Summary: Jesus takes time to reveal the resurrection to His disciples, with an empty tomb, a Bible study, and a personal visit - just as He reveals His new life to those that seek Him.
Sometimes good news is just as hard to hear as bad news. When someone comes to your door and says "You’ve just won the Publishers Clearinghouse Giveaway" what is your first thought? "Nah". But if someone came to our door and said "I’m from the IRS and you are being audited" then we just might believe it. We have a built in predilection against good news and towards the bad. It’s a survival mechanism.
In order to steel yourself against something awful you have to put some sort of blinders on in order to survive. Some call it shock, some Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The numbness insulates your brain from falling apart, but also makes it much harder to deal with reality.
That’s the situation the disciples found themselves in on the Sunday after Jesus’ crucifixion. Think about it: they had pledged their lives to this man; had seen Him perform countless miracles and do and say things no one else had ever done. They believed that He was the one and only Savior of Israel. Then just days after coming to Jerusalem this man was yanked from their midst, betrayed by one of their own number and taken away. Finally, instead of rallying to His side they all fled like cowards.
Then on Friday they watched in horror as their Jesus was executed like a common criminal and laid in a tomb.
What must they have felt? Betrayal, despair, fear, depression, shock, confusion, doubt, and perhaps even anger at themselves or even at Jesus: "how dare he abandon us like that. Doesn’t He know how much we counted on Him?"
Not in any of this did one of them say "you know-we ought to check to see if what Jesus told us was real-that He would rise from the dead three days later." It was beyond their comprehension.
The story of the resurrection is the story of Jesus’ gentle revelation of what He had really accomplished. Had He told them to gather at the tomb and watch the show it would have blown them away. Besides, the risen Messiah comes very intimately and personally, for each one must decide whether to take Jesus at His word and believe that He died and rose again. Jesus is a gentleman. He stands at the door of our heart and knocks, he doesn’t bust it down with a battering ram!
We see this in three stages the way Luke records the resurrection. First there is simply the absence of a body and the annunciation by men in bright clothes that what Jesus said would happen had happened. That news travels to the disciples. The second stage is Jesus Himself appearing to two relatively obscure disciples who were leaving town with no answers to the dilemma, despite hearing the first report. Jesus explains the Scriptures to them. The third stage is Jesus appearance to the disciples themselves. Even then He has to prove that He really is Himself. They then must choose-and they choose wisely to finally accept the wonderful news that Jesus alive.
I like this because in many ways Jesus comes to each of us in the same way. I’ll explain that later.
Verses 1 - 12
This would have been Sunday morning. Remember that the Jews considered any part of the day to be a full day, so Jesus was in the grave for three days, part of Friday, all of Saturday, and part of Sunday.
The stone used the seal a tomb was rolled in a trough downhill. It was generally a one way deal because not only would they have to roll it uphill, but it weighed 1 = to 2 tons. Plus there was a Roman seal on the stone that would be a death sentence to anyone who broke it. Besides that there was a squad of soldiers guarding the thing.
Mark’s gospel tells us that the women wondered how they were going to roll the stone away. Their purpose was to anoint the body with perfumes (to hide the stink of decay) and adorn the grave with the spices like flowers.
Matthew tells us that an angel came down and there was a great earthquake and he simply rolled the stone back up in its trough and sat on it. Here the women see the open tomb and go in. Most likely they wondered if grave robbers had come to disturb the body.
Luke describes two angels as men (Mark and Matthew say 1 angel, John and Luke 2 - it may be that the former concentrated on the one speaking). They were understandably frightened. Matthew records the angel as saying "don’t be afraid." Here the angel’s message about the Messiah is recorded-that Jesus is alive and that things went according the plan. That’s when the light bulbs went off. Jesus told them at least three times-delivered, crucified, raised.