If the story of the Resurrection had been fabricated, it’s highly unlikely that the authors would have included women as main characters. Luke, however, records women playing an extraordinary role in the days following Jesus’ reappearance. Alistair Begg explains how this detail validates the authenticity of the gospels as he highlights various scenes in which women are central. We can be encouraged that God has always used His Word—often carried by unexpected people—to proclaim His power.
Father, your Word says that we will seek you and we will find you when we search for you with all of our hearts. We pray for a genuine sense of seeking you now as we study the Bible together. We thank you that you seek and save those who are lost, and if we are sinners, we pray that you will make us sad so that we might find the joy that is ours in the work of Jesus, and if we are believing and trusting, that you may equip and strengthen us for all that the days will bring us this week. To this end we seek your help. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Please be seated. I invite you to turn again to the portion of Scripture that was read for us by Matthew just a moment or two ago. And when you have turned to that, I’m going to read again part of that material and a little more from Luke chapter 23, reading from the New English Bible—an old “new” translation, one that I use infrequently. But I want to read from it purposefully. I don’t suggest that you try and follow along in your version but that, just once you’ve found the portion at Luke 24, that you look up and listen as I read these verses from Luke 23:49:
“His friends had all been standing at a distance; the women who had accompanied him from Galilee stood with them and watched it all.
“Now there was a man called Joseph, a member of the Council, a good, upright man, who had dissented from their policy and the action they had taken. He came from the [Jewish] town of Arimathaea, and he was one who looked forward to the kingdom of God. This man now approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Taking it down from the cross, he wrapped it in a linen sheet, and laid it in a tomb cut out of the rock, in which no one had been laid before. It was Friday, and the Sabbath was about to begin.
“The women who had accompanied him from Galilee followed; they took note of the tomb and observed how his body was laid. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes; and on the Sabbath they rested in obedience to the commandment.
“But on the Sunday morning very early they came to the tomb bringing the spices they had prepared. Finding that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, they went inside; but the body was not to be found. While they stood utterly at a loss, all of a sudden two men in dazzling garments were at their side. They were terrified, and stood with eyes cast down, but the men said, ‘Why search among the dead for one who lives? Remember what he told you while he was still in Galilee, about the Son of Man: how he must be given up into the power of sinful men and be crucified, and must rise again on the third day.’ Then they recalled his words and, returning from the tomb, they reported all this to the Eleven and all the others.
“The women were Mary of Magdala, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and they, with the other women, told the apostles. But the story appeared to them to be nonsense, and they would not believe them.”
When Luke introduces his Gospel in the opening verses of chapter 1, he is very careful to distinguish his objectives. He articulates them as being threefold. Actually, first of all, he tells us that his Gospel is the work of careful investigation—that there’s nothing haphazard about it, that it is not conjecture, that he is reporting that which he himself has “carefully investigated.” Secondly, on the basis of that, he has provided for his readers what he refers to as “an orderly account.” If you read through the Gospel, he believes, and with accuracy he reports, that there is a sequence and a cohesion to the Gospel that will reward the careful reader. And the reason that he has done both of these—namely, carefully investigate and then provide an orderly account—is so that his readers may then in turn “know the certainty of the things” that he’s been teaching. They may know that, as John says elsewhere, what they’re dealing with is historical information, the things that the apostles had seen with their own eyes, heard with their own ears, and in many cases had actually handled and had touched.
Now, I remind you of that because we’re dealing now not with the first chapter but with the last chapter. And in this last chapter of his Gospel, all of this careful investigation and orderly accounting, in order that there may be the sound and certain basis for faith, is brought to bear upon this matter of the resurrection. And here we have, in this chapter, Luke’s record of these things.
We read part of it, and you can read ahead if you want to prepare for subsequent studies. But on first reading, it’s not difficult for us to see why some are tempted to dismiss this record as being nothing more than a bunch of old wives’ tales. It’s not uncommon for people to say, “Well, of course, I’m interested in Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount, and I like the idea of the Golden Rule, but when it comes to the issues of, for example, the resurrection, isn’t that just a mythology? Isn’t that just a fabrication? Surely it’s just old wives’ tales.”
Now, those who say that, of course, are simply following on the example or the pattern of the apostles themselves. And if you were listening carefully, you saw that Luke tells us in verse 11 that the women, despite their reporting of the events as they found them, were not believed by the men; indeed, “their words seemed to them like nonsense.” So that’s one reason why people would dismiss the resurrection account: after all, it was just a bunch of women talking about something they had apparently seen.
