31 March 2013

“But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” (v. 11)


What a long wait it must have seemed, through the sabbath until the morning of the first day of the week (verse 2), waiting to attend to the body of a friend, waiting to do for him what was customary, even if he had been crucified and left in a borrowed tomb for two days (Luke 23:53).

This man had treated women with respect (John 4:7-26), he had included women among his following (Mark 15:40-41), he had healed women (Matthew 9:18-25), he had restored to women their loved ones (Mark 7:25-30), he had raised up the fallen (John 8:3-11); in short, he had treated women as first-class citizens. That was very different to the way women were treated by other men, not least by men in religious life. Paul, writing some years later to the Christians in Galatia, noted that all are one in Christ Jesus: Jew and Greek, slave and free, men and women (Galatians 3:28). Society in Jesus' day had a long way to go on this; some twenty first-century societies still have a long way to go.

In today's passage the women had clearly taken note of the inevitable: spices had been bought and prepared (verse 1), not something possible over the Sabbath. They were ready for the task ahead; what they weren't ready for was an empty tomb!

The gentle, but unambiguous, message of the men in dazzling clothes (angels, even) was an encouragement to spread the amazing news. But it was not well received. The Greek original, 'leros', signifies 'nonsense' or 'rubbish': it could hardly be more disparaging. It is, in fact, the basis for the English word, 'delirious'. These women were clearly out of their minds with grief - who could possibly believe them? But one man did wonder and he went to check. That must have taken courage, not least given his reactions under pressure three nights earlier (Luke 22:55-62).

To Ponder

  • The women had the courage to get up early to go to the tomb of an executed man - how courageous are you when it comes to going counter to public opinion in matters of faith?
  • 'What rubbish!' - what do you say to people who greet the good news about Jesus with utter disdain? 

Bible notes author: Gillian Kingston

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