The manner of the re-uniting of Christ’s soul and body in his resurrection is a mystery, one of the secret things that belong not to us; but the infallible proofs of his resurrection, that he did indeed rise from the dead, and was thereby proved to be the Son of God, are things revealed, which belong to us and to our children. Some of them we have here in these verses, which relate the same story for substance that we had in Matthew and Mark.
I. We have here the affection and respect which the good women that had followed Christ showed to him, after he was dead and buried, Luke 24:1. As soon as ever they could, after the sabbath was over, they came to the sepulchre, to embalm his body, not to take it out of the linen in which Joseph had wrapped it, but to anoint the head and face, and perhaps the wounded hands and feet, and to scatter sweet spices upon and about the body; as it is usual with us to strew flowers about the dead bodies and graves of our friends, only to show our good-will towards the taking off the deformity of death if we could, and to make them somewhat the less loathsome to those that are about them. The zeal of these good women for Christ did continue. The spices which they had prepared the evening before the sabbath, at a great expense, they did not, upon second thoughts, when they had slept upon it, dispose of otherwise, suggesting, To what purpose is this waste? but they brought them to the sepulchre on the morning after the sabbath, early, very early. It is a rule of charity, Every man, according as he purposes in his heart, so let him give, 2 Cor. 9:7. What is prepared for Christ, let it be used for him. Notice is taken of the names of these women, Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; grave matronly women, it should seem, they were. Notice is also taken of certain others with them, Luke 24:1; and again, Luke 24:10. These, who had not joined in preparing the spices, would yet go along with them to the sepulchre; as if the number of Christ’s friends increased when he was dead, John 12:24, 32. The daughters of Jerusalem, when they saw how inquisitive the souse was after her Beloved, were desirous to seek him with her (Song 6:1), so were these other women. The zeal of some provokes others.
II. The surprise they were in, when they found the stone rolled away and the grave empty (Luke 24:2, 3); they were much perplexed at that (Luke 24:4) which they had much reason to rejoice in, that the stone was rolled away from the sepulchre (by which it appeared that he had a legal discharge, and leave to come out), and that they found not the body of the Lord Jesus, by which it appeared that he had made us of his discharge and was come out. Note, Good Christians often perplex themselves about that with which they should comfort and encourage themselves.
III. The plain account which they had of Christ’s resurrection from two angels, who appeared to them in shining garments, not only white, but bright, and casting a lustre about them. They first saw one angel without the sepulchre, who presently went in, and sat with another angel in the sepulchre, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain; so the evangelists may be reconciled. The women, when they saw the angels, were afraid lest they had some ill news for them; but, instead of enquiring of them, they bowed down their faces to the earth, to look for their dear Master in the grave. They would rather find him in his grave-clothes than angels themselves in their shining garments. A dying Jesus has more beauty in the eyes of a believer than angels themselves. These women, like the spouse, when found by the watchman (and angels are called watchers), enter not into any other conversation with them than this, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? Now here, 1. They upbraid the women with the absurdity of the search they were making: Why seek ye the living among the dead? Luke 24:5. Witness is hereby given to Christ that he is living, of him it is witnessed that he liveth (Heb. 7:8), and it is the comfort of all the saints, I know that my Redeemer liveth; for because he lives we shall live also. But a reproof is given to those that look for him among the dead,—that look for him among the dead heroes that the Gentiles worshipped, as if he were but like one of them,—that look for him in an image, or a crucifix, the work of men’s hands, or among unwritten tradition and the inventions of men; and indeed all they that expect happiness and satisfaction in the creature, or perfection in this imperfect state, may be said to seek the living among the dead. 2. They assure them that he is risen from the dead (Luke 24:6): “He is not here, but is risen, is risen by his own power; he has quitted his grace, to return no more to it.” These angels were competent witnesses, for they had been sent express from heaven with orders for his discharge. And we are sure that their record is true; they durst not tell a lie. 3. They refer them to his own words: Remember what he spoke to you, when he was yet in Galilee. If they had duly believed and observed the prediction of it, they would easily have believed the thing itself when it came to pass; and therefore, that the tidings might not be such a surprise to them and they seemed to be, the angels repeat to them what Christ had often said in their hearing, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and though it was done by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, yet they that did it were not the less sinful for doing it. He told them that he must be crucified. Surely they could not forget that which they had with so much concern seen fulfilled; and would not this bring to their mind that which always followed, The third day he shall rise again? Observe, These angels from heaven bring not any new gospel, but put them in mind, as the angels of the churches do, of the sayings of Christ, and teach them how to improve and apply them.
IV. Their satisfaction in this account, Luke 24:8. The women seemed to acquiesce; they remembered his words, when they were thus put in mind of them, and thence concluded that if he was risen it was not more than they had reason to expect; and now they were ashamed of the preparations they had made to embalm on the third day him who had often said that he would on the third day rise again. Note, A seasonable remembrance of the words of Christ will help us to a right understanding of his providence.
V. The report they brought of this to the apostles: They returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things to the eleven, and to all the rest of Christ’s disciples, Luke 24:9. It does not appear that they were together in a body; they were scattered every one to his own, perhaps scarcely two or three of them together in the same lodgings, but one went to some of them and another to others of them, so that in a little time, that morning, they all had notice of it. But we are told (Luke 24:11) how the report was received: Their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. They thought it was only the fancy of the women, and imputed it to the power of imagination; for they also had forgotten Christ’s words, and wanted to be put in mind of them, not only what he had said to them in Galilee some time ago, but what he had said very lately, in the night wherein he was betrayed: Again a little while, and ye shall see me. I will see you again. One cannot but be amazed at the stupidity of these disciples,—who had themselves so often professed that they believed Christ to be the Son of God and the true Messiah, had been so often told that he must die and rise again, and then enter into his glory, had seen him more than once raise the dead,—that they should be so backward to believe in his raising himself. Surely it would seem the less strange to them, when hereafter this complaint would justly be taken up by them, to remember that there was a time when it might justly have been taken up against them, Who hath believed our report?
VI. The enquiry which Peter made hereupon, Luke 24:12. It was Mary Magdalene that brought the report to him, as appears, John 20:1, 2, where this story of his running to the sepulchre is more particularly related. 1. Peter hastened to the sepulchre upon the report, perhaps ashamed of himself, to think that Mary Magdalene should have been there before him; and yet, perhaps, he had not been so ready to go thither now if the women had not told him, among other things, that the watch was fled. Many that are swift-footed enough when there is no danger are but cow-hearted when there is. Peter now ran to the sepulchre, who but the other day ran from his Master. 2. He looked into the sepulchre, and took notice how orderly the linen clothes in which Christ was wrapped were taken off, and folded up, and laid by themselves, but the body gone. He was very particular in making his observations, as if he would rather credit his own eyes than the testimony of the angels. 3. He went away, as he thought, not much the wiser, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. Had he remembered the words of Christ, even this was enough to satisfy him that he was risen from the dead; but, having forgotten them, he is only amazed with the thing, and knows not what to make of it. There is many a thing puzzling and perplexing to us which would be both plain and profitable if we did but rightly understand the words of Christ, and had them ready to us.