Mark 16:1-8 (NIV)
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. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
“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. 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.'”
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.
The women had brought with them precious spices and ointments to apply to Jesus’ body. These did not “embalm” or preserve the body – that was not their purpose. Their fragrance merely helped to offset the odor of decay. But even more, they hoped to show honor to this man who had meant so much to them. Jesus’ body had not been washed and anointed, as was traditional, because the Sabbath had been quickly approaching. They intended to do now what had been left undone two days before.
The biggest issue they believed that they would face was the large stone that had been rolled in front of the tomb’s door to seal it. They had no idea how they would be able to move it so that they could get in.
But that quickly became a moot issue when they got to the tomb and found the stone already pushed to the side. Their first thought was that someone had broken in and had abused or stolen the body. When they went in, they didn’t see Jesus. Their attention was immediately arrested by the young man dressed in white who was sitting where the body should have been.
The angel’s message was short and clear:
- “Don’t be afraid” – You can almost hear an echo of Christmas in this: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10 NIV)
- “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.” – There was no mistake. They had come to the right tomb.
- “He has risen!” – The most earthshaking declaration ever pronounced to human ears. The One who was beaten, crucified, and pierced had risen from the dead. He who was certified dead was now alive again!
- “He is not here. Se the place where they laid Him.” – With one elegant gesture, the angel pointed to the empty slab as proof that his words were true. Jesus’ body that had been laid out right there was gone.
- “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.'” – The plans that Jesus had laid out before He had been crucified were still in effect. The disciples didn’t understand those plans at first, and figured that, since Jesus was dead, they were all useless anyway. But they were actually planned to be carried out after Jesus rose. (The disciples delayed in going to Galilee while they tried to figure out what had “really” happened. So before Jesus met the disciples in Galilee, He appeared to many of them in and around Jerusalem.)
The women went away trembling with fear and bewilderment. They had heard the words of the angel – clear, concise words. They had seen the empty stone slab where Jesus’ body had been laid out. But they couldn’t seem to put all of the pieces together in their minds. It was all so far outside of their normal experiences. Sure, Jesus had raised several people from the dead. But who had raised Him?
They didn’t speak a word to anyone they met on their way to the upper room where the disciples were gathered. They were not about to sound forth this amazing news until they had time to think it through!
Father, it strikes me that Jesus had told all of His followers, presumably including these women, that He would rise on the third day, but His words sounded so alien, so out of touch, that they found no place to rest in their minds. The disciples were not preparing for the resurrection; they were hiding out in fear that the Jews would come and arrest them, too. (John 20:19) The women weren’t preparing for Jesus’ resurrection; they had spent their time preparing the spices, and then waiting out the Sabbath so that they could better prepare Jesus’ body for the decay that they saw as inevitable. But all of that planning, strategizing, and preparing turned out to be worthless, because Jesus kept His promise and rose from the dead on the third day.
Lord, how many of our plans, strategies, and preparations ultimately turn out to be useless, because we have ignored or failed to grasp the amazing promises You have made to us? How much wasted time and energy do we engage in, when all we really have to do is to obey You, and wait for the miracles You have promised? Sometimes Your promises are too amazing for us to believe. Help us to believe them anyway, so that we can see Your power at work in and through our lives. Amen.