Who will roll away the stone?

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I call Saturday of Passion Week a “sandwich day.” It’s squeezed in between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. It’s the
“in between day.” On Friday all their hopes were dashed. Their Messiah died, they buried Him, and with His burial, they buried all His promises. Again we read these last chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John from our side of His Story. We know how it all ends. They didn’t. Oh, they knew His Promises. They could recall His warnings. Jesus told them plainly what was about to happen, but when the horrific events of Friday finally took place, His friends sunk into a pool of despair. Peter denied Him. Other’s fled from Him. Only one stood firmly at the foot of the cross. John 19:26, “Jesus saw His mother there, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Dear woman here is your son, and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.” Most scholars say this disciple was John because that is how John addressed himself throughout the gospel of John.

Place yourself in their shoes. Jerusalem was a hotbed of political intrigue. Spies lurked around each corner. On Friday the mob cried, “Crucify Him! Crucify Jesus of Nazareth!” Saturday rolls around and their world is reeling. It was the day after a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. I’m sure Peter, James, John, Andrew, and the others were hoping to wake up and realize it had only been a nightmare, but it hadn’t. Friday was real. There was no going back to that upper room or the garden of prayer. Jesus was dead and buried. Saturday was the day between the Promises revealed and the Promises fulfilled.

And then comes Sunday. Why would they assume it would be any different than Saturday? His Promises, His Words, His teachings, and His revelations were shrouded in a fog of fear and despair. They had buried all of their hopes the day they wrapped the grave clothes around Him.

It’s the women who get up first to face the day. Maybe they didn’t want to, I don’t know, but they got up and got things going.

“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.” Matthew 28:1

He might be dead but they were Proverbs 31 type women. It was their duty and their honor to take anoint Jesus’ body. Jesus had driven out seven demons from Mary Magdalene. Salome was the mother of James and John, known as the son’s of thunder. She appears to have been one of Jesus’ followers from the very beginning of His public ministry. Joanna is first mentioned in Luke 8. She was the wife of Chuza, who managed the household of Herod Antipas, the king of Galilee. Jesus had also delivered her of evil spirits and infirmaties. Then His own mother was part of this entourage. In life they were devoted to Him and in death they would forever honor Him.

“Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb? But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large had been rolled away.” Mark 16:1-4

“As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. “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. But go, tell His disciple and Peter, ‘ He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him just as He told you.” Mark 16:5-7

“Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.” Mark 16:8

“So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” He said. They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” Matthew 28:8-10

They were the first to see the Risen Lord. These women were the first to go to the empty tomb. They had no idea when they sat out early that morning, just after sunrise, that the tomb would be empty. They had also been one of the last to leave the tomb on Friday after Joseph and Nicodemus had wrapped in the grave clothes.

“The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.” Luke 23:55-56.

Steel Magnolias. Their resolve to follow Jesus had been as steel, and their openness to serve Him in life and then in death was like the magnolia.

Matthew and Mark composed their gospel in the late 50’s early 60’s AD; Luke late 60’s; and John mid 80’s to early 90’s. All four gospel writers acknowledge these women were the first eyewitness reports to the empty tomb and seeing the Risen Lord. In those days a woman would never had been called upon to give an eyewitness accounting especially in a court of law. So why did the gospel writers include the women’s accounts when they would have been dismissed in their socioeconomic landscape? They included the women because that is how those first few hours of Resurrection Sunday went down. Jesus revealed Himself to the first one’s at the tomb that day and they were the women. He then instructed them what to do, “Go tell the guys I’ll meet them in Galilee.”

We all have those type of days. I call them terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Then you wake up the next morning praying it had only been a bad dream, but there it is staring at you like a lioness ready to pounce. You try to remember the promises in God’s Word but your circumstances are so horrific they blot out God’s command, “Do not worry, be strong and courageous for I am with you to the very end.”

Peter and John and every other follower of Jesus know that Saturday type of feeling. The women definitely didn’t go merrily on their way to the tomb that Sunday morning. Their cheeks were probably still stained with tears. They wondered who would roll the stone away for them. They had all heard Him promise that He would rise again on that third day, but they were heartsick and they couldn’t rise above the darkness of Friday.

Each of them had a hard time pulling themselves up by the bootstraps, and that’s when Jesus showed up. The Risen Glorified Lord first revealed himself to a group of women who had come to honor Him.

Let that lesson sink into our hearts.