tomb image courtesy of Joel Milhouse
I was reading The Jesus Storybook Bible for my daughter the other night. We were on the story of the women who went to Jesus’ tomb on resurrection Sunday. As I was reading it to her, I was struck by how it related to the post last week on God Works All Things for Good. The story comes from John 20:1-18, but parts are found in the other Gospels as well (Matthew 28:1-10, Mark 16:1-8, and Luke 24:1-12).
Jesus’ followers didn’t believe Jesus could raise from the dead
Roughly the story goes as follows. Three women went to the tomb on Sunday morning with spices for Jesus’ body. When they got to the tomb, the stone that had covered the entrance had been rolled back and Jesus body was gone. As they pondered what happened, two angels appeared to them saying Jesus had rose from the dead and to tell the disciples to go to Galilee to wait for Jesus. They ran back to the disciples to tell them what they had saw. The disciples did not believe them, so Peter and John ran to the tomb to check it out. They went in the tomb and believed. Mary Magdalene had gone back to the tomb with the two disciples, and she stayed there after the disciples left. And, as she lingered she met with Jesus.
Jesus’ followers didn’t believe Jesus had to die
We must understand the troubling time this was for the followers of Jesus. There was excitement surrounding Jesus and a belief that He was the Christ, but no matter how much He said it, the followers did not believe that Jesus had to die. We see this most clearly in the two who met with Jesus on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-33). They had heard that the women spoke of the empty tomb and seeing angels. They had even heard that Peter and John had verified the tomb was empty. But Jesus had died and that was the end of the hope.
Every circumstance needs God’s inspiration to fully understand it
Whenever we try to interpret events apart from God’s inspiration, we are bound to get them wrong. It is obvious that Mary Magdalene did not understand what had happened to Jesus. She had seen the empty tomb and had angels tell her that He has risen, but she still believed him to be dead. When Jesus appeared to her (not knowing it was him), she asked him where Jesus body was taken.
The thing that I admire about her in this story is that even though she did not understand, she continued to struggle with what had happened and to try to find Jesus. And by persisting with it, she was the first to see the risen Christ. In seeing the risen Christ, she was able to understand that all was well.
Struggle through your questions until you find Jesus
There will be events in your life that will be hard for your to interpret in light of the truths of Scriptures. Continue to fight through them in prayer. Pursue God to help give you understanding. “God, You say You work for the good of all things, but how can the death of my loved one be made good?” It was this kind of pursuit that was rewarded for Mary Magdalene with a visitation from Jesus. Jesus loves to be pursued.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. – James 4:8