Today is Resurrection Day!
Over the past few days, the journey to the resurrection went through Jerusalem and Bethany, enjoyed a Passover meal, saw Jesus arrested, marked for execution, and death on a cross.
When Jesus was laid in the tomb on Friday evening, it was done with reverence but quickly because of the approaching Sabbath. The Sabbath was now behind them, and the women (Mary Magdalene1 and Mary, the Mother of James & Salome) went to get burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body on Sunday morning.
Mary Magdalene is part of the Jesus narrative, not only for her role in the resurrection story but because Jesus healed her. According to scripture, she had been healed of demon possession. What is unclear is whether it was a one-time healing or multiple-episode healing, meaning the demons returned until they totaled seven, as some scholars believe.2
The women (Mary Magdalene & Mary, the mother of James & Salome) wasted no time on Sunday morning. They grabbed the spices they had purchased on Saturday evening after the Sabbath had concluded3 and made their way to Jesus’ tomb.
It was early on Sunday morning, and undoubtedly they awoke while it was still dark. Mark 16:2 says,
“Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb.”
I love Mark’s Gospel account of the two Mary’s discussing what they will do when they get to the tomb.
Mark 16:3 says,
“On the way they were asking each other, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’”
If we look back to Friday evening, a large stone had been rolled in front of the tomb to prevent entry. This was primarily done to prevent the disciples from entering the tomb and stealing Jesus' body.
Was the large stone already there? How did they get it into place? How many men did it take to get the stone in place?
None of the questions are answered in scripture, nor are they particularly relevant to the narrative, but the curious side of us includes these questions.
The Mary’s were trying to figure out who would remove the stone from the burial entrance. How did they know they would be permitted entry? Was it the custom of the day to perform these last rites on the body?
The Mary’s learned quickly that the stone was not going to be an issue when they arrived to find it already moved from in front of the tomb.4
The Gospel accounts differ based on the perspectives of the authors. Let’s take a look at a few of the accounts.
“When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, ‘Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body.’” (Mark 16:5-6)
“Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ he said. ‘I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying.’” (Matthew 28:2-6)
“They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 3So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, ‘Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.’” (Luke 24:2-7”
“Early on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.” (John 20:1)
One thing is clear from the Gospel accounts, Jesus is not dead, but ALIVE! He did what He said He was going to do – He was going to rise on the third day.
The religious leaders, when they mocked Him on the cross, said,
“‘Look at you now!’ You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days.”
When Jesus died, the Temple curtain was torn from top to bottom, symbolizing the death of the old covenant and the birth of the new covenant. This is what Jesus meant when He talked about destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days. When He said this, He was predicting His death and resurrection.
Without Jesus’ death on a cross, we would have no use for His resurrection. The single greatest act in all of human history is the resurrection of Jesus!
When the ladies realized the tomb was empty, they made a beeline for the disciples. No stopping. No passing go. No collecting anything.
The disciples, led by their denying leader Peter, hoofed it over to the tomb to see if what the ladies said was true.
I love John’s account of the disciples arriving at the tomb,
“Peter and the other disciple started out for the tomb. They were both running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings. Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.” (John 20:3-9)
I imagine there was a lot of disbelief among the disciples. Peter and this other disciple (most likely John) walked along, and then the other took off. I wonder if the conversation went something like this:
Peter what do you think we will find when we get there?
I don’t know, I guess we will find out when we get there.
Ok, but last one to the tomb has to go in first.
And the other disciple takes off. Peter must have been a bit stunned or out of shape one of the two.5
When Peter got to the tomb, he blew right by the other disciple like something out of an action flick. When he got down to where Jesus’ body had been, all he found was folded grave clothes.
Why were burial clothes folded?
I wonder if Jesus wanted to get our attention about His resurrection. Scholars believe this was an act of intentionality. If grave robbers had removed the body, they would have either taken the grave clothes or removed them in a mess. The simple act of folding the grave clothes is important and intentional.6
John’s gospel account also reflects that the disciples still did not fully believe that he would rise again until John “saw” it with his own eyes.
He (John) says,
“Then the disciple who had reached the tomb first also went in, and he saw and believed—for until then they still hadn’t understood the Scriptures that said Jesus must rise from the dead.” (John 20:8-9)
Scholars believe that when John saw the empty grave clothes, he finally understood or “perceived understanding” of the resurrection but did not understand its true significance.7
After all, this took place; John adds this one final remark, which made me laugh,
“Then they went home.” (John 20:10)
Jesus Comforts Mary
On this Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, the empty tomb is what greets each one of us. Jesus is not in the tomb – He did as He said He would do – rise from the grave.
