Matthew writes that the women went “to see the tomb” but the angel knew they were actually on a mission. They didn’t rise up before dawn wanting just to behold the rock in front of the tomb. Rather, according to Luke and Mark, they had brought spices hoping, somehow, to anoint the body of the Rock they had seen lain in the tomb. They went to the sepulcher on the first day of the week with a flickering faith and an uncertain hope, but they went nevertheless. And they went seeking Jesus.
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. . . . the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and behold, He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see Him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
(Matthew 28:2, 5-8 ESV)
“I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified,” said the angel. It wasn’t some morbid curiosity that led the ladies back to the tomb early that Sunday morning. It was a heart of devotion which evoked a sense of duty even if they had no idea how they would accomplish what they sought to do.
Jesus had been buried hastily. On the Friday He was crucified they had not been afforded the time to mourn Him in anointing His body after His death. The Sabbath prevented them from doing so and thus, at first light on the day after the Sabbath they went seeking Jesus.
The didn’t how they would remove the great stone in front of the tomb. All they knew is that they wanted to worship Him in His death as they had in His life.
And for those who seek Jesus, sometimes there are encounters of the divine kind.
What amazed them more that early morning? Seeing an angel, his appearance like lightning, and his clothing white as snow, or seeing the stone rolled back and hearing, “He is not here, for He has risen, as He said?” Talk about your extrasensory overload! Bright lights and blown minds! Empty tomb but full hearts. Not fully understanding what was meant by what they angel had just declared but never more certain of what they believed.
So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Fear and great joy. What a combo! Minds racing, hearts pumping. Wanting to fall on your face and at the same shout from a roof top. Awe and wonder . . . praise and worship. Experienced by those who venture out seeking Jesus.
And as we anticipate this weekend’s celebration will we be like those ladies?
Probably more natural to be like the guards who stood before the closed tomb. Just another assignment for them. Though the circumstance may have been out of the ordinary, it was just standard protocol. They knew what to do and relied on themselves to get it done. Though it would become mundane and boring, they would fight against snoozing off and would fulfill the charge of being at the tomb.
But I want to be like Mary and Mary. Up before dawn in anticipation of mission. Seeking Jesus though not quite sure of what will happen or how. Desiring though not demanding an encounter of the divine kind. Wanting to encounter anew the bright light of the Spirit’s illumination as I hear afresh, “He is not here, for He is risen!” To be filled with authentic awe and overwhelming wonder. To know holy fear and great joy. To meet with the risen Christ, fall at His feet, and worship Him (28:9). All because this Easter I was seeking Jesus.
By His grace . . . for His glory.