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4. Don't bypass the role of the women as witnesses of the resurrected Christ.

The number and identity of the women in the resurrection accounts can be difficult to untangle, which is one of the reasons why we provide a glossary in The Final Days of Jesus as a guide. One of the confusing things, for example, is that no less than four of the women share the name Mary: (1) Mary Magdalene; (2) Mary the mother of Jesus; (3) Mary the mother of James and Joses/Joseph; and (4) Mary the wife of Clopas (who may have been the brother of Joseph of Nazareth). In addition, there is Joanna (whose husband, Chuza, was the household manager for Herod Antipas) and Salome (probably the mother of the apostles James and John).

As you preach this Easter, do not bypass the testimony of the women as an incidental detail. In the first century, women were not even eligible to testify in a Jewish court of law. Josephus said that even the witness of multiple women was not acceptable "because of the levity and boldness of their sex." Celsus, the second-century critic of Christianity, mocked the idea of Mary Magdalene as an alleged resurrection witness, referring to her as a "hysterical female … deluded by … sorcery."

This background matters because it points to two crucial truths. First, it is a theological reminder that the kingdom of the Messiah turns the system of the world on its head. In this culture, Jesus radically affirmed the full dignity of women and the vital value of their witness. Second, it is a powerful apologetic reminder of the historical accuracy of the resurrection accounts. If these were "cleverly devised myths" (2 Pet. 1:16, ESV), women would never have been presented as the first eyewitnesses of the risen Christ.

5. Don't focus on the suffering of Jesus to the extent that you neglect the glory of the Cross in and through the Resurrection.

Certain Christian traditions tend to focus almost unilaterally on the suffering of Jesus on the cross, on the incredible pain he had to endure, and on his humiliation and separation from God. This can be seen in cinematic depictions such as Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, the Roman Catholic reenactment of his path to the crucifixion on the Via Dolorosa (the Way of Sorrows) in the stations to the Cross, and in quite a few sermons both of us have heard in the evangelical churches we attended (not to mention many of our favorite hymns). Of course, the four biblical Gospels, especially Matthew, Mark, and Luke, concur that Jesus suffered a great deal for us as he gave his life for our salvation so that we could be forgiven of our sins.

And yet, there is another aspect to the Easter story. It is best encapsulated in John's statement that Jesus, when he "knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world … loved them to the end" (13:1, ESV). When introducing not only the scene of the foot-washing, but his entire passion narrative, John writes the following: "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper…" (13:3–4; cf. 14:28).

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Five Errors to Drop From Your Easter Sermon