Late Saturday afternoon, during the early part of the evening, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome purchased some spices in preparation for the anointing of the body of Jesus. They had followed Joseph of Arimathea to the burial site and knew exactly where the Lord was buried. Mark 16:1, “And when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him”(cp. Matt. 28:1).
Rising early on the first day of the week, Sunday morning, the same three women decided to visit the tomb. Mark 16:2, “And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun”(cp. Luke 24:1).
Mary Magdalene must have arrived first at the sepulcher, for she saw that the stone had been taken away from the grave and that the body was gone. Extremely upset, Mary Magdalene fled the area to find Simon Peter and John who, upon hearing the news, moved as quickly as they could towards the burial site. John 20:1–4, “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulcher, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulcher. Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulcher, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulcher. So they ran both together.”
While Mary Magdalene went in search of Peter and John, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome arrived at the tomb along with some other women (cp. Luke 24:1,10). Later, the women would have different parts to contribute to the retelling of the story. Their narrative began by remembering that on the way to the tomb, a general discussion took place as to how entrance would be gained into the sepulcher.Mark 16:3, “And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?”
When the women arrived at the tomb, to everyone’s amazement, the massive stone covering had been rolled away! Matthew 28:2, “And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it” (cp. Mark 16:4; Luke 24:2; John 20:1).
The women who had been apprehensive about the Roman soldiers now saw that they posed no threat to anyone. Indeed, they had become living corpses. Matthew 28:4, “And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.”
Since there was nothing to fear from the soldiers, and since the tomb was wide open, the women were inclined to go in when suddenly, they saw an angel! He was sitting on the top of the stone which he had rolled from the door of the grave. Matthew 28:2, “And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it.”
The appearance of the angel was spectacular. Matthew 28:3, “His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow.”
The angel began to speak. Matthew 28:5–7, “And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.”
Obedient to the heavenly injunction, some of the women departed only to be met by the resurrected Lord Himself who spoke to them! Matthew 28:8–10, “And they departed quickly from the sepulcher with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.”
While some of the women were meeting the Lord on the road leading back to Jerusalem, others stayed behind to enter into the tomb. Once inside the burial chamber, the women were amazed to discover more angelic beings. One had been sitting at the site where the Lord’s body had lain. Mark 16:5, “And entering into the sepulcher, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted . . .”The angel stood up, and another angel appeared to stand with him. Luke 24:4, “And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.”
The more youthful looking angel began to speak. Mark 16:6–7, “And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.”
Then the other angel spoke. He, too, wanted the women not to be afraid, and not to bow before them. There was good news. Luke 24:5–7 “And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
The women arose from their prostrate position before the angels and departed in haste to tell the eleven, and everyone else they could find, the good news about the Living Lord. Mark 16:8,“And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulcher; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.”Luke 24:9, “And returned from the sepulcher, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest.”
Soon after the departure of the women from the tomb, Peter and John arrived, rather breathless. They had been running, with John taking the lead over Peter. Though John was the first of the disciples to arrive at the grave, he did not want to go inside. John 20:5, “And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.”
Peter had no such hesitation. He who could be vacillating and fearful could also be bold as a lion. Peter was determined to see just what had happened. John 20:6–10, “Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulcher, and seeth the linen clothes lie. And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher, and he saw, and believed. For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.”
Now Mary Magdalene, who had finally caught up with Peter and John, stayed behind after their departure. It did not matter if the men left because during this period, no one was really talking much. They were all too amazed at the situation. Besides, no one knew for certain what was happening. John and Peter did not perceive that Jesus had arisen from the dead, nor did Mary. She thought that someone had stolen the body, or at least moved it. All Mary could do for the moment was to stand and weep and wonder. John 20:11, “But Mary stood without at the sepulcher weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulcher.”
With the teardrops still streaming down her face, Mary looked inside the sepulcher. Though she did not know it, Mary was looking into the face of heavenly creatures, for the angels were now back. John did not see them. Peter did not see them, but Mary did. John 20:12, “And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.”
One of the angels began to speak. John 20:13a, “And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?” Mary responded in John 20:13b. “She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”
That was all she could say. Standing up from her stooped position, Mary began to weep again. Though sobbing heavily, she heard another voice. Mary turned towards the voice. John 20:14a, “And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing . . .”
But she did not know it was the Lord. John 20:14b,“. . . and knew not that it was Jesus.”
Oh, but in matchless and marvelous grace, the Lord began to speak to this lady who loved Him so much. John 20:15a, “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?”Mary, thinking that she was speaking to a gardener said unto Him, John 20:15b, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” How Mary thought she might move the body without the help of anyone else is not known. Love has a strength of its own. But no, Mary, you do not have to take the body anywhere. And Mary, you are not talking to a gardener. You are talking to your God!
John 20:16, “Jesus saith unto her, Mary.” Just one word—that was all Jesus said, and it was enough. Her name, and her Lord. It was the Lord! Jesus once said, “My sheep hear my voice. They know it and they follow me.” Mary Magdalene knew the voice of her Shepherd. With sudden force Mary turned herself in the direction of the Voice, John 20:16b, “and saith unto him, ‘Rabboni;’ which is to say, ‘Master!’” Yes, Mary, it is the Master. Rushing to Him, Mary Magdalene embraced her Lord and her Savior with all the love that a surprised and joyous heart can express. So fierce was her grasp on the Lord that something had to be said. John 20:17a, “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.”
Jesus had something He wanted Mary to do. She must go and share what she had seen. She must tell the men. So Jesus said to Mary, John 20:17b, “. . . go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.”
In obedience to the will of the Lord, Mary went as the Lord instructed. John 20:18, “Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.”