1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”
4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.
6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”
8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. Mark 16:1-8

How would this story impact a first-time reader? What sort of ending would they expect to this extraordinary man’s life? Such an anti-climax to the expectation of the both those who walked with Him and listened to and watched what He said and did, and those who read the story! He seemed so genuine, so full of promise, but His death abruptly ended it all. What now? What of God’s kingdom that He said was here? He’s gone. What are the disciples supposed to do now?

They sit around in the upper room, the most logical place to be at that moment. The atmosphere is tense and heavy with grief. Any sound of footsteps outside puts them on high alert. Only the women move about freely because they are no threat to the Romans. The disciples wait, but for what? They have no idea.

The story moves along slowly, told with simplicity and matter-of-fact-ness. Had Mark made it up, it would not have had the flavour of an eyewitness and especially not from the mouth of women because their testimony was regarded as unreliable in a court of law. Three women go to the tomb at daybreak, having witnessed the burial in a rocky cave near the place of execution. They carry loads of spices with which to embalm His body. Their one concern is the stone. How would they move it to get in? They would solve that problem when they get there. They go anyway.

Imagine their astonishment when they are confronted by a gaping hole in the rock! The stone has been moved! They rush forward and burst into the tomb. It’s lit up with an eerie light – a figure sitting on the stone slab, glowing in the dark. They are paralysed with fear. What does this all mean?

The figure speaks. His voice is soft and gentle. “Don’t be scared, ladies. This is it. Jesus has really risen. Come and see where they laid Him. Now go and tell His disciples that He will meet them in Galilee.” The women flee from the tomb, from the figure with such a mind-blowing message. They can’t make sense of it. It’s too fantastic to take in. They say nothing to anyone in case it is all just a dream. Is this how it’s all supposed to end?

Luella Campbell

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