On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with 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; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” Then they remembered his words.
No matter how many times Jesus had said that he would rise again after his death, even his closest followers had a hard time believing him. The women who came very early to the tomb that day clearly weren’t expecting a resurrection. They had brought spices with which to embalm the body.
They had been present when Jesus’ body had been placed in Joseph’s new tomb. They had watched the tomb entrance being sealed with a very heavy stone. They had then gone home to prepare the necessary spices in the hope that, if they could gain access to the body once more, they would be able to embalm Jesus’ body.
It was a perfectly natural and understandable desire. In a world where women were often treated badly, Jesus had done so much for them and had meant so much to them. No doubt the intention was to turn the tomb into a kind of shrine, to which they could come and reflect on the one who lay dead there and keep his memory alive.
It never happened! One of the remarkable results of that remarkable day was something that didn’t happen. As Peter would later point out to the crowd gathered on the Day of Pentecost, the tomb of their greatest King, David, was still with them, his bones still lying there. But Christ’s tomb was empty. Anyone who wanted could check it out. But there was no shrine there. Indeed the Christians simply abandoned it, for the simple reason that no one builds a shrine to someone who is alive.
The women weren’t at that point just yet. They were struggling to overcome first shock and then fear. The shock came from discovering the stone removed and the body missing. The fear came from the sudden appearance of two ‘men’ dressed with unworldly luminosity.
Fortunately, it wasn’t simply an appearance that later could perhaps be explained away by the morning’s early light and the emotions of the occasion. There was a clearly spoken message.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Why indeed! He wasn’t there; he had risen. And they should have known! As early as when they were in Galilee – and the women were from Galilee – Jesus had told them exactly what would happen to him: his being delivered into the hands of evil men, his crucifixion followed by his resurrection on the third day.
It was at that point that they finally remembered his words. Their weekend preparations had been completely unnecessary. If they had believed him. Why had they not? For the moment Luke simply leaves us with the question.