(1) But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, [the women] went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. Knowing how this story is about to unfold, sometimes we are too quick to gloss over this part of our Easter morning. But stop for a moment and consider the women in their laboured climb through the dark pre-dawn morning. Everything they had devoted their lives to for the past three years (or more!) was wrapped up in cloths, laying in a tomb, waiting for this final, futile act of service. As they struggled under the burden of those spices so lovingly prepared the day before, what do you think went through their minds?
Do you think they kept running over all that Jesus had said and did? I would have. Remember when He said that you should love your enemies and care for those who persecute you … but then they killed him. Remember when He cured that woman who had been bleeding for all those years … there was so much blood dripping down that cross. Remember when He brought that widow’s son back to life, or that little girl … but now He is dead. And the more they remembered, the more hollow it all likely felt. He had said and done so many wonderful things for others, but that was gone and now they were rushing through the dark to anoint his corpse before the stench and the decay became too much.
Do not gloss over this too quickly dear friends, for there is a great truth in these desperate women. If indeed death won the day … if the tomb remained full, the stone unmoved, … if indeed the master was dead – well then, everything that had gone before would really and truly have been hollow and meaningless. All of his words would have amounted to just idle stories. As St. Paul said in the Epistle (19) If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But that’s not what they found when they arrived is it?
(2-5) … they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, Why do you seek the living among the dead?
What they found was an open tomb, the stone flung away from the door. What they did not find was Jesus. The facts are straightforward, but the reaction is not. Doubts, fears, confusion, surprise. In an instant the world is turned upside down and these poor women don’t know what to make of it all. Yet, this is the natural reaction of human beings in the presence of the incredible. What should be – isn’t. What shouldn’t be – is! Jesus is gone, but the grave clothes remain. The Lord is not there, but His glorious angelic witnesses are.
(5) Why do you seek the living among the dead? They ask. (6-8) He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise. And they remembered his words,
Two angels … two witnesses … here in shining white, just as Moses and Elijah stood in dazzling array to speak of Christ’s coming death and resurrection before the trusted apostles. Just as another two would bear witness to His glorious ascension before the gathered disciples. And just as at those other times, they give a most welcome commentary on a most perplexing situation.
Why are you surprised? They ask the women. Remember His words! And there it is in a matter-of-fact tone, so wildly incongruous next to the bewilderment of the women. Jesus said it and then He did it! It is all just as it should be! Here is a rock-solid reliable statement to find your footing on when things spin out of control. The sufferings and resurrection of Jesus are a part of the Divine plan as foretold both by the ancient scriptures and by Jesus himself!
And they remembered his words,and in that moment, in that dawning of true Easter faith … all the spices, all the preparations, all the fears … all of it became unnecessary in light of this one glorious truth. It’s not just idle tales. He is the living one. Jesus is no longer dead. He is alive again – Just as He said He would be!
How many of you are struggling through this life bearing burdens that are no longer necessary in light of this glorious resurrection truth? Remember His words! How many of you have had your world turned upside down by a midnight phone call, or the doctor’s diagnosis? How many of you have had to sit beside the bed of a dying loved-one and didn’t know what to make of it all? How many of you have looked at your life or the life of someone you love so dearly only to worry that it’s slipping away like an idle story with no meaning? How many people out there still live their lives in worry and fear? What if I get sick? How can I go on? Why did this have to happen? Will there be enough? Will they come back? What if I’m wrong? Am I going to die? What if it was all for nothing?
So many of us, and our loved ones, know what those women went through that first Easter morning. We know because we have been there – or we are there right now. Confusion, doubts, fear, surprise … who here does not know such things from first-hand experience? Who here has not at least once wondered in the dark night of the soul, if it isn’t all just idle tales? To you I say again, “Remember what He said to you!”
1 Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
This day and Christ’s resurrection marks a new era. Heaven and earth are now joined, for Christ our Saviour, is risen! The wall of separation has fallen and God is reconciled to men. The sacrifice of the Son has been accepted by the Father and Christ is risen from the dead! The doubts, the fears, the burdens, confusion and anxiety – these are the idle tales that slip away without any lasting meaning or effect, for they are everyone of them silenced in this one glorious truth.
The doubts give way to the power of faith. Fears are replaced with joy. Confusion falls before clarity of Truth. And our anxieties dissolve in the knowledge that the grave we one day enter we shall just as surely exit! The body that goes into the tomb will go out from the tomb. Because Jesus rose we shall rise also. Because He is the Living One we shall live in Him forever. Without this day, without this risen and glorified Lord, everything else that is of any worth in this life is made null and void, idle tales not worth the telling. But in this day when Jesus did what He said He would do all our days take on new life and new meaning.