After his resurrection, why did Jesus first appear to women?
Photo creidt: KUL Heschel Center
“Jesus’ behavior was revolutionary. In His time, women were not considered as witnesses in court. And yet Jesus entrusts to women the task of witnessing to his resurrection, that is, the most important piece of information without which our faith would be in vain,” writes biblical scholar Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, deputy director of the Heschel Center of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, in his commentary.
After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to women first. Moreover, He told them to go to the apostles and tell them He was alive.
One of these women was Mary Magdalene, who, in the tradition of the Eastern Churches, is called the Apostle of the Apostles precisely because it was she who gave them the news of the Resurrection of Jesus.
According to Jerusalem tradition, Jesus also appeared to his Mother after his resurrection. In memory of this, in the Basilica of the Resurrection, in the Franciscan chapel, there is a bas-relief depicting the meeting of the Risen Lord with Mary. The description of this encounter is not found in the four Gospels of Scripture. It is said that the Holy Land is the fifth Gospel because it reveals what was not recorded in the first four.
The women were given the task of witnessing that Jesus had risen. It was revolutionary. In the ancient world of the Middle East, including Semitic culture, women were not considered as witnesses in court. And yet Jesus entrusts to women the task of witnessing to his resurrection, that is, the most important piece of information without which our faith would be in vain.
Secondly, in Jesus’ day, there was no such thing as teaching by women. Meanwhile, Jesus sends women to teach, and about the resurrection. Moreover, they are to go even to the apostles.
In this context, it is worth emphasizing that this attitude of Jesus was not just an incident. Throughout his life, he held women in high esteem and used terminology to indicate the equality of men and women. One of his most interesting and powerful expressions is that of women as “daughters of Abraham” (Lk 13:16). This expression is found nowhere else in the Bible, which only speaks of “sons of Abraham.”
Why this attitude of Jesus? He could have appeared as the first to the apostles or priests in the Jerusalem Temple, or to a large group of people. However, he chose women first.
Jesus simply trusted women and thereby gave them their rightful place in society. Indeed, he entrusted to them an important mission in the nascent Church: witnesses of his Resurrection and “apostles of the apostles”. Through his attitude, he teaches us to respect women and to recognize their important role in the community of believers. Just before going to the Father in heaven, Jesus set an example on earth for us, men, how to treat women.
About the Author
Fr. Paweł Rytel-Andrianik – Doctor in Oriental Studies from the University of Oxford and Doctor in Biblical Studies and Archaeology from the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Jerusalem. Former spokesman for the Polish Bishops’ Conference (2015-2020), currently Director of the Office of Foreign Communications of the Bishops’ Conference. Deputy director of the Abraham J. Heschel Center for Catholic-Jewish Relations of the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) since October 2022.