Text: Mark 16:1-8
Have you ever put something down and then, when you went back for it, it moved? Remote controls and keys are notorious for this. You set them down and come back, and somehow, they aren’t where you left them. It’s like whatever it was grew a set of legs and walked off. What really happened is you forgot where you put it, but it’s more fun to think of it this way. Sometimes things don’t stay where you put them. Children, for example. But you know what else didn’t stay where it was put? Jesus.
When the women went to the tomb early that Sunday morning, they expected to find Jesus right where they left Him, dead and cold on a slab. But, instead, He wasn’t there. He didn’t have to grow legs to walk off; He already had them, and He did. Graciously, He appointed an angel to stay behind and tell the women when they got there. These are the words the angel said, “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here…He is going before you to Galilee.” (Mk. 16:6-7, ESV) Jesus went ahead of His Disciples to Galilee, but He went ahead of all of us in death so that we might follow Him into life.
That wasn’t what the women were expecting when they went to the tomb, though. There were three of them that Sunday. They were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother James, and Salome. These three were present at Jesus’ crucifixion, and likely had been looking after Him and His disciples for some time before that. They were believers in Christ, but they didn’t quite understand Him when He said that He would rise from the dead. After He gave up His spirit, Joseph of Arimathea took our Lord down from the cross, wrapped Him in a linen cloth, and placed Him in a tomb he had prepared for himself. The Marys watched this all take place. And they figured that, since things normally stay where you put them, Jesus’ body would be there when they came to anoint it.
St. Mark writes, “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.” (Mk. 16:1-2) Their only concern as they approached our Lord’s tomb was who would roll away the stone that was placed at the entrance – it being very large. But, looking up, “they saw that the stone had been rolled back.” (v. 4) Going inside, they found it empty. What was put there was no longer there. Instead, something different – an angel. St. Mark describes a young man, “dressed in a white robe.” (v. 5) Understandably, the women were afraid. But the angel said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus…who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here.” Then, he directed them, “Go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you.” (v. 7)
Normally, when you put something somewhere it stays there. Children are exceptions, but then they’re people. Animals don’t always stay when you tell them to, either. Bodies, however, do. Or, they’re supposed to. Not Jesus’, though. No, He rose just like He said He would. As recently as Holy Thursday, in the Garden of Gethsemane, just before He was betrayed, Jesus said, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” (Mk. 14:27-28) This is also what He preached and taught for three years all around Galilee, in Judea and Samaria.
This is what He spoke through the prophets of old. Through Isaiah it was prophesied that the Messiah would die bearing the sins of the people yet live again. (Is. 53) King David prophesied by the Holy Spirit that God the Father would not let His holy one see the corruption of death. (Ps. 16:10) And, as far back as the Garden of Eden, the Lord promised that the offspring of Adam and Eve would crush the head of the ancient foe. What Christ foretold by His holy prophets, and what He Himself taught in His ministry – that He would bears the sins of the world, make payment for them in death, and then rise – He thus fulfilled that Sunday morning. Therefore, He went ahead of His Disciples to Galilee, so that He might see and comfort them there, and assure even Peter – who denied Him three times – that their sins were forgiven.
The Disciples aren’t the only ones Jesus went ahead of, though. Listen to what St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
If the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.1 Corinthians 15:16-23
Christ didn’t just go ahead of the Disciples to Galilee, but He went ahead of them and us in death, so that we might follow Him into life.
Jesus Christ is the eternally-begotten Son of the Father. He is without beginning and without end. He willingly took upon Himself our same human flesh, and humbly submitted Himself to death, even death on a cross. By His death, our sins are atoned for and our guilt is taken away. And now, by His rising again, we will rise again. Because He lives, we shall live also. Though our flesh now is corrupted by the fall into sin, when Christ returns, He will raise our bodies in glorified fashion, and we will see with our own two eyes the Son of God. He went ahead of us into death and then back to life so that we, too, might pass with Him through death into eternal life.
Most of the time, when you put things places, they stay there. Sometimes they don’t. Keys, remotes, children. These things grow legs and move when you’re not looking. But, so did something else: our Lord. Only, He didn’t just move – He rose from the dead, never to die again. He left that tomb empty and went ahead of the Disciples to Galilee. So, too, will we leave our graves empty at the final trumpet. Christ went ahead of us in death, so that we might follow Him into life.