Early Sunday morning a small group of women left the city of Jerusalem. This group included Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Solome, Joanna, and others—all followers of Jesus. On Friday, they had witnessed Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Now, on the third day, they set out at the crack of dawn intent on anointing Jesus’ body.
Upon reaching the sepulcher, these women were taken by surprise. The massive stone set in place on Friday to seal the sepulcher had been rolled away. And the sepulcher was empty! Then they were confronted by two men in shining garments (angels), which brought great fear upon them.
The angels addressed the women with a question. “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” Then they reminded the women how that Jesus had already in Galilee told them of His coming crucifixion and resurrection. We immediately sense a rebuke. The women had come to the sepulcher with spices to anoint the dead instead of anticipating a resurrection. But in this rebuke they also heard the gospel of grace. They were confronted with the glorious reality of Jesus’ resurrection and the truth that through the resurrection He is the Living One. They were also taught the necessity of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The women had completely forgotten the words of Jesus from that He must suffer and die but would be raised again from the dead. As the angels pointed out, Jesus had told them of His death and resurrection already when He was with them in Galilee. This took place in Caesarea Philippi at the conclusion of Jesus’ third Galilean tour. Jesus asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that…I am?” This led to the question, “But whom say ye that I am?” Peter along with the others confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. “From that time forth began Jesus to show unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priest and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day” (Matt. 16:13-21). Notice that Jesus began from that time forth so to instruct His disciples. This means that Jesus reiterated this instruction many times over. Jesus did this as He and His disciples passed secretly through Galilee to Jerusalem (Matt. 17:22, 23). He repeated the same in Perea after the resurrection of Lazarus (Matt. 20:18, 19).
However, the women had completely forgotten this instruction.
That was evident, first, from their deep sorrow on Friday. They had seen it all. They had followed the mob to Golgotha and had seen Jesus crucified. They had witnessed the taunts, the jeers, and the mockery of the mob. They had heard Jesus commend His soul to the Father and die. Mournfully they had followed Joseph and Nicodemus to the sepulcher to bury their Lord. After Jesus’ burial, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary continued to sit over against the sepulcher (Matt. 27:61). They were in a state of shock and confusion. Obviously they had forgotten the words of Jesus.
That they had forgotten the instruction of Jesus is also evident from the fact that now, on Sunday, they returned to the sepulcher. They came with spices to anoint the body of Jesus, either because there had not been time for that on Friday or because they were not aware that it had been done. Obviously they were not looking for Jesus to rise that day. They had forgotten.
And so the women were met with a (mild) rebuke from the angels. “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” Here the angels pointed out that Jesus was not dead but alive. This was to be explained by the fact that He was risen. That was evidenced by the fact that He was not there. And so the angels asked why the women sought to find Jesus in a sepulcher where the dead are laid to rest. Then came the rebuke, “Remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” No, they had not remembered! They had completely forgotten!
This rebuke certainly was deserved. It was deserved in light of the fact that Jesus had repeatedly (not just once) told them of His pending death and resurrection. It is astounding that they should have forgotten. This rebuke was deserved also when we consider from the gospel account why they had forgotten. Along with the Jewish nation generally, they expected Jesus to be an earthly Savior and King, establishing an earthly kingdom. Jesus’ death and resurrection did not fit into that framework. And so the women (with the disciples) had ignored Jesus’ instruction.
A well deserved rebuke!
By reminding the women of Jesus’ instruction, the angels also instructed the women concerning the necessity of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
This necessity is found in the fact that Jesus is the Son of man. Notice what the angels told the women: “The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” There were many titles that Jesus used during His earthly ministry. He claimed to be the Christ. He called Himself the Son of God. But most of all He referred to Himself as the Son of man.
The term “Son of man” implies, first of all, that Jesus is human. He is the divine Son of God. But through the virgin birth He also became a man possessing our human nature in every way except sin.
If we will see the full meaning of this term “Son of man,” we must turn to Daniel 7:13-14:
I (Daniel) saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days [God], and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
According to this prophecy, the Son of man is one destined to honor and glory. The everlasting God will give him dominion, and glory and an everlasting kingdom that shall have no end. And Jesus is this Son of man!
But this necessitates Jesus’ death and resurrection. This follows from the nature of the dominion and
kingdom that Jesus would receive as the Son of man. His kingdom is not an earthly domain. It is not a restoration of the glory days of David and Solomon, in which the rule of Israel would extend to all nations of the earth. It is not a kingdom laden with earthly power, riches, and fame. Rather, it is a heavenly kingdom, as Jesus repeatedly emphasized in His ministry by calling His kingdom the kingdom of heaven. It is the spiritual rule that Jesus exercises over the elect of God, whom He forms into a holy nation by a spiritual rebirth. It is a rule that Jesus exercises through the power of the Word and inner working of the Holy Spirit, so that the citizens of His kingdom willingly bow the knee to Him in loving obedience. It is a kingdom of citizens who, during the course of their life here below, find themselves to be spiritual pilgrims and strangers in a hostile world. They have no abiding place here; their home is in heaven. They are merely passing through. They look in hope for the fullness of God’s salvation that they enjoy here only in part.
But such a kingdom required both the death and resurrection of Jesus as the Son of man. It required that Jesus humble Himself in the flesh to the death of the cross as the perfect sacrifice for sin. But it also required that Jesus be raised again from the dead unto everlasting life, that He may receive dominion and power as the Son of man.
In keeping with this, Jesus is risen from the dead as the Living One. This is what the angels asserted in their question, “Why seek ye the living (one) among the dead?”
That Jesus is the Living One means, first, that He is alive. Jesus was delivered by sinful hands to the death of the cross on Friday. On Sunday He arose again. He is no longer dead but living. As proof of this the angels pointed to the fact that Jesus was not there any longer.
That Jesus is the Living One means, secondly, that Jesus is forever beyond the reach of death. This was not true of all those who were raised before Jesus. They were still subject to death. They were raised from death and then died again. But Jesus is the Living One. He has been raised to an eternal life, beyond the reach of death. This is true because He was raised on the basis of His suffering and death, which paid the price of sin and released Him from the penalty of sin.
But that Jesus is the Living One means, finally, that through His resurrection He has become the Source and Giver of life to His people. As the Son of man, He graciously transforms by a spiritual rebirth all those whom the Father has given Him. He raises them from death unto life, a life of obedience to Him and fellowship with the Father. He recreates them, so that that as new creatures they are equipped to do the good work God has for them in His kingdom, a work that has been eternally foreordained for them.
What a blessed gospel! The Son of man is risen from
the dead to become the Living One! He has been given power and dominion to establish the everlasting kingdom of God! He has raised us from death unto life to become citizens in His kingdom that we may serve the living God and enjoy Him forever!