"The women, who had been companions of Jesus from Galilee, followed along. They saw the tomb where Jesus' body had been placed. Then they went back to prepare burial spices and perfumes. They rested quietly on the Sabbath as commanded
"At the crack of dawn on Sunday, the women came to the tomb carrying the burial spices they had prepared. They found the entrance stone rolled back from the tomb, so they walked in. But once inside, they couldn't find the body of the Master Jesus." Luke 23:55-56; 24:1-3 (The Message).
Everything these loyal women did after Jesus had died was to fulfil a certain expectation. Their beloved Master had perished at the hands of the Jewish leaders and the Roman authorities. All they could do for Him now was to give Him a decent burial. Nothing was spared in their preparation for that final act of love. They had little time before the beginning of the Sabbath at sundown. Working together, they pooled their resources and then waited for the dawn of the first day of the new week.
Although they had a mission to fulfil, they put it in its proper perspective. Their first obligation was to submit to a Higher Authority. Sabbath was a special day every week, symbolic of their covenantal relationship with Yahweh, and they rested as was a custom so deeply ingrained in them that they would no more ignore it than ignore all the other requirements of the Torah.
Even their obedience had a certain expectation in it. It was prophetic of another rest of which their Master had spoken, the rest of release from the tedious details of their teaching which was given to them for the purpose of introducing them into the rest of His completed work.
If they grasped why they had to do so many things to fulfil their Law, they would understand that these were pictures of Jesus' death as redemption from sin. Jesus had invited them into His yoke of freedom from the "labour' of trying to satisfy God's requirements in their own strength.
All their "laws" and cultural practices were the foundation to understand the mighty redemptive work of Jesus which was unfolding before their eyes. Redemption from slavery in Egypt was a picture of His daring rescue of mankind from slavery to sin. The entire rigmarole of sacrifices pictured His once-for-all offering of Himself on the cross as the perfect sacrifice of atonement and the first-fruits of the resurrection.
They were, at that moment, right in the middle of that drama. They had not yet grasped where it was leading. They went to the tomb expecting to find His body where it was placed and to carry out their final loving ministry to all that was left of Him that they could honour. They expected to be the givers and the corpse of the Jesus the taker.
Their first shock was to find the tomb open. Had they not witnessed with their own eyes the mighty effort it took to seal that tomb with a massive stone? In their grief and passion to do something for Jesus, they had not taken into account the problem that faced them when they reached the tomb. A few women's combined strength would never dislodge the stone.
Even when they found the stone rolled out of the way, they still expected His body to be where Joseph had left it. They did not consider why the stone would have been moved - for one purpose only, for His body to be removed and taken elsewhere, perhaps for reburial at an unknown site, or perhaps to hide in order to offset any false claims that He had risen. Whoever had moved the body would be able to produce it as evidence to disprove that claim.
Whatever their expectations might have been that early Sunday morning, one was too unlikely to consider, that He was not there because He was alive and had walked out of the tomb! In their shock and grief at His loss, they forgot His promise. The reality of His death crowded out the only possibility that befitted the one they had believed was the Son of God.
Because our expectations are often so earth-bound because of present reality that we ignore God's promises, like the women, we miss the indescribable joy of expecting Jesus to show up in the middle of our crises because He is no longer in the tomb but alive and with us as He promised.
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