1-3 At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn’t find the body of the Master Jesus.
It’s clear that this was not Saturday evening, but Sunday morning (Mark 16:2 includes the words “just after sunrise”). The two Marys—generally believed to be Mary Magda-lene and Mary, the mother of James and John—came to the tomb to complete Jesus’ burial, or perhaps to prepare His body for travel back to His home of Nazareth.
There is no mention in Luke of a violent earthquake, or any other explanation as to who the stone was removed from covering the tomb—only that it had been rolled back. Matthew reports that this was done by an angel’s descent from heaven.
4-8 They were puzzled, wondering what to make of this. Then, out of nowhere it seemed, two men, light cascading over them, stood there. The women were awestruck and bowed down in worship. The men said, “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how He told you when you were still back in Galilee that He had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words.
Neither here nor anywhere else in the New Testament is Jesus’ actual resurrection recorded. Rather, the Gospels stress the witness to an accomplished event and to a risen Savior. Clearly, the apostles were less interested in the “how” than in the significance that the resurrection did, indeed, happen.
Here, these angels are the first to bear the witness. Having first addressed the women's fear, he declares: “Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up.” This makes it clear why the stone was removed from the entrance—not to allow Jesus to emerge from the tomb, but to allow His followers to enter into the tomb, so that they can see that it is empty. Jesus’ resurrection did not depend upon the removal of the stone.
9-11 They left the tomb and broke the news of all this to the Eleven and the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them kept telling these things to the apostles, but the apostles didn’t believe a word of it, thought they were making it all up. 12 But Peter jumped to his feet and ran to the tomb. He stooped to look in and saw a few grave clothes, that’s all. He walked away puzzled, shaking his head.
Matthew reports that, after the angelic announcement, Jesus appears to these women to confirm the report that He was, indeed, alive. Luke, however, tells us that the women report to the apostles without having actually seen Jesus. It is reminiscent of what Jesus would later say to a doubting Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe (John 20:29).” The women visibly express their joy by running to tell the apostles.
It’s unfortunate that the apostles’ initial response was disbelief. They are almost invisible in the text. They are hiding behind closed doors, or silently grieving in the safety of their own quarters (Luke 24:12). But to his credit, Peter is reported to have gone to the tomb and see what he could see—a few grave clothes.
Frank Tillipaugh, in his book, The Church Unleashed, refers to the “fortress mentality” of the Church. He says that the Church is more concerned about nurturing itself than it is with reaching the lost with the Gospel—in word and deed. We are more concerned with our own self-image than we are with the salvation of the lost; we are caught up more in safety and security than in faith and obedience. We persist in constructing programs that protect us from the world in which we live, rather than in penetrating the world with the Good News of the Gospel.