Sunday, April 20, 2014

Jesus Crossed Over Social Divisions

Today I preached the final message in a series leading up to Easter Sunday called "CROSS Cultures" where I explored how Jesus crossed over the ethnic, religious, political and social cultures of His day to fulfill God's plan of salvation for ALL of humankind. Below is an outline of this message from Matthew 28:1-10... 

On this resurrection Sunday we conclude our ‘CROSS Cultures’ series by looking at the final culture crossed by Jesus – Social Divisions. 

Every society is marked by social divisions that establish cultural classes, dividing people into a hierarchical structure based on economics, gender, politics, race, or religion, to name a few. People living at the bottom of this social hierarchical structure understand what it is like to be subject to prejudice or victimisation. One such class of people within Jewish culture living near the bottom of a Greco-Roman society was women. Women had limited rights and a low status in their society. A reality that has unfortunately plagued women ever since in almost every culture!  

What I find fascinating about the resurrection story, and the reason I have chosen to focus on women as an example of the social divisions crossed by Jesus, is how they are featured in this story. When you consider that something as significant as the resurrection of the crucified Christ, which had enormous political and religious implications, was first communicated to women - it should demand our attention!

Let’s take a closer look at Matthew’s account of the resurrection story…  

"After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb."  (28:1)

  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, the women were first at the tomb

"There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said."  (28:2-6)

  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, the angel spoke first to the women

"Come and see the place where he lay."  (28:6)

  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, the women were invited to “come and see”

"Then go quickly and tell his disciples: “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.” Now I have told you.’  So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings,’ he said."  (28:7-9)

  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, He chose to appear to the women first

"They came to him, clasped his feet and worshipped him."  (28:9)
  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, the women were first to worship the resurrected Christ

"Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’"  (28:10)

  • Out of all the people in the life of Jesus, He chose the women to tell His closest followers

The women received a revelation of the risen Christ when they were told to come and see.
The women received a commission by the risen Christ when they were told to go and tell.  

The women were liberated from any social divisions by being chosen to be witnesses to the single most important event of human history that is foundational to Christian faith! This is something that seems to have been overlooked by those who continue to deny women the right to lead, minister or preach in the Church! It defies logic and biblical credibility to me!!  

Just as the resurrection of Jesus Christ tore the veil in the temple, crossing religious barriers, giving all of human kind access to God; the resurrection of Jesus Christ also crosses social divisions affirming Paul’s message that, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).  

By crossing social divisions, Jesus is saying to each one of us, regardless of our position in the church or society, come and see the resurrected Christ and go and tell others the good news!

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