Secondly, people say, “Well, I couldn’t possibly accept the Gospel records because there are so many differences between the various Gospels. Matthew says one thing, Mark says another, Luke says another, and John says something else entirely.” Now, the general rule of thumb on this, of course, is that the discrepancies, such as are articulated—and there is no doubt that there are discrepancies—that these discrepancies are not of the substance of the faith, but they are the kind of discrepancies that you get between the Plain Dealer and the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and so on, each reporting eyewitness accounts of that to which they have sent their reporters.
And indeed, for those of you who are unsettled by your friends making such an assertion, the obvious and straightforward rebuttal of their notion is that the very disagreements between the Gospels—“Was there one person there or two?” “Did one speak or both?” “Did the women get there, or were they coming from there?” and so on—not only is it possible to harmonize these things, but these very incongruities speak to the credible nature of the Gospel materials. These are the things that convince the reader that what they have in front of them is not some kind of dramatization of the religious convictions of the early church written after a period of time had elapsed, but rather, when we read these little events, we have a deep sense that what we have in front of us is nothing other than an eyewitness account. We don’t have some kind of carefully crafted deceitfulness. And I would suppose that in these dramatic moments, as much as anywhere else in the Gospel records, we would be expecting to find a kind of broken and trembling testimony of things.
And to bring it right down to the very bottom level of thinking, husbands and wives driving in the car with one another will be able to testify to what I know to be true, and that is that we can both have observed something in the last minute and one of us report it as x and the other report it as y—and indeed, not only what we saw but also what we said. Or is it just in my home? “Well, I just said that to you.” Response: “No, you didn’t say that to me. You said something else to me.” “I can’t believe you’re saying that. I have only just finished saying it to you.” “No, you did not say that to me. You said something else to me.” What is that about? Discrepancies in the reporting of the incident that has taken place in the same cubicle in the last sixty seconds! So it’s no surprise when one Gospel writer quotes just one of the two individuals and identifies one man. He has chosen simply to identify the one man, the spokesman. It’s not relevant to him to identify the second man. The other individual looks at it and says, “Now, there were two people there. Let’s make sure we say there were two.”
And the last thing that points to the incongruity of what is before us here is actually the prominence of the women themselves. The prominence of the women themselves. Now, this isn’t immediately obvious to us in the twenty-first century, but in the first century, we need to realize that women did not figure in a court of law. Their testimony was inadmissible. A Jewish man in his prayers would thank God in the morning that he had not been born a gentile or a woman. Now, I know that falls on our ears somewhat differently two thousand years on, but those are the facts. And therefore, when you read the Gospel records and you discover that it is the women who come at the head of the list, that it is to the women that the risen Christ first appears, that it is to these women—then this is actually one of the clearest indications of the authenticity of the Gospel records themselves.
Now, I hope as I go through this that that will become apparent to all of us. And I want simply to work my way along the line of the text that is given us, viewing it very much through the lens of the women. We’ll come back to it again, turn the prism a little and look at it from another angle. But for now and for this morning, let’s just begin with these women.
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices.” Now, the reason I reread from the NEB was to point out to you—and I hope you picked it up—the emphasis by Luke on the women. He has shown his readers that the women have featured prominently in the whole crucifixion narrative. If your Bible is open, look at Luke 23:27, where he says, “A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him.” Now, remember, he said he did a careful investigation, he put down an orderly account. He didn’t add here “including women” to be politically correct. He didn’t add “including women who also mourned and wailed for him” because he was feeling the need to complete the sentence. This is historic reporting. Verse 49, he does the same thing: “But all those who knew him”—notice again—“including the women who had followed him from Galilee…” Verse 55: “The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph, saw the tomb, how his body was put in it, and then they went home and made preparation, resting on the Sabbath day,” the seventh day, and getting ready for all that would follow on the first day.
And here, “on the first day of the week,” 24:1, we have the activities of these women—these women who are first to receive the news of the resurrection. Notice the preparation of these women: they had gone home, verse 56, and “prepared spices and perfumes.” They had made a commitment to one another, presumably, that they would be there very early in the morning. The phraseology here is for the crack of dawn—that they were up and out of their beds and ready for this activity. It was not that they somehow or another, in the course of the morning, finally decided they would get together after meeting for coffee somewhere in the market and “perhaps we’ll go over and visit the graveyard.” No, they had made their preparations; they had waited out the Sabbath day. You have the picture of them just chomping at the bit, ready for the dawn to break and for them to be about their business. And preparation and commitment is followed by action, and Luke tells us that they “went to the tomb.” Off they go to the tomb.
