All the Way to Glory: Then Came the Morning

It was still a bit dark, but it was time to go. After the Sabbath’s sunset, they purchased what they needed to anoint the body of the Lord Jesus, and now the sun was just about to rise on the first day of the week.1  The disciples, who promised undying loyalty to the Savior (Mat 26:35), were still in hiding, but these women were not. There were at least five of them, for Luke names three and states there were others (Luk 24:10). Putting the gospel accounts together, we know the names of four in particular: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Salome and Mary the mother of James and Joses.2

As they made the trip, they began to wonder how they would be able to roll away the sepulchre’s heavy stone. Too bad none of the twelve were with them; a little muscle would have been appreciated. Apparently, the women were unaware of the presence of the guards or the official seal, both implemented after they accompanied the Savior’s body on the day  of His burial. Bigger than the problem as to how they would roll away the stone would be how to overpower Roman soldiers. But they would have to do neither. And hopefully they kept their receipts, for it was soon evident that their purchased spices were not going to be necessary.

A Delightful Disappointment

As the sun rose, it revealed an initially troubling detail, but one which would turn out to be history’s best disappointment. “And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus” (Luk 24:2-3).3 They assumed the worst – His body must have been stolen. Mary Magdalene’s words likely reflected all their thoughts, “They have taken away the Lord … and we know not where they have laid him” (Joh 20:2).

But soon they would learn the truth from a heavenly source. Who could possibly have moved the stone? Who dared to break the Roman seal? Who could overpower the Roman guards? It was the angel of the Lord! “And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone” (Mat 28:2).And the earth was not the only thing that shook. “And for fear of him the keepers  did shake, and became as dead men” (v4). The angel’s presence also terrified the women, who then found themselves.“bowed down [with] their faces to the earth” (Luk 24:5). And then the angel spoke.5 

The Gospel in the Graveyard

“Fear not … for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen”6 (Mat 28:5-6). And thus was shared the best news the world has ever heard. Graveyards are generally not places where exciting announcements are made, but from the empty tomb of the Lord Jesus Christ the most thrilling news release in human history was sent forth. But it was news Christ had already told the women, for the angel added, “He is risen, as he said.” Luke supplements this account with these words, “Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words” (24:6-8). The Sanhedrin remembered His words (Mat 27:63), but the women and Jesus’ disciples had forgotten. Yet what these women lacked in their minds they made up for in their hearts. They were here to anoint the One they loved and who loved them in return. And if they had not come, they would have been as miserable as the disciples were for a little longer.

The angel then gave the women not just the breaking news but also an invitation: “Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (28:6). They had seen the place before and watched with their own eyes the body of the Savior being tenderly placed in the tomb (Luk 23:55). Now, with pounding hearts, they cautiously entered the tomb to discover that, indeed, He was no longer there. They were given the facts and an invitation. Would it be enough?

The gospel from the graveyard is still sounding out today. Christ died for our sins and was buried. He rose again the third day, just as He said He would. And the Lord’s invitation to you is “Come.” It was enough for these women. Is it enough for you?

The First Great Commission

The angel had yet more to say: “And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him; lo, I have told you” (Mat 28:7). Mark adds that the disciples would see Him in Galilee “as he said unto [them]” (16:7). When did the Lord Jesus tell them? It was after they left the upper room on the night of His betrayal: “But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee” (Mat 26:32). Galilee was the place where light dawned (4:16) and where hope would dawn for the disciples.

Receiving this commission from the angel, the women “departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word” (28:8). We will need to reconcile this account with Mark’s, which says, “And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid” (16:8). So there was a period of paralysis. Luke helps us reconcile the two. It was after the women “remembered his [Christ’s] words” that they “returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest” (24:8-9). It was the word of God brought home to their minds that gave them confidence to share the good news with joy.

And so, before the disciples ever received the Great Commission (Mat 28:18-20), these devoted women were given a commission of their own, one which they were at first reluctant to carry out but then did so with urgency and great joy. They got to be the first to hear the news of Christ’s resurrection as well as the first to share it. Perhaps you are one of the last to hear the news. You can believe it, and you must if you want to be saved from your sins. “Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9 NET).

What a morning it turned out to be for these women, one initially filled with despair and confusion. But as the sun began to rise, their hopes would rise higher still. And for a world long lost in darkness and death, morning had finally come.

Then came the morning,
Night turned into day;
The stone was rolled away,
Hope rose with the dawn.

Then came the morning,
Shadows vanished before the sun,
Death had lost and life had won,
For morning had come.7

1 All four Gospels mention “the first day of the week” (Mat 28:1; Mar 16:2; Luk 24:1; Joh 20:1).

2 See Mat 28:1 (cf. 27:56); Mar 16:1; Luk 24:10; Joh 20:1-18.

3 Bible quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted

4 Mark mentions “a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment” (16:5), presumably the angel of the Lord Matthew describes. Luke (24:4) and John (20:12) refer to “two men”/“two angels” present. The discrepancy about the number of angels could be explained in that each author may focus on the presence of one or two angels for literary purposes, whatever those might be.

5 Matthew begins and ends his Gospel with the angel of the Lord, who announces both the birth (1:20) and resurrection (28:5-6) of Christ.

6 Mark records this as a divine passive, reflected in the NET, “He has been raised!” (16:6). God had raised His Son from the dead.

7 Chris Christian, William J. and Gloria Gaither.