There were lots of people who were devoted to Jesus during those last days of his ministry on this earth. Many had been blind before Jesus came but now they could see. Many had been lepers and locked away from the crowds of people, but now their skin is as clean and healthy as a new babies’ skin. Many had been unable to walk but now they could run, leap and walk without pain. Many had been deaf, who could now hear. But deeper than that, many had been enslaved to the devil, so much so that his demons possessed them, but now the demons have been cast out and they can freely decide who they will live their lives for. Many are now devoted disciples who were in hopeless situations before they met Jesus and he spoke to them the words of life. But it wasn’t some crowd that rushed out to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been laid, after his crucifixion. But, thank God, there were a handful of women, whose lives Jesus had changed completely, who arose early on Sunday morning to make their way to the tomb. They were going to anoint his body for a proper burial. The one leading this group of women was a woman named Mary Magdalene. Jesus had cast demons out of her and turned her whole life around. When others ran away, she stood with a few at the foot of the cross to observe his death and to hear his seven cries from the cross. Now, Sabbath had passed. She and her little band of women were on their way to the tomb and talking among themselves they wondered, “Who can we get to move the stone for us?” There was a heavy stone rolled against the entrance to the tomb after the body was placed inside. It was typically scotched with stones until time to be rolled into place and it then fell into a groove that made it extremely difficult for anyone to move it away from the entrance to the tomb. The women were sure they couldn’t move the stone.
What a shock when they arrived and saw the stone was rolled away from the entrance. Mary ran to tell Simon Peter and John what they had found. Peter and John both ran to the tomb, but John was younger and probably in better shape, outran Peter. John stood outside the tomb and bent over to look inside at the strips of linen lying there but he didn’t go inside. Peter arrived and went straight into the tomb. You get the feeling he didn’t slow down much as he ran right on into the tomb to get a close look at the inside. John then went inside as well. The strips of linen were lying there as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. John looked around and believed even though he still didn’t understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.
Which one would best illustrate what you would have done if you had been there. Would you have been like the other disciples and stayed in town thinking how useless to go to the tomb since he was dead now? Would you have been more like Mary who came early to anoint the body and when you saw the stone rolled away, ran to tell someone else what you saw? Would you have been like John to run to the tomb and then stood outside to peek into the space to see what was there? Would you have been like Peter and just ran right on in without missing a beat? Different people have different personalities and react to all kinds of situations in very different ways. It is hard to know which you would have been. Most of us would likely know better if we asked someone else who knows us well and knows our personality which we would have done. It is interesting to me that it was John who stood outside gazing into the tomb who came to real faith when he stepped inside and looked around.
Notice that Mary continued to stand outside the tomb when the others had all gone away. She was crying and bent over to gaze into the tomb. She had to have been amazed to see two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” Notice, she still had no thought that Jesus might have been raised from the dead. Instead she said, “They have taken my Lord, away, and I don’t know where they have put him.” We naturally come up with explanations for things we don’t understand. So, her explanation was that someone had stolen the body of Jesus. She turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but didn’t realize it was him. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” Suddenly she looked closely to see it was Jesus standing beside her. She cried in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means “Teacher”). Obviously at this point she threw her arms around Jesus and was clinging to him like she would never turn him loose again. He said to her, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”
Jesus spent the next month and a half with the disciples getting them ready to take on the mission of spreading the gospel to the entire world. His decree was, “As the Father has sent me into the world, I am sending you.” There were things about his resurrected body that were just like the old one since he still had the scars from the nails and the spear in his side . But there were many things different. This body was able to walk through the doors without opening them, even when they were locked. He could travel from one place to another in a moment’s time. When he told Mary not to cling to him it wasn’t because there was something mysterious about his body that she couldn’t hold on to. He was saying that she didn’t need to cling to him, since it would be a little while before he left this world to go back to the Father in glory.
Jesus is raised from the dead. He conquered death. He has power over death so that one of these days, He will return to this world in all the power of God, along with all his holy angels. There will be a shout, the trumpet of God will sound and suddenly, the dead in Christ will be raised to meet him in the air and forever be with the Lord. Those who live for him and are still alive at the time will be changed in a moment’s time and transformed so they too will be raised to be with the Lord forever more. The rest of the dead will also be raised at that point, but not to salvation, not to eternal life, not to the glory of heaven, but to eternal ruin in hell.
Jesus’ tomb is still empty. He reigns instead at the right hand of God in glory. Don’t you think it is time for you too to look into the empty tomb and believe? All the power of hell can’t hold Jesus in the tomb and neither can it hold you. Jesus became the first fruits of those who sleep. What a day, glorious day, that will be, when Jesus the resurrected Lord and Savior comes again.