“But very early on Sunday morning the women came to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone covering the entrance had been rolled aside. So they went in, but they couldn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. They were puzzled, trying to think what could have happened to it. Suddenly, two men appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed low before them. Then the men asked, ‘Why are you looking in a tomb for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He has risen from the dead! Don’t you remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again the third day?’ Then they remembered that he had said this” (Luke 24:1-8).
In those few minutes, these women, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several others, must have felt a chaotic mix of emotions. As the women approached the tomb, they were grieving deeply over Jesus’ death. Puzzlement and confusion would have mingled with their grief when they found the tomb empty. As their minds searched for possible explanations for the empty tomb, sheer terror would have overcome their confusion and puzzlement when they saw two extraordinary men in dazzling robes. By the time the two men began to speak to them, the women must have been overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of their feelings and the strangeness of the past few days.
But then the words the two men spoke began to penetrate the muddle of their many emotions, and they were able to hear the best news ever heard. “Don’t you remember?” the men asked, He told you “he would rise again on the third day.” And this was the third day!
Have you ever wondered why it was these women, rather than the disciples or someone else, who first heard and knew that Jesus was alive? Were they any less confused or frightened than the apostles and the others who had gathered together behind locked doors for protection from the Jewish leaders as they tried to make sense of the prior few days? Did they love Jesus any more than the others who were grieving together over Jesus’ death? It is doubtful that their grief or fear differed much from how the others were feeling.
What did differ was their behavior. The women came out from behind closed doors to bring burial spices to the tomb of Jesus as an expression of their love for Him. They put their fears of the authorities and their confusion over the recent events behind them to the extent that they willingly took this first step of love. These beginning steps put them in the place where the two angels could remind them of Jesus’ promises. And although these angels were startling and fearsome messengers, the women trusted them, for their message was a reminder of what Jesus had said about Himself. In the end, it was Jesus’ own words that brought to them the confirmation, peace, and joy that replaced their confusion, fear, and grief.
With believing hearts, they “rushed back to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened” (Luke 24:9). Can you picture the scene? The women—flushed with excitement, their garments dusty and slightly askew from the mad dash back to the city—banging on the locked door so they could enter…and then trying to catch their breath as words tumbled out of their mouths. They had amazing good news, and they wanted to share it!
Now if you would ever expect a warm welcome to be given to someone telling about Jesus’ resurrection, you would think it would be during this first telling. The women, after all, were telling those who knew and loved Jesus, too, and who had heard the same words from Jesus that the women had heard. Yes, it would be logical to think that the disciples would be as joyful as the women at this good news, “but the story sounded like nonsense, so they didn’t believe it” (Luke 24:11).
These women knew that Jesus was alive, and they hadn’t hesitated for a second to share this good news with others. But their message of hope and good news was rejected. Can you imagine the discouragement and frustration they must have felt? They were bursting with the good news, but they could not make the others believe.
However, their words did not fall completely on deaf ears, for “Peter ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened” (Luke 24:12). Peter had enough questions about the women’s story to check further but not enough faith to believe what he had heard from them or seen with his own eyes. The empty tomb was not enough proof. Many hours later, Jesus appeared to Peter, and it was then that the disciples and the others came to believe what the women had first said was true.
It is good for us to remember the lessons we can learn from the women who were the first to go to Jesus’ tomb. Their story provides us with great examples of faith and love in action in spite of fear or confusion. Their story teaches us that Jesus’ resurrection is fantastic news we need to share with others, but that we may face ridicule or rejection as we reach out to others with His story. Their story also teaches us that those who do ridicule or reject Jesus’ story upon first hearing it may come to believe it at a later time.
These women did what Jesus instructed His disciples to do during His last days on earth. Jesus said, “With my authority, take this message of repentance to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me’” (Luke 24:47).
The women were messengers, as are we, and Jesus is our message of hope to the world.
© 2010 Arlina Yates