Never was there such a sabbath since the sabbath was first instituted as this was, which the first words of this chapter tell us was now past; during all this sabbath our Lord Jesus lay in the grave. It was to him a sabbath of rest, but a silent sabbath, it was to his disciples a melancholy sabbath, spent in tears and fears. Never were the sabbath services in the temple such an abomination to God, though they had been often so, as they were now, when the chief priests, who presided in them, had their hands full of blood, the blood of Christ. Well, this sabbath is over, and the first day of the week is the first day of a new world. We have here,
I. The affectionate visit which the good women that had attended Christ, now made it to his sepulchre—not a superstitious one, but a pious one. They set out from their lodgings very early in the morning, at break of day, or sooner; but either they had a long walk, or they met with some hindrance, so that it was sun-rising by the time they got to the sepulchre. The had bought sweet spices too, and came not only to bedew the dead body with their tears (for nothing could more renew their grief than this), but to perfume it with their spices, Mark 16:1. Nicodemus had bought a very large quantity of dry spices, myrrh and aloes, which served to dry the wounds, and dry up the blood, John 19:39. But these good women did not think that enough; they bought spices, perhaps of another kind, some perfumed oils, to anoint him. Note, The respect which others have showed to Christ’s name, should not hinder us from showing our respect to it.
II. The care they were in about the rolling away of the stone, and the superseding of that care (Mark 16:3, 4); They said among themselves, as they were coming along, and now drew near the sepulchre, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? For it was very great, more than they with their united strength could move. They should have thought of this before they came out, and then discretion would have bid them not go, unless they had those to go with them, who could do it. And there was another difficulty much greater than this, to be got over, which they knew nothing of, to wit, a guard of soldiers set to keep the sepulchre; who, had they come before they were frightened away, would have frightened them away. But their gracious love to Christ carried them to the sepulchre; and see how by the time they came thither, both these difficulties were removed, both the stone which they knew of, and the guard which they knew not of. They saw that the stone was rolled away, which was the first thing that amazed them. Note, They who are carried by a holy zeal, to seek Christ diligently, will find the difficulties that lie in their way strangely to vanish, and themselves helped over them beyond their expectation.
III. The assurance that was given them by an angel, that the Lord Jesus was risen from the dead, and had taken leave of his sepulchre, and had left him there to tell those so who came thither to enquire after him.
1. They entered into the sepulchre, at least, a little way in, and saw that the body of Jesus was not there where they had left it the other night. He, who by his death undertook to pay our debt, in his resurrection took out our acquittance, for it was a fair and legal discharge, by which it appealed that his satisfaction was accepted for all the purposes for which it was intended, and the matter in dispute was determined by an incontestable evidence that he was the Son of God.
2. They saw a young man sitting on the right side of the sepulchre. The angel appeared in the likeness of a man, of a young man; for angels, though created in the beginning, grow not old, but are always the same perfection of beauty and strength; and so shall glorified saints be, when they are as the angels. This angel was sitting on the right hand as they went into the sepulchre, clothed with a long white garment, a garment down to the feet, such as great men were arrayed with. The sight of him might justly have encouraged them, but they were affrighted. Thus many times that which should be matter of comfort to us, through our own mistakes and misapprehensions proves a terror to us.
3. He silences their fears by assuring them that here was cause enough for triumph, but none for trembling (Mark 16:6); He saith to them, Be not affrighted. Note, As angels rejoice in the conversation of sinners, so they do also in the consolation of sinners. Be not affrighted, for, (1.) “Ye are faithful lovers of Jesus Christ, and therefore, instead of being confounded, out to be comforted. Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified.” Note, The enquiries of believing souls after Christ, have a particular regard to him as crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), that they may know him, and the fellowship of his sufferings. His being lifted up from the earth, is that which draws all men unto him. Christ’s cross is the ensign to which the Gentiles seek. Observe, He speaks of Jesus as one that was crucified; “The thing is past, that scene is over, ye must not dwell so much upon the sad circumstances of his crucifixion as to be unapt to believe the joyful news of his resurrection. He was crucified in weakness, yet that doth not hinder but that he may be raised in power, and therefore ye that seek him, be not afraid of missing of him.” He was crucified, but he is glorified; and the shame of his sufferings is so far from lessening the glory of his exaltation, that that glory perfectly wipes away all the reproach of his sufferings. And therefore after his entrance upon his glory, he never drew any veil over his sufferings, nor was shy of having his cross spoken of. The angel here that proclaims his resurrection, calls him Jesus that was crucified. He himself owns (Rev. 1:18), I am he that liveth, and was dead; and he appears in the midst of the praises of the heavenly host as a Lamb that had been slain, Rev. 5:6. (2.) “It will therefore be good news to you, to hear that, instead of anointing him dead, you may rejoice in him living. He is risen, he is not here, not dead, but alive again. We cannot as yet show you him, but hereafter you will see him, and you may here see the place where they laid him. You see he is gone hence, not stolen either by his enemies or by his friends, but risen.”
