Summary: An exploration of the thoughts and emotions of the women as they visited the empty tomb and their relevance for us
They came because somebody had to. They came because it was expected. They came because the men were too scared to come out of hiding. They came because it was the women’s job anyway. They came because it was only right and proper. They came because they were in mourning. They came because all that they had lived for for the last three years had been taken away from them.
They had followed this preacher and Rabbi from Nazareth, Jesus was his name, were entranced by his teaching, were convinced that he would be the man to bring them freedom, believed with all their hearts that he was God’s messiah, the one for whom their people had been waiting for centuries. They had had a wonderful three years, full of hope and joy. Now it was all over. The authorities got nervous about their own positions and wanted to get rid of him. Then one of his closest friends betrayed him and handed him over. He had a mock, show trial and was executed. One of his secret followers had come forward and put his body in his own tomb. He was dead. He was gone.
His friends and followers had retreated into hiding, fearful of suffering the same fate themselves. It was all over. Finished.
All this happened on Friday, now it was Sunday morning. So they were setting out, at the crack of dawn, not wanting to be seen. They were heading for the tomb with spices and oils to dress the dead body of the man whom they had loved and on whom they had placed all their hopes. Thankfully it was a fairly chilly spring, not the height of summer, or else the stench would already have been considerable. In the rush to get him buried before the Sabbath it was not possible to bury him with all the sweet spices that were normally used, now they were being brought after he had already been dead and in this tomb for a couple of days. Although it was a chilly spring and they were still lighting fires at night, the smell, although not unbearable, would already have started. But at least they had the spices. At least some of the burial rites would be performed.
The smell, however, was the least of their worries. How on earth were they going to get into the tomb? A huge stone had been rolled in front of the entrance and none of them were very strong. It was looking like it might turn into a wasted journey. But at least they were making the effort. And it was an effort, the spices that they were lugging were heavy, and it was slow progress.
At long last they came within sight of the tomb. Now was going to be the big test of their physical strength. Would they be able to budge the stone? If they did manage to move it away so that they could get in, would they be able to roll it back into place when they had finished? There were only three of them, the two Marys and Salome, none of them were as young as they once were. Perhaps somebody would help them. But who? Besides they did not want to be seen. If they couldn’t get in, what then? Probably they would have to come back without dressing the beloved teacher’s body. If only one of the strong fishermen who had been going around with them had come! But they were all too scared to show themselves in public.
But as the tomb came within sight, their worries changed. They looked at it in disbelief and astonishment. Shockingly, the stone was gone! Who had moved it? Who had been messing about with the body of their precious teacher? What right did a stranger have to go into his tomb? A huge conflict of emotions hit them, anxiety, fear, anger on top of the loss, sorrow, grief and bewilderment that they already had. What was going on? Why?
They could have turned back. But their love for this man to whom they had given their lives drove them on.
They came closer, their knees knocking, their hearts pounding from more than just the exertion of lugging the spices. Plucking up all the courage they could muster, they drew close and approached the unguarded, stoneless entrance. They went in.
Their worst fears were realised. They had caught an intruder red-handed, a young man wearing strange white robes. They looked at each other and at him, not knowing what to say or do. But then he spoke:-
“Don’t be frightened, you’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He isn’t here, he’s risen – look at the place where they put his body. Tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he’s going to go to Galilee ahead of you. You’ll see him there, just as he promised you that you would!”