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Now Comes the Good Part!

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Matthew 28:1–8; Mark 16:1–8; Luke 24:1–12; John 20:1–10

Jesus’ followers were traumatized by His death and not at all anticipating His resurrection. On the Sunday after His crucifixion, the Lord began to gradually enlighten these shocked followers with evidence they could not ignore—Jesus was alive!


A family was watching a movie about the life of Christ. One of the children was taking it all in as Jesus journeyed to Calvary, and little tears rolled down her cheeks. She was silent as Jesus was taken down from the cross and then put into the tomb. Then she broke into a great big smile and announced to her family, “And now comes the good part!”

Indeed, it does.

We sail now into resurrection Sunday. All four Gospels give us different details, and it takes all four accounts to give us the fullest picture of what happens next.

Matthew 28, Mark 16, and Luke 24 tell us that a group of women get up early Sunday morning to head to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus with spices. This group includes Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, and other unnamed women as well.

As they hurry down the path, they have not really thought through everything. Mark 16:3, tells us they are saying, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Well, that is a big problem—not to mention the Roman guards and the seal that has been put in place.

But Matthew 28 tells us how their problem was already solved! There had been an earthquake earlier that morning. Verses 2-4:

There was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.

By the time the women arrive, the guards have fled the scene. And this stone is no longer an obstacle. In fact, Luke and John refer to the stone being rolled up and away from the tomb. It is out of its trough; it has been picked up and thrown away from the tomb as if it were a little marble. And beloved, this stone was rolled away, not to let Jesus out, but to let everybody else in.

I think it is wonderful that during these days when women were not even allowed to testify in a court of law, God chooses them to be the first to testify of the Lord’s resurrection. Maybe that is because they are courageous women. While the disciples are hiding out, these women are heading out.

As they arrive, it is immediately obvious that something unusual has happened. John 20:2 says that upon seeing the stone tossed away like it was, Mary Magdalene immediately runs back to tell the disciples. The other women venture inside the tomb, and Jesus is not in there. But somebody else is!

Mark 16:5 describes an angel as a “young man.” Matthew calls him an angel, and Luke tells us that there are two angels in the tomb, robed in dazzling apparel.

Just one of the angels speaks:

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:5-6)

Then the angel gives these women an assignment—verse 7: 

“Go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.”

You can imagine them running from the tomb. Mark’s Gospel writes that they are gripped with “trembling and astonishment” (Mark 16:8). Their hearts are racing, as well as their feet. They are racing to tell the disciples this incredible news—Jesus is alive!

By the way, we have been given that same assignment today—to tell our world that Jesus is alive! However, I feel that the church today is shuffling around, rather than racing ahead, with the news.

The Gospel of John inserts here that Mary Magdalene, who had left the tomb without hearing the angels’ message, runs to Peter and John. She has already drawn her own conclusion, for she says here in John 20:2, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” She is convinced that Jesus’ body has been stolen by those Romans soldiers or Jewish leaders—somebody took Him away!

With that, Peter and John begin a footrace to the tomb. John is younger and faster, and he arrives first. Verse 5 says, “And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.”

Then Peter arrives, probably huffing and puffing, in verse 6. He brushes past John and goes right on inside, and John follows him. Mary Magdalene was right—the body of Jesus is missing. But two things grab their attention. First, the grave clothes are lying there, the “linen cloths” that had been used by Nicodemus and Joseph to wrap the body of Jesus.

Now in these days, as the body was wrapped in strips of linen, the overlapping edges of the linen cloths would be coated with gummy spices so they would hold together. John’s Gospel gives us the details that this linen shroud was made up of strips, interlaced with seventy-five pounds of gummy spices (John 19:39-40).

So, the end result would look a lot like those photographs we have seen of Egyptian mummies. Then, as we are told here, another cloth was used to cover the face and head.

After three days and nights, the spices would have begun to harden, so when the disciples enter the tomb, they are struck immediately by these linen wrappings, still in their folds. That is, the linen wrappings are still in the form of the body they once wrapped around; only now, they are slightly caved in because the body is gone.

Listen, if you had been in the tomb at the moment Jesus’ body was raised from the dead, would you have seen Jesus stir and struggle to sit up and unwrap His linen burial clothes? No. Had that been the case, the wrappings would have been torn and scattered everywhere. But these linen strips are still lying there—like an empty cocoon after the butterfly has flown away.

Now back here in John 20:1, we read that Mary Magdalene came and “saw” that the stone was moved. The Greek word for saw (blepō) was the typical verb for physical vision. She never really thought about what it meant for the stone to be tossed aside like a pebble.

Peter walks into the tomb, and verse 6 tells us, “He saw the linen cloths lying there.” This Greek word is theōreō, which gives us our word theorize. So, he sees this scene, and he is puzzled; he is trying to come up with a theory as to what happened.

But when John enters the tomb, verse 8 says, “he saw and believed.” The Greek verb here (horaō) means to see with discernment; it indicates that John has connected the dots—he has correctly discerned the meaning.[1]

To this day, people hear the news of this empty tomb. And most people do not think about what it means. Some people see it and try to create some theory about what happened; but others, like John, see it and understand what it means. John is the first disciple to believe that Jesus is indeed alive. How about you?

Like that little girl said to her family, now comes the good part. Oh yes, this is the best part—this is the heart of the gospel. Jesus is risen indeed!

[1] W. E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nelson, 1985), New Testament, 556-57.

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