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Readings

Reading: Matthew 28:1-15

Supplementary Reading: Revelation 21

Devotional

Despite tracking with Jesus for over three years his core group of men were by and large missing from action over the Easter weekend. One had committed suicide after selling out the Son of God, nine had fled from Gethsemane, another was tormented every time a cockerel crowed, only John, the disciple Jesus loved, appears in the narrative. One of those times, standing near the cross with Mary the mother of Jesus, his teacher touchingly asks him to care for his mother.

In glaring contrast, the Holy Spirit, through the Gospel writers, consistently brings our gaze to a number of women who steadfastly stay near the master in his torment. They are there at Calvary when Jesus laid down his life, they were there as Joseph and Nicodemus lovingly removed the lifeless body of Jesus from the cross and carefully laid him in a tomb. Now they show up again, early Sunday morning, back at the tomb to ‘ensure everything was in order’ and most probably to finish the burial rituals. We know Joseph and Nicodemus had covered the body in burial spices and a linen cloth but, time had run out on Friday night, so now the women had returned at the first opportunity after Sabbath to anoint the body of their treasured friend.

The Gospel writers unfortunately do not give us a complete list of the ladies who showed such courage, loyalty and extraordinary love through their brave actions. However, we can piece together a few of those resolute ladies from scripture. They included: Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the ‘other’ Mary, Salome, Joanna and the mother of James and John. (Who may have been Salome but we do not really know) Dr Luke indicates there were others but fails to mention their names.

Quite naturally the ladies were concerned about how they could complete their task knowing a huge stone and a platoon of guards stood between them and the body. God had a simple solution, from his ‘myriads of myriads’ of angels he sends just one, causing an earthquake as the messenger arrived, before singlehandedly removing the stone and sitting on top of it in triumph to greet the women on arrival. (Myriad is accepted in classic history as 10,000 so, a myriad of myriads would be 100 million – But a reference in Revelation 5:11 suggests John sees myriads [plural] of myriads which symbolically means too many to count) Yet, God didn’t send his fearsome messenger to enable the women to anoint the body but to see for themselves Christ had risen as he promised his followers so many times in the past.

On sight of God’s messenger, the guards fainted in terror but, in contrast, the angel comforted the women, encouraging them not to be afraid and showing them the good news of Jesus’ resurrection. One may have expected a rather challenging encounter for the ladies and, even more so in the days to come, for the men who had forsaken Jesus. A stern rebuke may have been on the cards for their ‘lack of faith’. Instead, they received a show of power, gentle assurance, a loving reminder, infallible proof and a commission to share the joyful earthshattering news ‘He is not here, for he has risen’.

In the days and weeks to come Jesus would appear to his scared and scattered team confirming the truth of his resurrection, digging deep into their souls past their shame of failure, uncovering hearts of passionate love. He gave the promise of the Holy Spirit to fuel the spread of the Gospel from Jerusalem, to Judea and then to the ‘uttermost’ parts of the world, redeeming men and women from every tribe and nation to enjoy a perfect relationship with their creator for all eternity! This is the ‘Joy set before’ Jesus, the reason he ‘endured the cross’. During exile on a Greek island named Patmos, Jesus gave the disciple he loved more than any, a vision of the prize won on Calvary!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:1-4

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for the example you have given us of the love and loyalty of these great women who stood by you when others were denying you. Thank you for the loving care you showed them, the disciples and ourselves when we don’t fully understand or trust your plan. We are grateful that in glorifying Jesus and sending us your Spirit, You open the way to eternal life. I ask that my receipt of your incredible grace will continue to increase my love for you and persist in strengthening my faith. Amen!

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