The men barely got Jesus in the tomb, a carved out hollow with a huge rock rolled in front, before the beginning of the Sabbath. Once that sun went down, their religious laws forbade them from doing any work, including taking down his body from the executioner’s cross and transporting it to it’s final resting place.
Joseph of Arimathea generously donated the tomb and made all of the arrangements with Pilate to remove the body. Pilate had already washed his hands of the whole affair and was relieved that Jesus’s body was going to be removed. He was anxious for this whole nightmare to end. All he needed was for the body of that radical to become an inspiration for a rebellion.
No one, I mean , NO ONE anticipated that Jesus’ body would not be in that tomb when they went back to finish the burial process. Not only did they not expect it, no one believed the women when they came back and reported that, not only was his body not there, he was risen from the dead. Once the two men in dazzling clothes said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen” (Luke 24:5), they remembered what Jesus told them.
Energized by this new information, the women run back to tell the others their good news. They are met with skepticism. You can imagine the dialogue: “Yes, they were at the right tomb. No, we are not delusional. Go look for yourselves!”
And who can blame them? I mean, resurrection isn’t the claim that Jesus’ body was resuscitated. It’s the claim that God enters the stage of human history and creates an entirely new reality all together! Now, that’s a little scary. If the dead don’t stay dead, then what can you count on?!? Resurrection, when seen this way, breaks all the rules. We may not like the rules, but at least we know them. They are predictable, a known quantity, and there’s a certain amount of comfort in knowing that. Resurrection upsets all of that.
Resurrection throws us off balance and unravels our neat and tidy little lives. This is what I think about the resurrection: If you don’t find the resurrection a little hard to believe, you aren’t taking the resurrection very seriously. The resurrection, as hard as it may be to believe initially, is huge! When it sinks in and takes hold of you, absolutely everything looks a little different.
These are titanic implications. First, when God raised Jesus from the dead, God was creating a new reality. Overthrowing death, sin, and all that would oppress us; and declaring once and for all that life is more powerful than death and love more enduring that tragedy.
Secondly, the biblical writers believed that faith and doubt are actually woven closely together. Doubt, questions, even downright skepticism – these aren’t the opposite of faith, but rather an essential ingredient. Faith isn’t only knowledge. Easter is an excellent reminder of the gift of faith; the ability not to understand the mystery of the resurrection but to be inspired to hope and believe that it is true.
Resurrection faith came slowly to those following Jesus. In the midst of their grief and fear for their lives, they pieced together their new lives in light of this new reality. There were no road maps, no formal structures, no previous experiences to draw from. They had only their seedling faith, the same seedling faith gift offered to you.
Here is Luke’s account of the resurrection:
Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.
On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body.
While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’
Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened (Luke 23:50-24:12).