It would have been very cold so early on that spring morning when the women left their houses laden with their spices and cloths. They had a job to do and they knew how to do it. Most probably they had done it many times before.
The narrative of our Gospel moves along with the same sort of confidence:
- On the first day of the week
- at the first sign of dawn
- the women went to the tomb
- with the spices they had prepared.
There is a matter-of-factness about the text which seems to click along routinely like a train which knows where it’s going and how to get there. Their destination was the tomb in which Jesus had been laid on Friday. They were going to complete the burial preparations for him which they had hastily begun but were not able to finish before the sun set for the Sabbath.
Then comes the first surprise – They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. Who would want to do such a thing, and why?
But an even greater surprise awaits them. On entering the tomb they discovered that the body of the Lord Jesus was not there!
Suddenly the train comes to stop; it had run out of track – they stood there not knowing what to think. In an instant, everything was different. No body, no Jesus!
Almost immediately two men in brilliant clothes appeared at their side. This is getting weird, bizarre, they were terrified. Who are these men? What’s going on?
The men speak: Why look among the dead for someone who is alive? Before they have time to explain that they are not looking for someone who is alive the men continue – He is not here he is risen.
The women stand there, dumbfounded. He is not here he is risen. He is not here he is risen. Try as they might their poor minds cannot process this new information – he is risen? How can that be?
The two men come to their aid: Remember what he told you … Remember what he told you when he was still in Galilee …
The women struggle to push their minds back in time to the many things Jesus had told them, beautiful things, powerful things, things they were never likely to forget.
Again the two men in brilliant clothes come to their aid: Remember what he told you … that the Son of Man had to be handed over into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and rise again on the third day?
There is a moment of deep, thoughtful silence, of dawning comprehension and then – they remembered his words.
Oh, those words – those words we didn’t understand – those strange words we didn’t dare ask him about. Yes, I remember those words. He told us he would die and rise again on the third day, but we had no idea what he meant.
Slowly the pieces fall into place and the reality around them, the stone rolled away, the empty tomb, the angels before them, begin to make sense as they remembered what the Lord had told them when he was still with them.
But now everything is different. This is a new reality, a new world. This a world in which the promises of salvation have been fulfilled – eternal life for those who believe, for those who become followers of the living Lord of life.
The women return from the tomb to the Apostles and the other disciples. Now it is their turn to come to terms with what has happened but they are, as yet, unable to grasp the truth the women are putting before them. Their story seems pure nonsense and so it will continue to seem until they too find faith.
But Peter goes running to the tomb. What is he thinking? What is driving him?
He bent down and saw the binding cloths, but nothing else. Why would someone steal the body and why would he unwrap the body first?
We can’t tell what was in Peter’s mind but we can imagine that he, like all those faced with the news of the resurrection, would have been grappling with the meaning of this new ‘fact of life’ which had entered the world – Christ has died, Christ is risen. Alleluia, alleluia!