remember how you overheard.” Luke here is building on what he’s noted several times already, that Jesus’ disciples included both men and women, and the women, rather than simply the exception to the rule, were a substantive, identifiable group who remained faithful to the end. By telling the readers that Jesus taught the women core truths, Luke is telling the readers that they were core disciples.
The statement in verses 9–10 that the women were the first evangelists is prompted by the narrator’s comment in verse 8, “Then they remembered his words….” Thus we not only proclaim that these women were evangelists, we also affirm the foundation for their evangelism—a foundation Jesus laid with many months of discipleship training. Luke wants us to ask why. Why did these women proclaim the gospel? Was it merely because two men in dazzling clothes told them to? No, it was also because the Lord himself had prepared them to.