The Sabbath has been observed and now the women head to the tomb at early dawn with their spices at hand (v. 1). The women are heading to the tomb to complete the burial – remember on Friday we noted that these people did not expect Jesus to rise again. In their minds he was dead, and was going to stay dead. So they come to the tomb to complete the burial process.
However, as they reach the tomb they make two discoveries (vv. 2-3). First of all, they discover that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb. Secondly, as they enter the tomb they realise that the body is gone! These discoveries obviously caused them some concern. We read in verse 4 that they were ‘perplexed’ – this was not how it was supposed to be. As the NEB puts it, they were ‘utterly at loss’. But, in the middle of this being perplexed suddenly two men stood beside them in ‘dazzling apparel’ (v. 4). This type of language is used of heavenly phenomena and so although Luke only ever calls them men, we can be certain that these two men are angels.
However, the really important section in these verses is the announcement by the angels, which begins in verse 5. To begin they ask the simple question which presupposes the resurrection, but then they confirm it in verse 6 – ‘He is not here, but is risen!’ We should note that ‘risen’ in this text is passive, perhaps a better rendering of it would be ‘has been raised’, this is a work of God. It is God who raised Jesus from the dead. What is more amazing though is that the angels suggest that the women should not be surprised at this resurrection (vv. 6-7). Jesus did indeed predict this, in Luke 9:22 he says ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed, and on the third day be raised’. And so the women are reminded about this promise and told that this promise has been kept.
The announcement of this glorious message reminds us that God keeps his promises. Jesus promised he would be raised on the third day – God kept that promise raising Jesus on the third day. We must be encouraged that God keeps his promises. While there are numerous promises that we could consider throughout Scripture allow me to pick just one promise:
‘Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven’ (1 Cor. 15:49)
Jesus resurrection is a forerunner to our resurrection. We will be raised, and will bear the image of the man of heaven as Paul puts it. Is that not a great promise? And can we not have great assurance from this passage in Luke that God keeps his promises? 1 Corinthians 15 is a magnificent chapter which speaks of our resurrection, and our victory over death, which is ours only because of Easter and Jesus enduring of it for us!
We soon see that the women remember this prediction that the angels have drawn their attention to (v. 8)! However, they do not just remember, they respond. Verse 9 tells us that the women returned home from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven disciples and to all the rest. The women are not content with just being encouraged by this glorious message, they must announce it and see it spread throughout all Jesus disciples.
However, the spreading of this glorious news appears to stumble at the apostles. Isn’t it ironic that the first sceptics that Jesus faces are his very own disciples? Luke tells us in verse 10 that these words seemed like ‘idle tales’, or as some other versions put it ‘nonsense’ to the disciples. The word used is one which was used in medical settings for description of the delirious talk of sick people. And so the impression is given that the disciples wrote off the testimony of these women. In fact, this thought is underlined in that Luke states it this way, ‘their words seemed like idle tales, and they did not believe them’ (v. 11 NIV).
While it appears that no one believes them, one disciple feels the need to investigate. That disciple is Peter, Luke tells us that Peter got up and ran to the tomb (v. 12). He wasn’t going to waste any time arguing – he just wanted to see for himself! And he does. He reaches the tomb, peers in and sees the cloths lying on the ground – the body is gone, perhaps he really has been raised from the dead? So, Peter goes home ‘marvelling’ at what had happened. The force of the word is trying to understand. Peter pondered is really the outcome… And so in these last few verses we see that the glorious message has spread, from the angels, to the women, to the disciples.
And it has continued to spread. We think of the reformation and men like Martin Luther trying to reform the church in the 1500s. Then came the Puritans who took this glorious message to USA in the 1600s & 1700s. Then we think of individuals like William Carey who took this glorious message to India. Or David Livingstone who took this glorious message to Africa. Or Hudson Taylor who took this glorious message to China. Indeed I can even think of my very own Baptist Missions taking this glorious message to Peru. But it doesn’t stop there, this message has continued to spread and will continue to spread.