After Jesus had risen, He had a few encounters with people before seeing the disciples one last time before ascending to Heaven for good.
Mary’s encounter with Jesus occurred sometime after Peter and John had left the burial tomb to return to the other disciples.
She was distraught. She had lost her Lord, and she was struggling to comprehend the situation. As she was there, she was greeted by two angels who asked,
“Dear woman, why are you crying?” (John 20:13)
Mary wanted to know where they had taken Jesus’ body. When she turned to leave, a man was standing there, but she did not recognize the person.
The man asked her,
“‘Dear woman, why are you crying?’ Jesus asked her, ‘Who are you looking for?’” (John 20:15)
She still did not recognize His voice, and then Jesus said this,
“Mary!” (John 20:16)
All it took was Jesus calling her by name for her to recognize Him. Scholars point to “John 10:4 where Jesus said that ‘his sheep know his voice.’”8
This was a sweet encounter between Jesus and Mary.
Hope For a Hurting World
This Easter, our world is beginning to return to a new normal.
Jesus’ journey to the cross, and His resurrection, give each of us hope for a better tomorrow. Without the cross, we wouldn’t need a resurrection.
As we saw on the way to the cross, Jesus died so that we might live. As we see from the empty tomb – His resurrection shows His power over the grave.
Jesus is the answer for our hurting world. He came that we might have life and have it for all eternity.
This Easter Sunday, as you are spending it with family and friends, take a few minutes to reflect on what Jesus did on the cross; however, celebrate that He is not dead but is alive! He was not in that tomb on Easter Sunday.
He is Risen, He is Risen Indeed!
Lord, thank you for your sacrifice on the cross that made it possible for us to have a life with You in eternity. More importantly, we celebrate that you have risen from the dead as You said you would do. Please continue to bring hope to the hurting and a quick end to the pandemic. Amen!
- She was the first at the tomb (Mt 28:1; Mk 16:1; Lk 24:10). But she was also the last at the cross—she and her companions (Mt 27:61; Mk 15:40)Sweet, L. M. (1915). Mary. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 2004). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company. ↩
- At the same time, the statement that 7 demons had been cast out of Mary means either that the malady was of exceptional severity, possibly involving several relapses (cf Lk 11:26), or that the mode of her divided and haunted consciousness (cf Mk 5:9) suggested the use of the number 7.Sweet, L. M. (1915). Mary. In J. Orr, J. L. Nuelsen, E. Y. Mullins, & M. O. Evans (Eds.), The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (Vol. 1–5, p. 2004). Chicago: The Howard-Severance Company. ↩
- Mark 16:1 ↩︎
- Mark 16:4 ↩︎
- John was certainly younger than Peter, and he may have been faster. He reached the tomb first and looked at the strips of linen. The text uses the same word for saw that appears in verse 1 describing Mary. Like Mary, John did not enter the tomb. We sense a certain hesitation and uncertainty, perhaps even fear. What lay beyond in that darkness? What horror might they find in the shadows of the burial cave? John was the only disciple to have seen the crucifixion, so we need not wonder at his unwillingness to look at that broken body again. Gangel, K. O. (2000). John (Vol. 4, p. 367). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers. ↩
- Notice that the burial cloth was folded up by itself. This was obviously an intentional act on the part of someone. All the evidence at the tomb itself that Super Sunday supports every claim the disciples made about the resurrection as well as the record of the four Gospel writers.Gangel, K. O. (2000). John (Vol. 4, pp. 367–368). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers. ↩
- So three of Jesus’ followers saw the empty tomb, but John was not finished with his report. He wanted his readers to know that after Peter entered the tomb, John himself finally found enough courage to follow him. Now we have yet another use of the English verb saw and yet a third Greek word appearing in the original text. This time John uses a word that means “to perceive with understanding.” That is why our text reads that John saw and believed. But lest readers of this Gospel get the wrong idea about the quality of the disciples’ faith at this point, John appended a parenthesis telling us that neither he nor the rest of the disciples yet understood the connection between scriptural prophecy and the resurrection. That would await Jesus’ post-resurrection teaching followed by the infilling with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Gangel, K. O. (2000). John (Vol. 4, p. 368). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers. ↩
- John 10:4 where Jesus said that “his sheep know his voice.”Gangel, K. O. (2000). John (Vol. 4, p. 370). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers. ↩
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