“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. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 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? 6 He is not here; he has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”’ 8 Then they remembered his words.”
C.S. Lewis famously said: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” On that first Easter morning, the son had risen and everything changed in the light of that event.
It was as if God were saying: The worst has happened, and now the best can begin.
The narrative starts with simple devotion, with spices lovingly prepared and offered to honour a beloved Master, horribly tortured and killed before their eyes. It’s dawn -a symbolic moment for the beginning of something brand new. They find the stone rolled away, but do not find the body, but their puzzlement is quickly overwhelmed with wonder at an angelic encounter. Just as his birth is announced with angels, so is his resurrection, and the end of the gospel parallels its beginning.
The angels offer something of a mild rebuke: ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?” This is the key point. The resurrection should not have been a total surprise because Jesus had repeatedly taught them about it. And “Then they remembered his words.”
There’s a subtle shift in Luke’s text from “He” to “They.” “He” is still central, of course -uniquely pivotal- but now Christ forms the starting point for the actions of others, like the hub of a bicycle wheel from which every spoke is connected, and is held in place.
And “They” in the first eight verses is constituted by a group of faithful women, who form the first witnesses of the resurrection. That’s a significant point for the new Community. “In Him there is neither … male nor female.” (Gal 3:28)
This final chapter of Luke’s gospel forms a transition -a bridge-from the story of Jesus to the story of Jesus’ People in the book of Acts, and the worldwide spread of the good news in the power of the Holy Spirit. But, in order to make the bridge secure, both bases have to be firmly anchored. It is Luke’s task in this chapter to provide both review and preview events, unifying the story rather than permitting it to disintegrate into two stories. The review is right here: “Then they remembered his words.” The words of Jesus are the explanation for the cross and empty tomb
The angels’ words stressed the fact that Jesus was alive. It was inappropriate to look for a living person in a tomb (cf Acts 2:24). They then recalled Jesus’ prophecy that he would rise after three days (Luke 9:22; Luke 9:43-45; Luke 18:31-33). But even at the time they hadn’t really absorbed the idea (Luke 18:34; 24:16).
The women now remembered the predictions they had heard but had not understood. The Resurrection had begun to clarify many things that Jesus had previously taught His disciples (cf Acts 11:16). The women then returned to the Eleven and the other disciples with their news. The angels had been witnesses of the Resurrection to the women, and now the women were witnesses of it to the rest of the disciples. They in turn would be witnesses of it to the ends of the earth ( Acts 1:8).
And Christian mission here starts right here.
Pic by He Qi