In one sense no – not at all. Those who first see and hear are witnesses to the resurrection and, in their own way, find words to tell other about it. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is not a well-kept secret – rather it is an amazing miracle the news of which spreads fast in the city of Jerusalem and beyond (think of the road to Emmaus). Ultimately, the news of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead spreads over the whole of Europe an Asia, and across the known world. It is carried by word of mouth of the first followers of the Way, by merchants, by letter, by soldiers serving in far-flung outposts of a dying Empire, and by brave monks crossing wild seas. These first witnesses could not be silenced – they wanted everyone to know.
Another vie is that is it significant that the gospels capture the truth that Peter and Mary Magdalene are key figures in the events of that resurrection morning. The first witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus are not powerful or important people, influential, credible or articulate people. Peter is a bluff northern fisherman who lacked loyalty or courage when confronted after Jesus’ arrest as to whether he was a friend of his. Three times he denied, betrayed and abandoned Jesus in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house. Peter was human, frightened and uncertain – just as we are sometimes.
We know that Mary of Magdala was healed by Jesus. She may have suffered from poor mental health – at the time of Jesus, and in earlier language, she is described as being possessed. Jesus restores her to full health and well-being and she becomes a follower of his, supporting his ministry, standing at the foot of the cross with other women disciples and caring for his body when it is taken down from the cross. Somehow the person of Mary of Magdala is Christian history is conflated with other stories about women who encounter Jesus including someone who anoints Jesus. This woman (without any clear evidence) is described as a prostitute. So in Christian art and tradition the early Church decided Mary from Magdala was a prostitute and she was often portrayed dressed in scarlet and assumed to be a very sinful person. The Magdalene Laundries in Ireland for unmarried pregnant women were named after her. So Mary, from the town of Magdala, who may have struggled with her mental health, and who wasn’t a prostitute, is the first person to meet the risen Jesus and is trusted by him to pass on the good news.
It is significant that the friends of Jesus are not powerful, not the perfect, not the smooth and successful, but rather the frail and the powerless. The Church begins as a community of those who knew they were loved by Christ and raised with Him to new life.
(Taken from Irthlingborough Methodist Church Lent Reflections 2020)