God’s Word for You
Luke 24:1-3 the stone had been rolled away from the tomb
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, June 28, 2019
In the Gospel of Matthew, men carrying spices and other gifts make their way from the far east, looking for the newborn king of the Jews. They travel without knowing where he will be, but they are confident that they will find him. Going so far as to asking Herod the Great for help in finding him, eventually they make their way to Bethlehem and encounter him there. Now at the end of the Lord’s life, women make a shorter but similar pilgrimage, also bearing spices—and perhaps some of what they carried had been saved all this time, coming from the frankincense and myrrh given by the wise men when Jesus was born.
24 On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women went to the tomb, carrying the spices they had prepared. 2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. 3 They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
The great confession of the church reaches its climax in the words: “On the third day he rose again from the dead.” Jesus had promised this very thing, again and again (Luke 9:22, 13:32, 18:33), but no one understood what he meant until he simply did the very thing he had been predicting. There was no symbolism in the words “On the third day I will reach my goal” (Luke 13:32); there was no allegory. There was only a simple and straightforward prophecy.
We were introduced to these women at the cross. Having obeyed the Sabbath, they came now as soon as they could. Strictly speaking, the Sabbath ended at sundown on Saturday and so they could have come at any time after that to accomplish their work, but wishing to use daylight to their advantage, they waited. Getting their start while it was still dark (John 20:1) they arrived at the tomb still in the orthrou batheos (ὄρθρου βαθέως), the “deep of the early dawn,” or what we might call the crack of dawn. The sun was not yet up, but the purple fingers of dawn were parting night’s curtain (as some Greek poet might say) and they found themselves at Jesus’ tomb. Perhaps they could not tell from further away in the gloom, but as they drew closer they saw that the stone had been rolled away. Looking in, they saw that the object of their journey was gone. The Lord’s body was not there. The tomb was empty.
Matthew tells us that the Jewish leaders had asked Pilate to post a guard, which was done on the Sabbath day. Not only that, but the tomb was sealed so that it could not be opened without breaking the seal (Matthew 27:62-66). But on Sunday morning, while the women were still on their way to the tomb, there was a violent earthquake caused by an angel rolling the stone away to show that the tomb was empty. More than that. The stone was not merely rolled away from its entrance, still in the track of its grooves alongside the tomb wall. Luke says that it was rolled “away from the grave” (ἀπὸ τοῦ μνημείου), as if it had been picked up and tossed aside by the angel.
Now, with the stone flat on the ground or leaning at a crazy angle away from the hillside, the angel sat on the stone, perhaps to show his authority over it. Matthew says that “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow” (Matthew 28:3). Luke will tell us about this and another angel in a moment, but the women had not seen them yet. The Roman guards, however, had run away in terror when they saw the angel and felt the earthquake. Bribed by the chief priests to say that the disciples had somehow opened the tomb while they were sleeping and stole the Lord’s body.
This is where the unbelieving world thinks the story ends, at the empty tomb. But the church does not confess, “On the third day his tomb was empty.” We confess, “On the third day he rose again from the dead.”
These first moments after seeing the empty tomb made the women’s heads spin. I think that we can compare this moment to those remarkable first minutes when a very sick man’s fever breaks. His head is still spinning, but he is beginning to think clearly again, even if he doesn’t quite realize it. The women were without a doubt thinking something that included the words, “This is not what we expected.” It’s not what anyone expected. The unbelievers were already trying to change the facts to fit their views. The believers were reeling from the facts that stood clearly before them. One thing was certain: Everything had changed. The world would never be the same again—thanks be to God! Jesus’ body was not there. He had risen, and this was no metaphor; no allegory. It was not just a way of speaking. He had risen from the dead.
Pastor Timothy Smith