Easter always has been one of my favorite holidays. I never cared much for the hard-boiled eggs, especially cleaning up pieces of eggshell, but it was a great day with the Easter baskets and the new clothes. Although my birthday is in March, we kids always got a new shirt and pants for Easter. Usually it was beginning to get warm, too, so we knew spring was coming and the last day of school wasn’t too far ahead!
As most of us know, Easter is about something much different. We can’t expect young kids to appreciate what Jesus did for us as much as we older believers have come to realize. There was the awful fact that He—the Lord of glory—gave up His life for us because He loved us. We can’t forget that He rose from the dead so we might have eternal life and salvation. It’s sobering when we realize many people either don’t know, don’t care or haven’t heard about this wonderful news—Jesus was dead, but He is alive forever!
Take your Bible and turn to Luke’s Gospel, chapter 24, beginning with verse 1. While you’re turning there, please keep in mind Jesus had been crucified three days before this day, that He had told the disciples repeatedly He would rise on the third day (after He was crucified), and that none of the disciples or other followers really believed He would come back to life. Proof of this is right here in this passage. We begin at verse 1:
“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 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.’ And they remembered His words, 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.”
There are three things in this text that jumped off the page for me when I was reading. The first one is that these women returned to the tomb. I’ve wondered why. They knew Jesus was dead. They had seen, or at least heard, this terrible news. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were there at the foot of the cross (plus a few others, according to John 19:25-27). John, at least, had heard Jesus say, “I will rise again” or words to that effect many times, but he still didn’t catch it—not until later, anyway. Maybe they didn’t know Nicodemus had brought 100 pounds of myrrh and aloe to preserve the body (John 19:39) because, according to verse 1, they brought other spices along with them. Why? They clearly didn’t know, or didn’t believe, Jesus could be alive—not after what He had been through. I won’t go into the details of crucifixion—other people have written and given verbal teaching about this—but we can agree this was the most horrible way to die. We should be glad our Lord Jesus, who was absolutely sinless, absolutely perfect in every way, suffered the worst form of death for us. Nobody can, or should, say they’re too bad for saving—look at Jesus! He died for all, even the worst of us—and the rest of us, too!
So they returned to the tomb at early dawn, which means it probably was still dark when they left their homes. One thing I’ve wondered about is how they intended to get there, leaving the city (Were the gates open?), going up to Mt. Calvary, which is not an easy climb, and probably wondering how they were going to get the guards to let them into the tomb! Matthew said there was a seal on the tomb (Matt. 27:66). So at the very least, the government showed it meant business as far as this tomb was concerned. Somewhere I’ve heard or read that love knows no obstacle. We commend these ladies for their courage and devotion to the Lord Jesus. Oh, that we who know He is alive forevermore would show this same devotion these days!
Luke tells us they got a surprise when they reached the tomb! The stone was rolled away, which was a miracle in itself. Several commentators explain the stone wasn’t a small item such as a rock, blocking the door to the tomb. Rather, it was a huge stone, a boulder. David Guzik says in his commentary that it was a circular stone rolled down a track to ensure nobody would break in and steal the body (or other things, it’s implied) from the tomb. He says it would take several strong men to roll that stone uphill so the tomb could be accessed.
I doubt these women were that strong. Again, how were they going to get in? The only thing we know is they prepared spices because they did not believe Jesus was going to rise again.
That was the first surprise. Imagine when they see not only the stone rolled away, but they went in and saw two men, according to Luke, in shining clothes! What did the women do? “They bowed their faces to the ground”! Then they heard a perplexing question: “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here.” I imagine that angel paused for emphasis before he continued, as he said, “He has risen!”
This wasn’t all the angel said to them, but it was enough for these ladies to remember Jesus’ words. It was and is promised in Isaiah 55 that God’s Word never will return void or empty. When they heard, they remembered. How much or how often they thought of the messages Jesus preached or conversations with Him we may never know, but this moment of truth we read about here surely gave them the encouragement they needed.
The angel even gave a specific time and message: “When He was still in Galilee.” They remembered! Even if nobody else could recall the message, they did! The Greek verb here is in the passive voice, which means they didn’t actively think about what the angel said. Rather, the thought came to them! I am reminded of that beautiful hymn by Fanny Crosby “Rescue the Perishing,” in which one line says, “Chords that are broken will vibrate once more,” and this definitely happened for these women.
However, they didn’t stay there long and apparently didn’t want to waste any time. This was wonderful news, the knowledge that Jesus was not dead any longer, but alive! Luke then says they returned to the place where they were staying. We know from verse 9 that the 11 disciples were there, and the rest, and this is something I’ve never really noticed before. Who were they, the rest of them? We may not know who they were down here, but we will some day in heaven. They, too, had heard Jesus—and they had believed.
Now you would think, I’m sure, that this news about Jesus being alive would be welcome news, right? I mean, Jesus had spent more time with the disciples than anyone else, hadn’t He? Yet, they still didn’t understand! So when these ladies came back from the tomb, they’re telling the disciples all about what they had seen and heard that morning.
The rest of them did not believe them at all. Dr. A.T. Robertson in his Word Pictures in the New Testament commented that the words of the women were like the wild talk of someone in delirium or hysteria (paraphrased). Imagine: These women had left the relative safety of their homes, had walked all the way to Mt. Calvary and back, no doubt in deep sorrow regarding the death of Jesus. Now, they’ve returned, and I don’t think they were unhappy over this news! They’re probably taking turns, or maybe they’re overtalking each other. (Wouldn’t you have loved to have been there?) Still, the disciples were unconvinced! They didn’t believe a word the women were saying!
Later, they did. Although it isn’t in this particular passage, verse 36) tells us Jesus Himself appeared right there in the very room. He appeared again eight days later, and Thomas gave a true confession of faith, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). He made other appearances, too, as Paul later described in 1 Corinthians 15. One day, He’s coming back, this time to take us home with Him. I hope you are ready to meet Him—the Lord Jesus Christ—when He appears again.
For some of you, Easter and Christmas are the times when you come to worship. That’s great, and we appreciate you being here. Don’t let it stop at those two days. We want to see you again, too! Maybe you have returned to this church because there is something in your heart that you know all too well—you know things aren’t as right between you and God as they need to be and can abe. Today, through the reading of Scripture, perhaps you have remembered things you maybe had forgotten. Please make sure you have things right with God and yourself. This may be the last time you’re able to attend a church service. If things aren’t right, why not make them right today? Our Savior is waiting for you!