TUESDAY, MARCH 27
Three women disciples are those entrusted by God with the discovery of the miracle of the open, empty tomb
In a strongly male-dominated society, the only eyewitnesses to Jesus death, burial and then empty tomb are the “least” of the disciples, the women.
1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body.
The Sabbath ended, shops could reopen for the evening. The women will complete the burial rites left incomplete at the hasty interment earlier.
2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb…
“Very early on the first day of the week” – all four gospels state this rather than the “third day”, 1 Cor. 15:3-4. This doesn’t seem to tally exactly with Jesus’ predictions. The reason may be to present the Resurrection as something new.
Mary Magdalene saw where Jesus was laid, so she knew where to go, Mark 15:47.
3 …and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
Tombs like this were constructed with a sloping groove for the heavy circular stone closure, which was designed to stay closed. It would have to be lifted out or rolled back up the incline. Mark keeps to the bare essential facts, while Matthew mentions the earthquake and angelic visitation, Matt. 28:2.
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away.
5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
They reacted as you and I would react to an unexpected, unexplained sight – and unexpected person.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him.
There had to be a word from God to explain the inexplicable – the empty tomb. The angelic messenger was God’s provision for this need.
7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.’ ”
Peter is specifically included because he was, at this point, an outsider through having denied Jesus, Mark 14:66-72
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
Afraid, astonished, confused: not able to believe the angel at first. But when they did, they talked about it – a lot, Matt 28:8, Luke 24:9.
Sometimes God just needs people who will look and listen and learn, and then be the ones who communicate what He has revealed to others. From a society of extreme male domination, we have learned, rather slowly, to recognise the God-given roles of men and women and the power of its partnership. This is brought out in this account of the most jaw-dropping of all miracles and those chosen to be the first witnesses of it.
Another lesson is the way an angelic messenger appears to give essential interpretation and direction. Some things are conceptually and emotionally beyond our grasp. God knows this and graciously provides. So we are reminded to be open to the interactions of angels – heavenly spiritual messengers – in our lives, usually unseen, but we can be aware of their presence. We think that our five senses provide the sum total of reality, but the spirit world and the heavenly dimension is being played out in parallel with everything we see and experience. The sixth sense, our spiritual awareness and connected by prayerful engagement, is just as real even if it is just outside our field of vision.
For reflection or as a discussion starter
If God was about to reveal something extraordinary and hard to believe, could He find in you a willing and reliable witness?
How much does the fear of people’s unbelieving and perhaps scornful reaction put us off telling what we know to be true?