The News That No One Expected
Part 9: How an early morning message to the mourning women put into motion a movement that would change the world
When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” (Mark 16:1-3, NIV)
The tomb is empty.
Jesus was not there.
This is not how these things usually go.
Dead people stay in their tombs.
But this tomb is empty.
Early Sunday morning
Sabbath prohibitions had allowed time only to wrap the body Friday afternoon, so the women needed to get to the tomb as early as possible Sunday morning to complete the washing and anointing of the body. So, after a long, likely sleepless Friday night and Sabbath, the women rose early to go to the tomb.
They may have been walking quickly, hoping that the stench of rapid decomposition in the hot Mediterranean days might have been mitigated adequately by the 2000-foot elevation of springtime Jerusalem, combined with a sealed tomb. With spices in hand, possibly purchased the previous evening after the Sabbath had ended, they approach the tomb, wondering if anyone might be nearby to help them roll the stone away.
An empty tomb
But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. (Mark 16:4, NIV)
As they approached the tomb, they saw that the stone had been rolled away.
Has someone else come to anoint the body?
Has Joseph returned to his tomb to ensure that all is well, given that everything happened so quickly Friday evening?
The women came to the tomb fully prepared to deal with a dead body. We can be sure that an empty tomb was not even on their radar.
As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” (Mark 16:5-7, NIV)
A surprising message…
Entering the tomb, a young man dressed in white frightens them. The tomb was not empty, but the one they expected to see was not there.
“Don’t be afraid,” the young man says to the women,
[Translation: Don’t freak out! Take a deep breath; everything is going to be okay.]
“You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene…
[Translation: Yes, you are in the right tomb.]
…who was crucified…
[Translation: Yes, he really was dead.]
…He has risen…
[Translation: Breaking news—HE IS NO LONGER DEAD! Yes, you heard correctly.]
…He is not here…
[Translation: Clearly, you have already noticed.]
… See the place where they laid him…
[Translation: He’s definitely not there]
…But go, tell his disciples and Peter that Jesus is going ahead of you into Galilee…
[Translation: That’s right, there will be no preparations of a dead in this tomb today. You will be the first to proclaim this good news about Jesus. Get movin’!]
…There you will see him…
[Translation: Go to where he is. When you get there, you will see him. And when you do, your life will never be the same again.]
…of good news and renewed mission
The Bible does not offer a neatly folded map or “a perfect plan for your life” or a bottle-fed blueprint for living. The good news was not a new set of laws or a new set of ethical injunctions or a new and better seven-point PLAN.
The good news was the story of a victory that had already been won by the person of Jesus the Christ. The good news is glad tidings of a beautiful new relationship between humans and the divine: God so loved the world…Christ so redeemed the world … The Holy Spirit so pervades the world… That a new world is coming. That’s the GOOD NEWS! (Leonard Sweet, So Beautiful, Kindle 2243)
Peter would become a key figure as the story moves forward from here. Through the message of the young man to the women, followed by the women’s faithfulness in sharing that news with the others, Jesus invites Peter and the other disciples back into a shalom-based relationship with him and welcomes them to rejoin him in his mission. This mission would transform the world!
This story is part five of an Easter series. Read parts 1-8 using the links below: