6 April 2010

Luke 24:1-12

"On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared ... Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest." (v.1, 8-9)


Luke's account of Easter morning is produced with his characteristically vivid and people-focused style. He tells us that a group of women were the first witnesses to the empty tomb. They're shocked to find the tomb open (though one wonders how they were intending to anoint his body if it was sealed?) Luke loves heavenly messengers, so the appearance of two 'men/angels' is typical. These do what all Luke's messengers do - they make clear what God wants humans to know, understand and accept.

The responses and actions of the women are moving and demonstrate a deep love and care for Jesus. They desire to look after him even in death. Loving devotion is clearly appropriate for Christian disciples. Jesus is not just the icon of faith but the object of love. It is interesting then that in John's Gospel, of all the questions Jesus might have asked Simon Peter who betrayed him, he simply asks him if he loves him (see John 21:15-19).

The missing person in this narrative is Jesus himself, who doesn't make an appearance at this point. Instead the men/angels state what the other Gospel writers put in Jesus' mouth. He has risen. He is alive. His crucifixion was predicted and, as Jesus said, was not the end. And light begins to dawn as the women 'remember' the words of Jesus. In Luke's Gospel this 'remembering' is often a signal of revelation, of faith growing, as if we are saying to the deep places in ourselves "Yes. That's right. I believe it".

The male disciples dismissing the women's tale is the stuff of gender stereotypes, but significantly, as the readers, we know that the women are right and the men are 'closed' to the truth. "For goodness sake, listen to them!" we want to say as we read the text. But they don't, and the appearances of Jesus in the remainder of the chapter are evidence of the persistence of a gracious God with selectively deaf human beings.

To Ponder

How seriously should we take the whole idea of angels - messengers of God - today?

Is 'loving Jesus' a superficial or a profound expression of Christian discipleship? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Martyn Atkins

Martyn Atkins is a Methodist minister and currently serves as general secretary/secretary of the Conference. He was president of Conference in 2007-8.