4. He orders them to give speedy notice of this to his disciples. Thus they were made the apostles of the apostles, which was a recompence of their affection and fidelity to him, in attending him on the cross, to the grave, and in the grave. They first came, and were first served; no other of the disciples durst come near his sepulchre, or enquire after him; so little danger was there of their coming by night to steal him away, that none came near him but a few women, who were not able so much as to roll away the stone.
(1.) They must tell the disciples, that he is risen. It is a dismal time with them, their dear Master is dead, and all their hopes and joys are buried in his grave; they look upon their cause as sunk, and themselves ready to fall an easy prey into the hands of their enemies, so that there remains no more spirit in them, they are perfectly at their wits’ end, and every one is contriving how to shift for himself. “O, go quickly to them,” said the angel, “tell them that their Master is risen; this will put some life and spirit into them, and keep them from sinking into despair.” Note, [1.] Christ is not ashamed to own his poor disciples, no, not now that he is in his exalted state; his preferment doth not make him shy of them, for he took early care to have it notified to them. [2.] Christ is not extreme to mark what they do amiss, whose hearts are upright with him. The disciples had very unkindly deserted him, and yet he testified this concern for them. [3.] Seasonable comforts shall be sent to those that are lamenting after the Lord Jesus, and he will find a time to manifest himself to them.
(2.) They must be sure to tell Peter. This is particularly taken notice of by this evangelist, who is supposed to have written by Peter’s direction. If it were told the disciples, it would be told Peter, for, as a token of his repentance for disowning his Master, he still associated with his disciples; yet he is particularly named: Tell Peter, for, [1.] It will be good news to him, more welcome to him than to any of them; for he is in sorrow for sin, and no tidings can be more welcome to true penitents than to hear of the resurrection of Christ, because he rose again for their justification. [2.] He will be afraid, lest the joy of this good news do not belong to him. Had the angel said only, Go, tell his disciples, poor Peter would have been ready to sigh, and say, “But I doubt I cannot look upon myself as one of them, for I disowned him, and deserve to be disowned by him;” to obviate that, “Go to Peter by name, and tell him, he shall be as welcome as any of the rest to see him in Galilee.” Note, A sight of Christ will be very welcome to a true penitent, and a true penitent shall be very welcome to a sight of Christ, for there is joy in heaven concerning him.
(3.) They must appoint them all, and Peter by name, to give him the meeting in Galilee, as he said unto you, Matt. 26:32. In their journey down into Galilee they would have time to recollect themselves, and call to mind what he had often said to them there, that he should suffer and die, and the third day be raised again; whereas while they were at Jerusalem, among strangers and enemies, they could not recover themselves from the fright they had been in, nor compose themselves to the due entertainment of better tidings. Note, [1.] All the meetings between Christ and his disciples are of his own appointing. [2.] Christ never forgets his appointment, but will be sure to meet his people with the promised blessing in every place where he records his name. [3.] In all meetings between Christ and his disciples, he is the most forward. He goes before you.
IV. The account which the women did bring of this to the disciples (Mark 16:8); They went out quickly, and ran from the sepulchre, to make all the haste they could to the disciples, trembling and amazed. See how much we are enemies to ourselves and our own comfort, in not considering and mixing faith with that Christ hath said to us. Christ had often told them, that the third day he would rise again; had they given that its due notice and credit, they would have come to the sepulchre, expecting to have found him risen, and would have received the news of it with a joyful assurance, and not with all this terror and amazement. But, being ordered to tell the disciples, because they were to tell it to all the world, they would not tell it to any one else, they showed not any thing of it to any man that they met by the way, for they were afraid, afraid it was too good news to be true. Note, Our disquieting fears often hinder us from doing that service to Christ and to the souls of men, which if faith and the joy of faith were strong, we might do.