It’s Easter Sunday morning at 6:04 a.m. Sunrise is about 45 minutes away. I’m up so early by mistake, but I’m glad to be up early by mistake on such a day as this. I suppose that the women who were going to Jesus’ tomb this morning would have been up by now, gathering their spices, wrapping their cloaks and blankets for warmth against the brisk morning air of Jerusalem, and wiping away the tears that are still forming in the corners of their eyes; eyes that have seen so much over the past 72 hours. Eyes that witnessed it all. Eyes that are wearing, swollen, and tender from weeping.
With their burial spices and other items they were taking along to the tomb, they walked and made their way in the dim early morning light. I imagine they spoke very little, if at all to each other as they walked.
What astounds me though it shouldn’t is that they were coming to the tomb to further prepare Jesus’ body for death, even while He was revealing to the world the way to life. That their mood and tone was somber, while the occasion called for anything but! That despite Jesus repeatedly telling them exactly what was going to happen, they were acting as if none of it was possible and that this visit would truly be a time for them to anoint His body with more spices and oils.
But when they arrived at the tomb, they were likely the first human eyes to take in the sight of an open tomb; no longer sealed, no longer guarded, and no longer occupied by a dead man’s body! What must their minds have been doing inside their skulls at that moment? How could their humanness absorb and make sense of this supernatural event? God was again prepared to meet humanity at its time of need (this time for explanation) and posted an angel at the tomb to tell the women the good news: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?!? Jesus is ALIVE! He’s not here! He has RISEN just as He said He would! Now go and tell His disciples!”
What ever happened to those burial spices and oils? I love to imagine the sound of them hitting the ground and being trampled underfoot by those running to see the empty tomb.
When the women returned to tell the men, they didn’t believe them at first. Can you believe that they didn’t believe?!? “Ladies, please don’t interrupt our grieving with your nonsense. We’re trying to hold a funeral here. I mean, have some respect for the dead.” But they persisted and finally Peter and John take off running toward the tomb. Have you ever noticed that in John’s gospel, he makes sure to mention who won the foot race to the tomb? Men and their egos, right?
So, John won the race to the tomb, but tenacious Peter actually entered the tomb first. And there they saw Jesus’ burial cloths lying there in a heap. I love that those were left there. What a symbol of power, of victory, of “I won’t be needing those any more!” And the cloth that wrapped Jesus’ head was folded neatly separate from the other cloths. As a workman lays a folded rag on a workpiece indicating its completion, so Jesus also sent yet another message with this gesture that announced, “I’m done with what I came to do. The work is complete!”
So, what did the disciples do from there? Did they run and tell anyone they could find? Did they call a meeting in the synagogue to spread the word? Did they even tell anybody? Nope. They went back to the room they were in, and locked the door out of fear. Are you kidding me?!? I mean, an angel visits, the tomb is empty, the cloths are there, the guards are gone, and they go back to their hiding place. As humans, we’re thick-headed aren’t we? And we’re no different today. In our “enlightened” 21st century state, we’re actually as stubborn and hard-headed as the 1st century disciples. Thankfully, we serve a God who is just as patient now as He was then.
So the men run off back to the upper room, but the women stay at the tomb. This was undoubtedly because as women, they weren’t satisfied just having the information they had. They wanted details! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shared with my wife some conversation I had with someone and she begins to ask questions, probing for more information. And inevitably, she says those 3 words that men for ages have heard from their wives: “You didn’t ask?!?” Nope, but digging for the dirt just isn’t the guys’ thing. But true to form, these women wanted answers!
And they were rewarded for their persistence. After the men had gone, Mary stooped to look into the same tomb they had just been in and now there were 2 angels sitting in there. They asked her why she was crying and she told them, “They’ve taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they put him.” At that moment, we have the first recorded details of a human being (Mary) setting eyes on the risen Jesus. She turns to look at Him, perhaps with the morning sunrise brightening the scene so that she can see the face of Jesus her Lord!
And she mistakes Him for the gardener.
Not only that, but she talks to “the gardener” and asks Him where Jesus is! Does it get any better than this? Doesn’t Jesus ever roll His eyes even once, and mutter under His breath, “Come ON–what is wrong with you people!?! I’m standing right here!” No, He consistently, faithfully, and undeniably revealed Himself as exactly who He had stated for years that He was–the Messiah! The Lord! The Son of God! The Redeemer! The Lamb of God! The Promised One! The Alpha and Omega! The Way, the Truth, and the LIFE!
While there are many through the ages that have claimed deity, only Jesus backed it up by countless recorded and unrecorded miracles. Only Jesus backed it up by fulfilling hundreds of prophecies that were spoken hundreds of years before His birth. Only Jesus backed it up by willingly laying down His life as the ultimate and final sacrifice for my sins and yours. And only Jesus backed it up by emerging from the tomb victorious over death, hell, and the grave!
Praise the Risen Jesus! He’s ALIVE!!!
*As I close this post, it is now sunrise–time to begin the official celebration of the greatest day in history–the day that all of creation was bought back by its Creator!