But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb,taking the spices they had prepared. And 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? 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, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marvelling at what had happened.
The first thing that we notice from our passage is that it was Sunday morning. The first day of the week was resurrection day which has become the day when Christians meet with the church for praise and worship of our resurrected Lord and Saviour. Every Sunday we celebrate the fact that Jesus rose from the dead. There is of course much controversy concerning the celebration of Easter. Some believers are vehemently against high days and holidays, I suppose my sympathy lies more with this point of view but I cannot be dogmatic. Easter probably comes from pagan celebrations of spring but we are now so far removed from that, that there is little evidence of it's origins. Bunnies and chocolate are what it is mostly all about now. For the Christian Easter is an opportunity to focus more explicitly upon the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus and that is never a bad thing. So whichever side of the fence you sit on I would like to take this opportunity to say a very happy and blessed Lord's day or Easter. We will worship the Lord Jesus whatever you may wish to call this first day of the week.
There are three things related to the people involved on that Sunday morning that I would like to consider this morning:
- The women were perplexed.
- They were afraid.
- The disciples doubted the truth.
I am always amazed at the ladies of the New Testament, they are usually an example to all of us but more especially to us men. It is also often the case in the church today that it is the women who are an example of faithfulness. Just take a moment out and consider where would your church be without the women?
Sadly due to a poor understanding of the bible along with bad theology women have often been relegated to second rate citizens. This passage is yet another example of women taking the lead and being used by the Lord to take good news to unbelieving men. Perhaps that is the subject of another study some time but just to put the record straight I am not an advocate of women in ministry but I do believe that we need to look at the servant-hood of Elders and especially teachers and preachers. Women have a vital role in the church and it is for those men appointed to be Elders to serve and help and equip the church members to fulfil their ministry.
A number of women including Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and also Joanna went to the tomb as early as it was possible. Their task was to do for the body of Jesus that which had been impossible on the day that he was buried. Due to Passover and Sabbath restrictions Jesus' body had not been embalmed as was the tradition of the day. In the eyes of these ladies Jesus had not been properly sent off. So they went fully prepared with the necessary spices and embalming fluids expecting to see His body one last time.
When the tomb came into view they were immediately confused. The stone used for sealing the entrance had been removed. They had been wondering how they, just a few women might accomplish such a mighty task but now it was done for them. Just an aside where were the men? I should imagine they were sleeping whilst the women are about the Lord's work. Men we do have so much to learn!!!
Things became even more perplexing when they went into the tomb,. Just take another moment out and consider the devotion and determination mixed with bravery of these ladies. They would have been subjected to all that we are also. Ghosts, spooks etc. were all believed in in their day also. These ladies are really an inspiration!
The body is gone, where is He? Somebody must have taken Him were their thoughts.
Enter two angels with a message. This is where the women display poor theology, they bow down to angels! The message for them is both authoritative and challenging. At this moment the women are being changed forever. They now believe that Jesus is risen from the dead and nobody will ever cause them to doubt that.
They went from being perplexed and confused to being absolutely certain that Jesus is alive. They hadn't seen Him but they heard His message. They remembered that He promised that He would rise from the dead and now it has happened.
I wonder is there anybody here perplexed or confused by the whole gospel message. Let me tell you as a messenger or angel of the Lord that throughout all of scripture from the fall recorded in Genesis 3 and on throughout all of the Old Testament are promises of the Saviour to come. Scripture tells us that He would suffer and die and that He would rise again from the dead. After that He would reign as King of Heaven forever. That is proven by the New Testament accounts which also tell us that he will one day come again in judgement and that He will then gather his people who are the church to be with Him forever!
Does this perplex or confuse you. Pray that the Lord will speak with authority through His word and even by His servant today. I tell you that this message is absolutely true but it is only by God revealing it to you as He did with the women on that day that you will ever believe it.
Not only is this message perplexing but it is also:
When the women saw the angels they were frightened. I am not surprised about that, throughout scripture angels are powerful beings with a powerful and often frightening message of apparel. These two were dressed in dazzling apparel. That is enough to frighten anybody not least of all a number of women early in the morning at a tomb.
