Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”
3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.
11 Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12 and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
13 They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”
“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14 At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
15 He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”
She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”).
17 Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.
We've reached the climax of John's gospel! What an awesome passage to read. We will begin our study by bringing in some verses from the other gospels, too, as we set the scene . . .
Early in the morning, there was a group of women who approached the tomb where Jesus' body had been laid. There hadn't been enough time after the crucifixion to prepare the body in the proper way for burial. As they walked, a thought occurred to them:
and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the
entrance of the tomb?" (Mark 16:3)
Even though they really had no answer, they walked on. Then when they arrived at the borrowed tomb, they saw a startling sight: the soldiers who had been tasked with watching over the tomb (the religious leaders wanted to make certain that the disciples could not steal away with the body and then claim He had risen) were lying on the ground . . . they looked as if they were dead! (Matthew 28:4)
But here is the amazing part -- they found that the stone had already been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb! The question that had troubled them had already been answered.
There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came
down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone
and sat on it. (Matthew 28:2)
So the women walked past the guards, and entered the tomb.
His body was gone.
Can you imagine the shock of that moment? Of all the possibilities revolving in your head, as you look at the slab, with graveclothes neatly folded there?
Suddenly, two angels appeared and told the women that Jesus had risen from the dead! The women were terrified, and the angels spoke gently:
While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly
stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified
and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do
you seek the living One among the dead? “He is not here, but He has risen.
Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that
the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be
crucified, and the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:4-7)
Somehow, some way, they gathered up all of their courage and made a mad dash for the place where they knew the disciples were gathered that morning. I can just imagine how they had to try and calm themselves and catch their breath, and then tell all they had seen, and what they had heard.
But the disciples did not believe them.
...and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven
and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary
the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these
things to the apostles. But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and
they would not believe them. (Luke 24:9-11)
I find myself wanting to chastise the men for their lack of faith in these women. But to tell the truth, I guess it did seem a little far fetched . . . well-trained, disciplined, strong guards that appeared to be dead; the huge, heavy stone rolled away; men in bright clothing that talked to them of Jesus being alive!
None of it seemed to make any sense to these men who had been through so much pain and anguish and had lost their Master.
But it was an intriguing message. So intriguing that two of the disciples started off for the tomb, to see for themselves. Peter, John, and Mary Magdalene all want to figure out this mystery.
No one doubted that the tomb was empty. They never questioned that part of the women's story. But they needed to decide for themselves why it was empty, and what it all meant.
That is what each of us must decide. We can all agree that there is an empty tomb. But the question is how are we going to respond to it? How is it going to affect our lives?
Three different people came to the tomb that day, and each one responded in a different way. Join us next time, won't you?