Summary: In depth explanation of the biblical text and a reflection of what it means for us today
What a day it turned out to be, in fact what a life changing and challenging week it had been. Jesus’ arrest, interrogation and crucifixion, leading to his death on the cross, had seen his faithful followers scatter and hide themselves away, as they shared with each other their grief for a son, brother, teacher, friend Lord and Master who had been brutally murdered at the hands of the Romans and Jewish authorities. It had been three days since he had been skewered on that cross like a piece of meat. Three days since the great droplets of blood had trickled slowly to the ground from his head, his hands and his feet. They had all looked on helplessly thinking the end had come, asking why God had allowed it to happen, why he hadn’t stepped in and stopped it. After all he was the all powerful God, wasn’t he? All of His teaching and their learning, suddenly forgotten, out of the window. What a waste of a wonderful life they thought, so much lay ahead of him, so much he still had to do. All of it shattered, all of their dreams broken. Hearts split in two, minds confused, darkness and grief surrounded them. They were alone and scared behind a locked door uncertain of what to do next.
Early on that Easter morning Mary went to the tomb where Jesus’ body laid. It was between 3 and 6am in the darkness and stillness of the early morning. She couldn’t wait any longer, she felt compelled to go. Was she there in accordance with the customs of Palestine, visiting the body for three consecutive days after death had occurred, because she believed that his spirit hovered around the tomb before it departed and only when his body had began to decompose did it leave. Was she there to check that his grave was still properly sealed, as grave robbing was quite common, was she there to grieve, was she there with more spices, or was she there just to be at his side and to pray? The authorities had made sure that the entrance to the tomb had been properly sealed so that no one could get in. After all they didn’t want anyone to claim that he had risen from the dead. He was dead and they wanted it to stay that way.
It was a Sunday morning, the start of a new day, the start of a new week. But not only was it the start of a new week, it was to be the start of the new covenant, a new beginning, all the hope and despair that existed only days before was about to turn to great joy and happiness.
Mary approached the tomb her eyes filled with tears, her grief so great. The entrance to the tomb was open. Thoughts rushed through her mind. Someone has taken my Lord’s body, she thought. Was it grave robbers who had carried out this last vile act or was it the Jewish authorities, not satisfied with killing him but they wanted to desecrate and mutilate his dead body.
But what she failed to considered was the fact that he had risen from death, just as he had predicted so many times and just as the Hebrew Scriptures had also predicted.
Scared and uncertain she ran to find Simon Peter and to tell him of her discovery. Mary, Peter and the disciple Jesus loved (probably John) returned to the tomb to find overwhelming evidence that Jesus had risen from the dead. The first piece of evidence was the fact that the tomb was empty, secondly the strips of cloth that had been wrapped around his body were laying there empty and lastly the cloth that had covered his head was folded and placed to one side. It was as though his body had evaporated. Yet despite all of this Peter still did not see the evidence for what it was, he were blinded. Was he blinded by ignorance, grief, disbelief or was he just unable to interpret all of the evidence that was before him? Was it too much for him to take in? But then as the other disciple entered the tomb, he saw, understood and believed. They both left and returned to where they were staying.
Mary remained at the tomb, weeping. She had been too afraid to go into the tomb, scared of what she might find. But when she did gather enough courage her grief turned to confusion as she had difficulty in understanding what she saw. His body was now gone, Angels, messengers from God, were in the place where Jesus once lay. The empty tomb and grave cloths were evidence to the two disciples that Jesus had been raised from the dead. The Angels were also to Mary evidence of the resurrection. But how could anyone in a normal state of mind understand this, let alone someone who was distraught with grief? Then she received the shock of her life as someone calls out her name – Mary. She recognised the voice as that of Jesus the good shepherd, standing there right in front of her. He looked the same but yet he was somehow different. Rabboni, she utters, as she reaches out to hold him, scared that she might lose him again, but he tells her “No I am not yet ascended to the Father.” She doesn’t understand that their relationship has now changed; there is a new and different bond between them. No longer is it a physical relationship, but a spiritual one.