I always remember the women at the tomb on Easter morning.
The male disciples were in hiding, afraid for their lives and too scared to face the future. So the women (mainly Mary and Mary Magdalena, although the gospels vary on exactly which women were present and how many), took it upon themselves to go and anoint the body of Jesus and bury him properly.
Luke 24 tells this story of that morning:
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 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 handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Can you imagine the mountain of emotions they must have felt? The man they loved dearly was dead. They were wanted. Their friends were wanted. And yet they were prepared to wash his body and properly lay him to rest. The vast amounts of grief they must have felt. The courage they had to muster to be able to mentally be able to carry out such a task.
Females are strong as hell.
They probably passed the time walking from their home to the tomb where Jesus lay telling stories and remembering the man they followed everywhere. They probably also thought about how they were going to be able to move the big rock sealing the entrance of the small cave.
They walked, carrying their expensive and precious spices and oils, ready to say their final goodbyes, and give their mentor and friend peace. Imagine their shock when they get to the cave and the giant boulder blocking the entrance has already been moved. A million thoughts ran thrifht their minds as they considered the cause. Slowly, cautiously, they enter the tomb, unsure of what or who they will find. And then their worst fears are realized. He’s gone.
Who could have done this? Presumably the Romans. Possible the religious leaders in the temple. Fear and grief gripping their hearts all over again. The women who watched Jesus die are now in the midst of another tragic situation; they cannot properly lay their master to rest.
Then, out of no where, two men with crazy bright clothes appear. The scripture tells us they were terrified and bowed their heads, but I think they were already terrified before these guys showed up and bowing their heads was what they had been taught to do by society for hundreds of years. The two men (angels) told them what they had hoped in their hearts to be true but didn’t dare believe until just this moment: Jesus had spoken the truth. His body was not there because he had bodily defeated death and risen from his grave, just like he promised he would.
The women flee the tomb, fishing to get back to the disciples, to tell them what happened, to share their joy and excitement. They, of course, don’t believe them. Would you? So Peter goes and checks it out for himself. Only until he sees the empty tomb and the discarded linen cloth does he believe.
The story goes on to say that Jesus begins appearing to the disciples in various places at different times, easing them into the realization that he isn’t dead. Even in his life after death, Jesus knows that his closest friends will struggle with this knowledge. But the women? Jesus knew the women could handle it.
Because of the women, the disciples, and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we are free. We are free from the terror that gripped the hearts of the women. We are free from the shame that the disciples felt after the death of their teacher. And we are free from sin and suffering because Jesus took that on for us.
Through Moses, God gave the Israelites very specific instructions on what and how to kill animals in order to be forgiven of their sins. The bigger the sin, the bigger the animal. Through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God gives us very specific instructions as well: go and love one another in God’s name. That’s it. No more burning dead animals. No more ritual sacrifice. Just seek forgiveness, earnestly repent, and go into the world and fill it with God’s holy and sacrificial love.
So go. Get out there. Go on, get. Start loving this world with all that you are and all that you have. Don’t let anything stop you, not fear or guilt, be courageous and spread love.
That’s the Easter message. God is alive and is living inside of each one of us, rolling away our giant stones and pouring love out from within us.
Peace be with you!
Christ has risen indeed!