women are walking to the tomb, carrying spices, prepared for wrapping up the
body of Jesus. Because they knew, as we know that dead bodies decompose, and
the spices were going to be a way of masking the smell of decomposition. The
Jewish people had a two stage process of caring for the bodies of those who had
died. At first the bodies were wrapped in spices and put on a shelf in a tomb
until decomposition had taken place. The bones would then be collected and put
into a bone box. Luke, our narrator, knows this as well, even though he is not
a Jew. He has said at the start of his Gospel that his aim is to write an
orderly report of the events that took place to a man called Theophilus.
careful narrator, this historian/theologian, a second-generation Christian who
knew Paul, who sounds so rational and thoughtful, adds his voice to that of
Mark and the other writers – there is no body! God’s plan didn’t include a dead
Messiah, but one whom He raised back to life! There was no body. There still is
no body. Luke gives us three resurrection stories, as though to prove the point
that the impossible has happened. Here in this first story the reaction of the
women is terror, and when they go back and tell the men what they’ve seen the
reaction is the same as ours – it just doesn’t make sense to them.
Each of the
Gospel writers come from their own background and
perspective. For Luke, a Gentile who has travelled around with Paul (an
ex-Christian persecutor and killer), he wants to show that this unexpected God
intervention means that the old barriers of race are removed. This is a new
community, to which anyone can belong. This is the reassurance he wants to give
to his friend Theophilus.
God raised him back to life. It didn’t make sense to the first disciples. It
still doesn’t for us. But someone changing back from death to life certainly
points to something or someone outside and beyond our immediate experience. We
are not alone.
there is this new community. One without barriers, to which all are welcome.
Today we are
looking at the empty tomb. Astonished. Scratching our heads. Beginning to think
of what we can’t see or understand.
But in the
weeks to come I would challenge you to go further. What happened next? Luke
structured his Gospel in anticipation of its sequel – the book we call Acts.
Why not read on – read about this group of Jews and Gentiles, and how they
began to form a whole new community – one that had never been seen before in
history. Ask questions. Look upwards. But also remember – Jesus was dead. God
raised him back to life. The tomb is empty.