The Sabbath rest was past. Very early on the first day of the week an angel of the Lord came and rolled away the stone. And so it was that when the women came as the sun was rising, bringing their spices to prepare the body of the Lord more carefully (for the burial on Friday night must have been a hurried one), they found the great stone rolled away from the door of the sepulchre, and when they went into the tomb they saw a young man, an angel, dressed in white, and they were frightened; but the angel told them to fear not, that Jesus was risen; and they must go and tell the disciples. It would seem that Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples, the others being too frightened to tell anyone.
Mary Magdalene was the first to see the risen Lord. She stood by the sepulchre weeping, when she saw two angels in white, who said to her, "Why weepest thou?" and she said, "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have lain Him." And turning round she saw one whom she supposed was the gardener, who said, "Why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?" And she said, "Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away." Then she heard the dear familiar voice say, "Mary," and she knew it was the Lord.
This is what He had told His disciples, that He would rise on the third day. He appeared to His disciples many times in the next few days. He wanted them to feel His loving presence with them, wanted them to know that His life was not over with the death on the cross; that the Master they had followed, and were to follow, had not failed, and given up in death, but had been victorious and conquered. He wanted them to know and feel this, and He wants us to know and feel it, for we too may be His disciples.
Some of the faithful women who loved the Lord and had followed Him from Galilee, looked from a distance when, on the Friday evening, Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus had tenderly taken the body of the Lord, wrapped it in linen cloths with spices, and had laid it in the new sepulchre cut in the rock off the hillside with a garden around it. Then they went and prepared spices, that when the Sabbath rest was past they might come and anoint the Lord.
As the Easter morning began to dawn they came to the sepulchre, five of them or more, bringing the spices which they had prepared. It was yet dark as they started, and as they reached the sepulchre the sun was rising. We see them going from Jerusalem as the sky was brightening above the Mount of Olives. They remembered the sepulchre as they had seen it on the Friday evening, and the great wheel-shaped stone which rolled in its track across the door. They were saying, Who shall roll us away the stone? But when they came near they saw that it was rolled away, for angels had come from heaven, and one with shining garments and face like lightning, rolled back the stone and sat upon it. For fear of him the Roman guards set by the priests to watch at the sepulchre did shake and become as dead men.
All that the women saw at first was that the stone was rolled away and that the Lord was not there. Then angels spoke to them and comforted them; they showed them where the body of the Lord had lain, and sent them to tell the disciples that He was risen.
The appearance of the Lord to Mary Magdalene, that is Mary of Magdala, first of all, mentioned in verse 9, we find described in John 20:11-18.
All this was at the sepulchre Easter morning.
1. Who were the first at the sepulchre Easter morning? What did the women come to do?
2. What did the angels tell them? What did they send them to do? Of what promise of the Lord did they remind them?
3. Who first saw the risen Lord?
Was it yet dark in any other than a natural sense, as the faithful women started to go to the sepulchre? Was it true in any but a natural sense that they came to the sepulchre at the rising of the sun? (A. 2405)
The women coming with their ointments were the first to learn that the Lord was risen. The disciples learned from them. Our hearts may feel the eternal presence of the Lord before we understand it.
Among the women Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils, was the first to see the risen Lord. The casting out of seven devils represents a very full experience of the Lord's power to save from evil; and surely it is this experience that opens our eyes to see Him, our minds to understand Him. (Luke 7:47)
As the Lord rose on the third day, so is our resurrection usually on the third day, but with variety. (Hosea 6:2; R. 153; T. 281) The number three always carries with it the idea of completeness, and the Lord's remaining in the sepulchre until the third day represents the completeness with which He endured all states of temptation and laid down everything of imperfect life, that He might bring new life in fullness. (Matthew 12:40; A. 2788; E. 532)
The great truth which the Lord taught by appearing to the women and the disciples after His resurrection was that He had not left them. The visible body so necessary for a time as a means of coming to men and becoming known to them, was really a hindrance to the fullness of the Lord's presence. It was a staging or scaffold which was removed when the Divine tabernacle and temple of God among men was finished.