Mary Magdalene cometh and telleth the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and that he had said these things unto her (John 20:18).
The burial had been accomplished, yet in haste. While the body had been anointed with aloes and spices, more were necessary. Mary Magdalene, with some of the other women, went to the tomb with them to finish the job.
There had not been much to say on the dark walk to the tomb; they all were quite aware of the events of the previous few days. It made no sense. How could it have all happened this way? Yet none of this needed to be said. Instead, there was a more pressing and present concern: how would they move the stone away from the mouth of the tomb? It was very large and heavy.
Yet something very strange has happened: as the women arrive and the day begins to dawn, they see that their concern is now academic, for the rock had been rolled away from the opening. Mary could tell that the body was no longer there. So she ran back to the upper room where she and her compatriots were staying and informed Peter and John that the body was no longer in the tomb and she did not know where it was.
Peter and John run to the tomb and verify that not only was it empty, but also that the linen cloths were still there, and the face cloth even rolled up in a place by itself. Surely tomb robbers would not go to the trouble of leaving the cloths, and properly rolled up at that! They left convinced that the body was not stolen but did not perceive the importance of what had taken place.
Mary had returned to the tomb as well; whether she had run with the two men or walked and arrived later is not known. After the men departed, she stayed at the tomb, weeping. As if the indignities of the past week were not enough; now His body was taken away as well? Had He not experienced enough humiliation at the hands of the Jews and the Romans? Or perhaps it was even a thoughtless matter: maybe someone knew the tomb was Joseph’s and yet the body in it wasn’t Joseph’s, and so thought it should be moved somewhere else. What an ignominious end!
She again looked into the tomb, but it was no longer empty! Two persons in dazzling white sat there, one where His head had lain, and the other where His feet had been. They were angels, and asked Mary why she was crying. “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him,” she mournfully responded. She then turned around, perhaps still trying to make sense of all that she was experiencing.
Now another person, this time a man, was standing in the area in front of the tomb. This man also asked Mary why she wept, and also wanted to know whom she sought. Perhaps this was the man who moved the body! Mary, unable to look at him, yet asked him if he had taken away the body, and if he had, to tell her where it was, and she would take it away.
But then the man says but one word: “Mary.”
Mary turns around.
That man is no gardener.
Jesus the Lord told her not to touch Him, for He had not yet ascended to the Father, but told her to go and tell His followers that He is alive and would soon ascend to God the Father.
It all made some sense now: the tomb was empty not because someone had taken the body away, but because the body had come back to life. The rock was rolled away by God’s power, and Jesus came forth raised, or resurrected, from the dead. In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, everything had changed. The Lord died, yes, but the Lord is risen. The Lord had not been conquered; the Lord instead had conquered sin and death. Another dream of God’s Kingdom had not failed; the means by which God’s Kingdom would come had instead been fulfilled. Sorrow had been turned into joy; joy of others turned into sorrow. Nothing would ever be the same again.
Such is the account of the resurrection of Jesus as found particularly in John 20:1-18 along with some aspects of Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, and Luke 24:1-16. We do well to consider how the resurrection of Jesus completely and instantaneously transformed the lives of those who followed Him, and meditate upon the majesty and wonder of this very profound moment. Let us then recognize how Jesus’ resurrection has changed everything for the believer, and ourselves be thoroughly changed and transformed by our spiritual encounter with the Risen Lord. Let us proclaim the Lord Jesus as risen from the dead, and ever serve Him to the praise and glory of God the Father!
Ethan R. Longhenry