Now, it’s not very customary anymore for people to make visits to graveyards. In Scotland, for me, a Sunday afternoon, on a particularly bad Sunday afternoon, involved a visit to the cemetery, usually to visit the grave of some ancient relic of mine who had died a hundred years before, but someone had remembered that it was on this day that they had died, and off we went with a bunch of daffodils to the tomb and stood there for a moment or two and put flowers there. It was actually very precious, and it is a happy memory. And it is an increasingly lost art and conviction.
Anyway, these women went to the tomb. Why did they go to the tomb? Because it was a tomb. There is a classic impracticality about what they’re doing, if you’ll forgive me, isn’t there? They’re going to the tomb because they’re going to anoint a body—to anoint a body that has already been dead for some considerable time. But you see, when love is at work, men and women do unusual things. When love is at work, men and women allow their hearts to rule their heads. Men and women may actually do things that are ultimately futile. And it’s clear that their hearts were ruling their heads, because Mark tells us in Mark 16 that it was only when they were on their way there that they said to one another, “What are we going to do about the large stone? How are we going to roll the stone away?” In actual fact, they asked, “Who will roll the stone away [for us]?” You see, they were in need of some strong, brave men. Some strong, brave men. Some brave men. Some strong, brave men—who were all hiding, while the strong, prepared, active, committed, devoted women went to the tomb.
Have you noticed how many times there’s a sign that says “Men at work” and no one’s working? It happened to me the other day. I drove past it; it was a huge sign, it said, “Men at work.” I looked in vain for any man within half a mile of the sign. I don’t want this to be a judgment, especially when we have 150 of our men away skiing at the moment. But the fact of the matter is, it is very often a picture of the local church: “Men at work” that the sign proclaims, and the absence of men and the presence of the women.
Now, verses 2 and 3 tell us what they thought they’d face and didn’t and what they thought they’d find and didn’t either. The Greek is very interesting. It plays on the verb “to find.” “They found the stone,” but “they did[n’t] find the body.” “They found the stone [that was] rolled away,” which was striking in itself, and “they did[n’t] find the body,” which was even more striking. And the opening phrase of verse 4 covers a multitude of perplexity, doesn’t it? “While they were wondering about this…” “While they were wondering about this…” The NEB says they were “utterly at a loss.” “Utterly at a loss.” They were at a loss for words. They were at a loss for explanation. They were, if you like, riveted to the ground, stopped dead in their tracks, confronted by irrefutable evidence at the absence of a body, the stone now rolled away, nothing as they anticipated finding it, feeling a little silly, perhaps, with the spices and the perfumes in their hands that they had been preparing only hours before and had hastened to the tomb with in the early hour of the morning. And Luke says, “And they stood there wondering about this.”
I’d like to know all that’s wrapped up in “They wondered about this.” When I read biographies, I want to know… The biographer has got to get to tell me what they wondered about, if it’s a good biography. I don’t want to just know they wondered. I want to know, “What did you wonder about?” And of course, we don’t have it here, but they must’ve wondered all kinds of things. Certainly there’s no indication that anybody all of a sudden said, “Duh! This is the resurrection!” Is there? “Empty tomb, no body, stone gone—must be the resurrection!” No. Isn’t that amazing? Well, certainly amazing from where we sit, with the advantage of all the time we’ve had and all the things we’ve read. But for them it wasn’t amazing at all. The last thing that crossed their minds would’ve been a resurrection. Their hearts ruling their heads, they make the journey, expect the stone; the stone’s gone. Expecting the body, the body’s gone.
Now, I already told you two weeks ago that the great expectation on the part of the Jew for the Messiah was threefold: that when the Messiah rose in prominence and power, the pagans would be overthrown, the temple would be rebuilt, and God’s justice would be established on the earth. The whole of the Old Testament record was, if you like, a story in search of an ending. And these women, along with others who had followed Christ right up to the point of his crucifixion, and indeed to his entombment, would’ve thought in messianic terms along these lines. And consequently, the crucifixion represented to them an obvious dead end: “Certainly it can’t be Jesus of Nazareth who’s going to overturn the pagans, who’s going to rebuild the temple, who’s going to establish the justice of God. Because after all, his career has come to a crashing halt in this Palestinian tomb—albeit we don’t know what’s going on here with this absent body.”
