Late Friday afternoon, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared Jesus’ body for burial and placed it in tomb. Had to work quickly to finish before sundown and beginning of Sabbath, tearing strips of linen from a large cloth to wrap spices around the body. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary had watched the men from a distance, making careful note of the tomb’s location. The women had time to gather and prepare spices so they could return and complete what Joseph and Nicodemus started; but, it would have to wait until after Sabbath, on Sunday morning.
The women made their way back to the tomb before dawn early Sunday morning, unaware the tomb had been sealed and a guard posted by Pilate’s authority. The greatest concern the women had was how to get into the tomb; without help, they were not strong enough to move the massive stone covering the entrance. Apparent from their conversation they had no expectation the tomb would be empty; were convinced the spices they had prepared would be necessary, certain they would find Jesus’ body just as Joseph and Nicodemus had left it.
Must not be critical of the women or any of the rest of Jesus’ disciples; none understood what was happening. Only the angel stood by the tomb and said “He told you so” to those who came. Have to admit: events of the previous 72 hours enough to make anyone’s head spin. The joy of Passover, horror of betrayal, despair of a rigged trial, darkness of death, a Sabbath-worship when most present had more questions than answers. Who, after all that, would expect good news? This One who brought Lazarus back to life was overcome himself by death; how could that ever turn out well? The women were about to see.
A. remembered – past
When the women arrived, tomb was open; so much for needing help to get in. That in itself should have alerted them that things might not be as they expected. And then the angelic greeting as recorded by Luke: “What are you doing here? You’re looking in the wrong place.” The reality of what had already happened wasn’t registering; the women were completely at a loss to explain the opened and empty tomb.
Graciously the angels worked to inform the women, bring them up to speed. Remember what Jesus said, how he told you what would take place. They pulled a specific quotation from his teaching time in Galilee as clear reminder: here’s what he said, you shouldn’t be surprised. Wasn’t just a single sound bite, was something Jesus had declared on at least three separate occasions. Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34 He would have to suffer, be killed, and after three days rise again.
We know from Luke 8:1-3 that for at least part of Jesus’ ministry time in Galilee two of the ladies were present to hear his teaching. Mary Magdalene and Joanna had both benefited from Jesus’ healing touch; they in turn were attentive to him and the lessons they could learn from his public teaching sessions. According to the angels’ information, the women were indeed present when Jesus spoke concerning how he would be treated as his time on earth approached its end.
B. reasoned – present
When angel repeated what Jesus had said, women were able to recall what they had heard. Important principle we can learn from women: when Jesus told them and disciples on at least 3 occasions what would take place, they didn’t really understand what he was talking about. Yet they listened attentively enough to have what he said in their memory, be able to recall it later. Same holds true for us: sometimes we get the instruction before it really makes sense; we still need to pay attention, file teaching away for future use.
Truth of Jesus’s teaching as a package firmly established in their memory along with what they knew from Scripture. Meant they could take what they recalled, reason to a conclusion, apply to their present circumstances. They remembered what Jesus said, now they could understand what he meant – teaching + experience + reasoning = understanding.
In some ways for the women as well as disciples, parts of Jesus’ teaching like a picture puzzle without the box. You have the pieces, perhaps some were left hooked together in a group, but don’t have much idea how they all fit together, what the big picture looks like. Looking back the women could now see how groups of pieces fit, how different elements of Jesus’ teaching meshed to explain why the tomb was empty.
C. responded – future
Not hard to imagine expressions on women’s faces as truth of Jesus’ teaching, reality of angel’s message sank in. In rapid succession, one thing after another became clear; we can almost hear them saying, “Oh wow; Oh Wow; OH WOW!” As soon as they understood significance of what all this meant to them and others, could not keep it to themselves – had to go and tell the eleven and any others who might be present with them.
I’m certain women didn’t just tell them the tomb was empty. Or that plus their seeing the angel attendants. Verse 9 says they “told all these things to the eleven”; “these things” MUST have included the news that Jesus had risen as he said.
Instead of a mournful satisfaction, they had found a new hope, far too good and far too great to be held all at once within their heart. God has his merciful surprises for us as we proceed on our Christian path. He may surprise us with a sudden fear or a sudden sorrow; but he also surprises us with an unanticipated peace; with an unlooked-for joy; with a new, strange hope; before long he will introduce us to the blessed surprise of the heavenly realities. Pulpit Commentary
The good news that first Easter morning was not that the tomb was empty; that could have happened any number of non-miraculous ways. The good news was that the Lord Is Risen. Lord Jesus is “the resurrection and the life”; promise of eternal life to those who believe Jesus is who he claimed to be. Valid promise since he has power and authority to grant the promise. May God use us like women to declare message of hope to those who need to hear.