We must never belittle the fearsomeness and authority of the messengers of the Lord. But who are the messengers of the Lord for the church today? Consider for a moment the 7 letters at the beginning of Revelation. The Lord Jesus addressed these letters to the appointed angels of each of the churches, When we read the letters it is obvious that the Lord meant the preacher or messenger of the church.
Preachers and teachers of the gospel our message is fearsome to those who are not yet converted. We may not have white shiny apparel but we are wearing bright robes of righteousness which ought to be clearly visible to all as we declare God's truth. This pulpit needs to be guarded from those whose apparel is not righteousness. There is nothing that we need to hear from this place that does not proceed from the mouth of God and then we need God to by His word frighten our hearers of the wrath of God which is upon them. We do not preach a gospel of fear but the gospel of peace which will bring fear into the hearts of sinners whom God is calling to Himself for salvation.
It is truly a fearful thing to fall into the hands of an angry God but to fall into the arms of a Saviour who loves us and has died for us then that is another thing. We can then rest assured because He is even now interceding with God the Father on our behalf. He is also preparing a place in heaven for us which is safe and secure for all of eternity.
Are you frightened of things to come?
Again you must turn to Jesus in repentance and trust of Him who died and rose on your behalf. You can do it now as you sit in your seat. If you do then this will be the day you will always celebrate when you were raised with Christ to life eternal.
But some were:
- Doubting of the truth.
It is amazing how readily people will deny truth. The ladies went straight back to the disciples and friends to tell them the good news. You would think that these men would also remember the words of Jesus and all would click into place. He had told them repeatedly over the previous few weeks that he would die but would on the third day rise from the dead! It was now the third day!
That was not the case, when they heard the news despite the fact that one of the Mary's was the mother of one of them and Mary Magdalene was well known to them all it was like a fairy tale to them. They had recently witnessed Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. They had seen that He was in control over the wind and the waves. They had seen Him work may mighty miracles but now to them His own promised resurrection was fantasy.
It would be nice to think that Peter believed and went off to the tomb in order to prove it to the others but my guess is that he just wanted to prove the ladies wrong. I can imagine him thinking, “surely if Jesus had risen from the dead His most trusted friends that is himself, James and John would be the first to know!” He ran to the tomb and found it just as the ladies had said and that was enough for Peter he went home marvelling at what had happened.
What on earth is going on? Those who should have understood doubted! Why is that? The answer must be that God reveals truth in His way at His time to His people. God chose to honour the faithfulness of the women first, not because they were better and more favourable to God but simply because He chose to do it that way. They had their conversion, it was their unique experience and Peter was to have his own experience a few minutes later followed by John and the other disciples. Thomas had to wait a few days. Ever since that time God has been gathering a people whom He calls at the time that He chooses. Some doubt for a period, they even mock the possibility that the gospel is true but when God calls them to Himself, He is gracious and kind in bringing salvation to fruition.
You may be in this service today and having heard this message it is just like a fairy story to you. To you it is unbelievable. It is simply not something that educated people can believe! That is until the Spirit of God intercedes and shows you the truth of the words and then your spiritual awareness will be awakened and you will believe just as many of us do. It will be your own unique experience and you will from that moment on testify to the saving grae of God in your life just as we do.
But for some they will always doubt, they do not want it to be true. If you are like that let me tell you that your desires and understanding do not change what is true. Your ideals can never change what is absolute, truth is truth! Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life!” If you want to know the truth then Jesus is the answer.
God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son in order that all who will believe savingly upon Him will gain everlasting life.
There is no other way to gain access to God and a place in heaven other than to believe in Jesus as Lord. That is God's declared truth, your particular belief system does not change that truth but by what you believe about Jesus you will be judged one day.
That may be fairy tale to you now but one day you will bow before Jesus as judge, if you have not changed your standpoint by then nothing will change the judgement to come upon you as an unregenerate sinner.
Why not turn from your own understanding and turn to God's truth?