The story of the Resurrection is one of the few times in the Bible in which women are highlighted and even named. About 3,000 people are identified by name in the Scriptures — but less than 300 of them are women.
When the average person is asked to name something they know about Mary Magdalene, many will start off by saying that she was a prostitute. The Bible itself, though, does not make that claim. Scholars generally attribute the origin of that erroneous belief back to Pope Gregory the Great. In 591 he preached a sermon in which he apparently combined Mary Magdalene and the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet into one person. Finally in 1969 the Vatican overruled Pope Gregory’s interpretation, yet the image of her as a prostitute continues to be a widely held belief.
In November 1950 a bus trip loaded with football players crossed the continental divide at Monarch Pass on its way to a college some distance away for a game. As the bus started down, the brakes failed. That slope winds down about 3,000 feet in six miles. The driver wrestled with the steering wheel; the coach broke off the gear shift knob trying to get in second gear, and all the while the players followed the signals called by the driver shifting their corporate weight to the right and to the left as the driver maneuvered the runaway bus around curve after curve. Miraculously they reached a straightaway at the bottom going 110 miles an hour. Seventeen miles later the bus stopped. The newspaper said that during that wild ride, something went whizzing past the driver’s head. Later one of the young men confessed that what had gone past the driver’s head was an obscene paperback book that he had been reading. He had thrown it away, he said, because he did not want to be caught dead with that book on his person. Face to face with death, he caught a higher sense of values. He felt that the bad in the long run was not good enough.
People have said that what is excellent is permanent. Easter says that the excellent is eternal and the best is bound to endure.
Easter comes in the spring — at least in the Northern Hemisphere — for a good reason. The rebirth of earth’s vegetation, the lengthening of the days, the fragrance of the fresh air, the sight of so much green. It is more than a greeting card fantasy — it is real. The resurgence of life, against apparently great odds, is inevitable in the cycle of the seasons. When we are tempted toward hopelessness, we need spring.
We come to this Easter knowing full well that we may not see another Easter dawn on this earth. We do not know what lies ahead for us. Easter does not say that henceforth you will walk in nothing but light, but rather what it does give you…is a light to go by. It gives you something to sing about when the tune goes out in your life from time to time. Easter means singing in the rain…even when it’s a downpour.
The Rev. Peter M. Larsen is the pastor of in Southampton Village.