We get to bear witness again to the fact that Jesus is not dead but has risen from the dead. The group of women who followed Jesus’ body from the cross to the tomb will be the first to receive this amazing news. But that news is crouched in a, “Don’t you remember?”
Luke lists three distinct women who bore witness and shared what they had seen firsthand. He specifically includes Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James, but he also includes “and the other women with them” (verse 10). This is a plural term so there had to be at least two other women who accompanied the listed three. Not that it really makes a whole lot of theological difference, just curious.
These women were the ones who prepared the spices for Jesus’ body during the three days He was in the grave. This was also the group who discussed who would roll the stone away once they got there. They were doing all the practical things they could think of to care for Jesus after His death. They didn’t have it in their minds anywhere that their ministrations would not be needed.
When they got to the tomb they were perplexed by what they found. First of all, they noticed the stone was rolled away from the door. They had seen it put in place themselves. The next thing Luke reports them doing is going in and not finding Jesus where they expected Him to be.
Have you ever experienced that phenomenon? I know I have. When I was CERTAIN I was doing exactly what He wanted me to do, to look up and find Him waiting for me in an altogether different spot. The women thought He would have wanted them to give Him a decent burial, as they were His closest followers. But He didn’t need that from them at all. Instead He graced them with the privilege of being His first witnesses to His resurrection.
But these women are not ready yet to be Jesus’ witnesses. They first need to be prompted to remember His words by the angels. They had heard Jesus tell them the FULL story of His death and resurrection but all of His followers got hung up on His death. They didn’t even listen to the “and then” portion of Jesus’ narrative.
After being startled by the angel’s presence and reminded of Jesus’ words, the women were now ready to move into the role of witness. We know from Matthew and Mark’s accounts that the women were overcome with joy but also a little hesitant to share what they had heard from the angel. Luke tells us that the women’s account “seemed to them (the disciples) an idle tale, and they did not believe them (the women)” (verse 11). The witness of a woman was not considered reliable in bible times. Nor was the witness of a shepherd, but God used them as Jesus’ first witness at Jesus’ birth. Neither group probably felt worthy to carry the news, but God handpicked them to do so anyway. Interesting how He uses the overlooked in society to bring the greatest news on TWO separate occasions.
God doesn’t call the gifted but gifts the called. God opened their hearts and minds to receive the full truth of Jesus’ words and then sent them out. I am certain they still had some doubts lingering in their minds, but they willingly went where they were sent.
The women’s stories were enough to get both Peter and John to go check it out for themselves. Luke only mentions Peter’s excursion to the tomb, but we are told that John and Peter even raced there together. I wonder if God chose these two men because the represented the full spectrum of what became of Jesus’ followers (except Judas) since His arrest. John was the only disciples reported to actually come back and follow Jesus all the way to the cross. While Peter is the only one to publicly deny Him. I believe Peter needed reassurance of Jesus calling to him personally. Mark tells us that the angel told the women to specifically tell Peter that Jesus was alive and would meet up with him in Galilee.
Lord Jesus, thank You for all the work You accomplished on the cross. Thank You for the work You did during the three days You were in the grave too. Father God, thank You for bringing Jesus out of the grave. Without all three parts of that process, there would still be gaps in Your plan of salvation.
Thank You Lord that You use the least of us to carry Your message. Thank You for sharing Your full truth and for reminding me when I either forget or don’t listen. Please forgive me for listening with half an ear sometimes. Thank You also for being patient with me when I think I’m doing what You would want but not noticing that You had something else in mind. Sometimes it takes me doing the first to be ready for the second, just like the women in our story. If they weren’t willing to do the first task they wouldn’t have been in the place to receive the real one. Thank You for the baby steps to get me lined up with Your will! I’ve seen that happen in my life too. Thank You for reminding me of that.