But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.
Mary Magdalene and the other women went to Jesus’ tomb because they believed that Jesus was dead. They had witnessed his brutal death, watched Joseph of Arimathea take Jesus’ lifeless body down from the cross and then, with the help of Nicodemas, bind Jesus’ body with linen cloths and spices and place him in a tomb (John 19:38-42). They fully expected to find Jesus’ dead body in the tomb on that first Easter morning.
But why did they not expect Jesus to rise from the dead? Didn’t Jesus tell them that he would suffer and die and then rise again on the third day? Indeed he did tell them. He not only told them once but he told them multiple times and specifically told them in detail what would happen to him.
In Luke 9:21, right after Jesus asks his disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” and Peter answers, “The Christ of God”, Jesus begins to tell his followers that he must “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” In Mark 8:32, it says that he said these things “plainly” to them. In other words, he was not speaking to them in parables or in coded language. He was speaking to them openly and plainly about what would happen to him.
In Luke 9:31, on a different occasion, probably a few weeks later, Jesus tells his followers again that “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”
And then again, in Luke 18:31, on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus says to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.”
Jesus clearly and specifically communicated to his followers, not just once but at least three times, what would happen to him (Also, these are the times that are recorded in Scripture. The implication as you read the gospels is that Jesus said this more than just three times but alluded to it multiple times and specifically prepared them for what would happen to him).
So why was Mary Magdalene and all of the disciples totally caught off guard when Jesus rose from the dead? Why were they all expecting to find him dead in his tomb? Did they not hear what he had been telling them for the past couple of months prior to his crucifixion?
From the gospel accounts, it’s clear that they DID hear what Jesus said to them. However, it’s also clear that they DID NOT want to believe what they heard. Today we might call it denial or selective hearing, but whatever you want to call it, it kept them from truly “hearing” what Jesus was telling them.
I will continue this article in the next issue of the Leaflet. For now, take a look at the passages mentioned in this article and ask the Lord to show you why his followers were completely caught off guard when Jesus rose from the dead.