Summary: This was a day that changed history forever.
An Easter Meditation
It was the worst of days; it was the best of days. It was a day of darkness; it was a day of light. It was a day of anguish; it was a day of fear. It was a day of doubt; it was a day of great faith. It would be a day that ranks as the most influential day in history dwarfing all rivals. The course of history and eternity would be forever changed.
It was the worst of days for a group of terrified disciples. The previous week had gone from the soaring heights of the triumphal entry of Jesus of Nazareth into the city of Jerusalem. The crowds cheered and shouted Hosanna. After years of political oppression, it looked like a new day was dawning in Israel. But the confusion of joy melted into plain confusion as Jesus did not live up to their expectations of a deliverer of Israel. Jesus did not help the disciples with His apocalyptic and gloomy talk. Then as Gethsemane, they see their comrade Judas come as a betrayer. They arrest Jesus. Peter whose back was against the wall and feared sharing Jesus’ fate denies Jesus. The disciples scatter and hide. Only John, Jesus’ mother, and a few women dared come to see Jesus crucified. Their greatest hopes were dashed. They could not even gather the courage to ask for the body of Jesus in order to bury Him. This task fell to two others. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus dared petition Pilate for Jesus’ body. They were willing to take the risk of shaming and even possible arrest as co-conspirators of Jesus. Nicodemus who was to afraid of his reputation to be seen with Jesus during the day had changed. He publicly shares with Joseph in taking a dead body off a tree of cursing. They publicly became unclean in front of all the Jews and Romans. They were shamed, but they were not ashamed of Jesus. They took the task of wrapping the body of Jesus and adding myrrh and aloes to the body and placed the body in Joseph’s own rock carved tomb and sealed the door with a great stone.
The women were guilt-ridden because they felt that they had failed to show the proper respect for the body of their beloved master. They knew they had to risk going out and finishing the task. The seem to have known where the body was buried. It was buried in haste, as the sundown of the Sabbath was coming. So they had to wait until the evening after the Sabbath. They went to the merchants and purchased the spices and waited for the early morning to go out to the tomb. The men remained behind the locked doors of their refuge, and the women went forth under the gloom of the pre-dawn morning. We don’t know how many women there were, but Luke indicates four. Mark seems to record three including Mary Magdalene. They went sadly to the tomb to do the work of anointing the body of Jesus.
It was on the way to do this that they realized that there was a problem. The tomb was large and expensive, so the rock which rolled over the mouth of the tomb was huge. It was far too heavy for the women to roll it away. This detail is one of those things easily overlooked in their confusion. So they asked each other how they could get the stone removed. To their astonishment, they noticed that the stone had already been removed from the mouth of the tomb. How convenient. Maybe some of the men had gone out under cover of darkness to remove it for them. But this was not the case. The other possibility is that grave robbers had come and rolled it away. At any rate, the women went into the tomb and were shocked. Instead of finding the body of Jesus, they saw what they thought was a young man sitting to the right on one of the ledges upon which bodies of family members might be laid. Naturally, they were frightened out of their wits, especially as this youth was in brilliant white garments. Also they could see the shelf on which Jesus was laid was empty. The body of Jesus was gone. Then, according to Mark, the man tod them to stop being terrified. The word Jesus is put forward for emphasis in the next sentence. It literally translated: “Jesus you are seeking of Nazareth who has been crucified has risen.” Translated into better English: “JESUS of Nazareth, who was crucified, has risen! He is not here! See where they had laid Him.”
This I am sure added great confusion to their great fear. Perhaps this accounts for some of the jumbled up accounts in the gospel of what had happened. The accounts of what happened all agree on the empty tomb. They all agree that women were the first to see that the tomb was empty. A message was given to them to go and tell Peter and the disciples. John seems to indicate that Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb later and saw Jesus. At any rate, there is excitement and confusion in the accounts, exactly what one would expect under these circumstances.