Who will listen to the women?
I am accustomed to pointing to the women in Jesus’ final days and in the resurrection accounts as exemplary disciples and witnesses.
While the disciples flee in terror for what might happen to them, the women are the ones who stand steadfast by Jesus’ side throughout.
They can do so, however, by virtue of their relative anonymity. They are able to stay at the foot of the cross and witness the crucifixion, because of their lack of status, and their ability to blend in and be invisible.
I mean, who pays any attention to women? That’s the attitude in the 1st century. No one (except significantly the gospel writers,) pays any mind to them hanging around in the dirty business of the execution.
They are also the ones who can make their way to the tomb on that Easter morning primarily because, again, no one is going to pay any attention to them. They can pass unseen through the streets to the tomb amongst doing the “women’s work” chores of the day of gathering water, baking bread, etc.
So, while they are witnesses, they are just not in the eyes of anyone in the 1st century reliable ones. In the male dominated culture of the day, just because you are a witness to extraordinary events does not mean that you will be listened to.
Who will listen to the women?
We are told by Luke that to those closest to Jesus, the disciples themselves, were told this story by the women that day, but Luke says, “it seemed to them an “idle tale.”
The women see the proof of the resurrection.
They behold the stone rolled away.
They have an encounter with the messengers from God dressed in white who ask, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here but has risen. Remember how he told you…”
They remembered Jesus words, Luke says, and ran to tell the disciples.
But, you know —women!
That’s what must have been going through the minds of the Disciples. “An idle tale” is the phrase used to describe their witness to the Resurrection, and it is indeed a demeaning phrase.
“Idle tale… gossip… hearsay…. prattle…. You know how women are.”
That is what is implied if not outright spoken.
Even Peter, when he goes to check out what they report is only really amazed that the tomb is empty.
Peter gets no men dressed in white, no reminder of Jesus’ words.
It will take more than “idle women’s words” to convince him.
What will it take?
Well, the women know, though no one will listen to them!
It will take a living encounter just like they have had!
The women have had an encounter with the living God, (or at least God’s messengers.)
They are not terrified for their lives, they are instead terrified at the truth of it all, that all Jesus said back in Galilee is coming to pass.
He is risen, he is not here!
The women have this incredible news to share, but they now discover that no one will take them seriously, see them as reliable!
What will it take for the disciples to finally believe; for this story of a resurrected Lord to be more to them than just “an idle tale?”
It will similarly take their own encounter with the Risen Lord.
If you go on in Luke’s Gospel, (as we will in a couple of weeks,) we’ll hear those stories. The story of two men on their way to Emmaus, and how the Risen Lord walks with them, and opens the scriptures to them, and is made known to them, revealed as alive with them and present in the breaking of the bread.
They will have an encounter with the Risen Lord, through Scripture, through fellowship, and in the Sacrament, and when they meet him there, their hearts burn within them.
Those men who are despondently making their way to Emmaus will be listened to!
If you go on in Luke’s Gospel, you’ll hear about Jesus meeting the disciples, sharing a little fish with them.
They will have an encounter with the resurrected Lord, and in that encounter, Jesus will again open the scriptures to them, and open their minds to understanding.
That is how it is with idle tales. They are easy to dismiss in the moment, and perhaps easy to dismiss because you doubt the reliability of those who tell them.
I mean, really, what do you expect the Pastor to say on Easter morning?
Of course, the Pastor is going to talk about Jesus being raised, but really, how reliable a witness is he?
You know he makes his living doing this!
It’s all just a pretty story, a fantasy that we wink and nod at and like to believe. Like the Easter Bunny, Chicks, Peeps, — Jesus rising from the dead.
Idle tales abound for us. Or, as we have grown accustomed to hearing… “Fake News.”
But here is the thing about what at first seems to be an “idle tale” from unreliable witnesses.
They will hammer at you over time!
It is easy, dear friends, to dismiss the reality of a Resurrected Lord if all you do is stick your head into the tomb once, or into the church occasionally, but God is relentless and in Luke’s Gospel it is Jesus and God who is constantly on the look-out for us, coming to meet us.
The real power of the resurrection is not found in an empty tomb, or in the waft of lilies that assault you today.
The real power of the resurrection is to be found in the fact that Jesus can and will show up in your life anywhere, and will seek you out!
Jesus will show up when you least expect him.
Jesus will show up when you need him most.
He will often appear when it is least convenient to have him around, reminding you of what it is that you should be doing in this world.
Jesus will even show up when you can’t imagine him being interested in showing up at all right now, or in this place, or at this time.
The Resurrected Lord Jesus will find you in the midst of you doing service for others. You might think you are doing good for someone else, but suddenly become aware of the Christ in that person that you are serving.
That “cup of cold water thing,” promised back in Galilee, happening right before your very eyes.
And you might even voice that. “It felt like we served Jesus today!”
But to those around you that tell it to, it may seem as an “idle tale.” Just you getting all emotional, or wrapped up in the moment.
You know how it is…
The Risen Lord can find you as the scriptures are laid open and you and discover things you hadn’t noticed before.
You may even voice that. “Jesus really spoke to me in this study today.”
But it will seem to others as an “idle tale.” Just you getting carried away in a flight of fancy.
The Risen Lord can find you in the opening of your minds to new possibilities, new thoughts, new understandings of how God may be at work now in this culture, which may be very different from what God was doing 2000, or 1500, or 500, years ago.
But when you voice that you may be seeing Jesus at work in some new thing, those whose eyes are set on the old will dismiss it as an “idle tale.”
“That can’t really be of Jesus….its so…. Different.”
New wine require new skins, old skins will simply burst… I think Jesus mentioned something about that somewhere back in Galilee.
The Resurrected Lord will come to you in the midst of prayer.
That Risen Lord can come to you through the witness of others.
He can at times even speak to others through your own words and your own actions without you even being aware of it.
And those you speak such word to will say, “Your words where the words of Christ to me.”
But even then, you may shake your head disbelieving. “Surely me speaking as Christ to you is just an idle tale!”
This is the amazing thing.
This part at least Peter gets right, even if he doesn’t listen to the women.
Jesus is not where you think he should be! Which leads you to wonder; just where is he, and where could he be?
You begin to wonder just where Jesus may show up next, and when he meets you, you find yourself becoming a witness yourself.
Look for him, this week, not in the usual places, but in the everyday encounters that you will have.
Look for the Resurrected Lord in your workplace, your home, your trip to the store.
Listen intently to the words of those whom you meet along the way.
Do not dismiss the testimony of others as an “idle tale” when they speak of their own faith experience, witness to you of what they have seen, and known, and felt.
This is the truth of the Resurrection.
Jesus is loose upon the earth, and no witness to his resurrection and power should ever be lightly dismissed – not even and especially your own!
He will come, you know, to find you, show himself to you.
And so, like the women and Peter and all the witnesses, prepare to be amazed and prepare to also be used as a powerful witness to others. This is no “idle tale” that we tell, and you are indeed the witnesses to it, every day.