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?
Readings this week, leading up to Easter Sunday, April 1
Isaiah 25:6-9 – The prophecy of death swallowed up in victory on Mount Zion
Mark 16:1-8 – The women’s shock at finding the tomb empty
Acts 10:34-43 – Jewish Peter enters Roman officer Cornelius’ house
1 Corinthians 15:1-11 – Paul reminds the Greek church in Corinth of their core beliefs
MONDAY, MARCH 26
Isaiah’s prophecy: death swallowed up for ever
They will say, “We trusted in Him and He saved us”.
6 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine – the best of meats and the finest of wines.
“On this mountain” – Mount Zion. This connects back to Isaiah 24:23: “The moon will be dismayed, the sun ashamed; for the Lord Almighty will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, and before its elders — with great glory.”
The prophet has already foretold a time when Gentile nations will come to Mount Zion for worship, Isaiah 2:1-4.
7 On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations;
The allusion is to death; it could also encompass the blindness of spiritual death among the Gentile nations – which is set to be reversed.
8 He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove his people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.
Paul in setting out the doctrine of resurrection quotes the first part of verse 8 (but not literally) at 1 Cor. 15:54. “…the saying that has been written is true: death has been swallowed up in victory.”
Christ by His death destroyed the power of death; He took away the sting of the first death, and prevented the second (everlasting death) for those who would turn to Him.
This victory also spells – positionally – the end of the disgrace God’s people commonly experience in a world of conflicting values.
9 In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
“Saved” is yasha and the noun form is yeshua (as in Jesus’ name in Hebrew). The saving is God’s work; our part of the partnership is trusting and rejoicing.
Here Isaiah sees in the Spirit a time when disgrace and death will no longer rule and God will delight in honouring all kinds of people.
God’s intention for those created in His image has always been life and peace – shalom in all its rich meaning. The Garden of Eden is an enduring picture of such an environment, where everything that man needed for life and health and companionship – everything that was life-giving – was freely provided. Man was created with freewill but also with a close relationship with God to guide choices in that freewill. The one thing that wasn’t on offer was independence from God. As we know, appropriating the one thing God did not want us to have, allowed in every source of pain, fear and death. And these influences rule our lives more than we like to admit.
What Isaiah saw in the Spirit was a different order of things. Instead of the inevitable slide of all things to rot and corruption and death, he saw the shroud of death torn, the vision for good choices restored and the power of death submerged by an unstoppable tide of God’s generosity. This is God’s kingdom in the Lord Jesus Christ, which we can experience in Him as a foretaste of the full realisation of His kingdom rule on His return. We still have the freewill to choose – either to satisfy our desire for independence, or to break its hold by choosing dependence on God who is so good and so loving and so worthy of our trust in Him.
For reflection or as a discussion starter
How much influence does fear, and the ultimate fear of death itself, have in our thought lives? How does Jesus, who said “I am the Way”, lead us to take authority over this influence?