The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Jesus was dead. He had been severely beaten, then scourged, then crucified. To make sure that he was dead, a soldier pierced his side with a spear. Joseph, Nicodemus, and others had taken his dead body down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a new tomb. They had not finished the job of preparing Jesus’ body for burial, so a few women planned to return to the tomb early on Sunday morning.
Jesus’ death had left his disciples in a state of shocked disappointment. He had entered Jerusalem just a few days before to great fanfare and support. Thousands of people proclaimed him as their king. Many fervently, sincerely believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Yet the authorities had arrested him, tried him, and put him to death. That seemed to show that all of Jesus’ claims amounted to nothing. He was apparently not able to save himself, let alone save others. At the end of the day on Friday, all seems to have been lost. Jesus’ death seems to have proven that he was a fraud and that all his followers were deceived.
Had the story about Jesus ended with his death, we would not be here today. The entire Christian faith depends on what happened next. Had Jesus died the death of a common criminal, and had that been the end of the story, we most likely would never have heard of him. If what the Gospels record after the crucifixion did not happen, then Christianity is a fraud. But if the Gospel accounts are true, then Jesus is exactly whom he claimed to be—the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior.
Luke 24 tells us what happened when the women returned to the tomb early on Sunday morning. What happened was something totally unexpected. Instead of finding a partially decomposed body in the tomb, they found an empty tomb, and they found angels questioning why they were seeking the living among the dead. They heard those magnificent words, “He is not here, but is risen.”
The resurrection of Jesus is the reason we are here today. It’s the reason the church began and has persisted for nearly 2000 years. And it’s the reason we are convinced that Jesus is whom he claimed to be. The resurrection validates Jesus’ claims and proves him to be the Savior. We are celebrating that fact today.
As we consider the resurrection of Jesus as recorded in first 12 verses of Luke 24, we should notice that this part of the account revolves around the experience of a group of women. At the end of chapter 23, we find a group of women who had helped with Jesus’ burial. Their plan was to return to the tomb on Sunday morning and finish the job of preparing Jesus’ body for burial. Early on Sunday morning, they travel to the tomb and find it empty.
Why is the presence of these women significant? You are probably aware that in the ancient world, the testimony of women was not held in high regard. In fact, women could not testify in a court of law. So if you were making up a mythology regarding Jesus’ resurrection, the last thing you would do is base the story on the testimony of women. If you wanted people to believe your story, you would say that reliable men were the first to visit the empty tomb and the first to see Jesus. The fact that the Gospel accounts record women as the first to see the empty tomb and the first to encounter Jesus after the resurrection shows that this is not a legendary, mythological story. This is a believable account because women are the first on the scene.
Let’s see how this group of women were so critical to the resurrection account.