And to the extent that they had an anticipation of the resurrection, it would’ve been very much along the lines of Martha, who, in John chapter 11, when she encounters Jesus, who is making his way to the home, she says to him in John 11:21—I’ll just read it for you:
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. But I know now that even God will give you whatever you ask.”
And Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
And Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
“I know there’s gonna be a resurrection at the last day.” So to the extent that they had any notion of resurrection, it was somewhere out there and on. The last thing in their mind would’ve been that Jesus would rise so soon from the dead and would appear so dramatically to his followers.
Now, again, let me remind you, this is careful investigation. This is an orderly account. Follow the orderly account: “While they were wondering about this,” and while they were perplexed, here is a reason for even more perplexity: “suddenly,” unexpectedly—the Greek is essentially “out of the blue,” to put it colloquially—out of the blue, “two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them.” John tells us—John 20:12—he says, “And two angels were present.”
Rightly or wrongly, I blame artists for the difficulty that I have with angels. You know, I have a hard time with angels because of the way I’ve had them ever since I was a child: strange looking figures that look as though they were at a, you know, a used clothing shop or something, and came up with these dramatic outfits that made them look really weird and really effeminate. And they always look like Elton John on a bad day in the 1970s. And so whenever I read “angels,” I’m like, “Oh no. Here we go again.” So it’s actually helpful to me to have this described here by Luke, with his kind of clinical analytical mind, and he says, “There were two individuals whose clothing gleamed like lightning.” That’s the best he can do for it: an angelic, supernatural encounter, and their clothing was bright enough, striking enough, to outclass the whiteness of the tomb in which Jesus had been laid.
But this supernatural intervention ought to be no surprise. I’m not disturbed by it at all. “Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o’er the [plain].” They were here at the arrival of Jesus; they announced his birth. The angels arrived. And I wonder if some who were present on that occasion in Bethlehem were dispatched now to the scene in Jerusalem, and the word came: “Okay, I want a few of you that were down there in the fields with the shepherds to go down here—two in particular—in order that you might speak to these women.”
And they don’t just stand there looking cute. They speak. The women have been frightened; they’ve “bowed down with their faces to the ground.” And the men don’t get into that at all. They just ask them a very straightforward question: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” Now, there is in this a kind of gentle rebuke, isn’t there? “Why are you here looking for the living among the dead? If you’re looking for a living person, why did you come to the cemetery?” Well, the fact is, they weren’t looking for a living person, were they? They were looking for a dead person. That’s why they had all the stuff in their hands. Jesus was dead. It was over. They were going to anoint his body—close it down, fold it up. Here they are, looking for life in all the wrong places.
William Barclay, whose commentaries I use falteringly, can’t resist the opportunity at this point to suggest that men and women do the same as these particular women had done, and that is that they go looking for Jesus in all the wrong places. They go looking for him among the dead.
I really have to stop myself with great frequency in most of the bookstores of the country, because I go all the time to the New Age section, to the philosophy section, to the Eastern mysticism section, to the “religious” section, whatever else it is, and invariably I find people there pulling all these books off the shelves. And I fight the temptation to shake people or to stand on a chair and to say, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” ’Cause to the extent that they have any longing and search after spiritual reality, it is that which is placed there by the seeking, searching power of God. And yet men and women are content to look for a Jesus who’s just a noble hero, a Jesus who’s a research project so that their children can get an A on it as they deal with a historical figure at school, a Jesus who’s a wonderful example. But the one thing they don’t anticipate is what these women didn’t anticipate—namely, a risen, living, empowering Jesus who walks and talks and changes their lives.
This is the Jesus of the New Testament. We’re not here to revere the memory of somebody who was around. We’re here to celebrate the presence of someone who is alive. I don’t have a relationship with the Bible; I have a relationship with Jesus. I meet Jesus in the Bible. I hear his word in the Bible. He guides me through his truth. But I talk to him, and I listen for his voice, and I meet him in the company of his children, and I celebrate his presence in Communion, and I rejoice in the fact that he is a risen Christ, that he is not a theory, that I’m not in love with a philosophy, that I have not been embraced by a religious notion, but I have been encountered by a living Christ. And this is Christianity. And this was the one thing these women didn’t expect. You see, loved ones, you need to understand how dead and finished and buried was the notion concerning Jesus in the minds of all these people. That’s where we’ll come to later on: “We had hoped he was the one who would redeem Israel, but that’s all in the past.”
It’s interesting that as they were frightened by this supernatural intervention, so men and women are frightened by the idea of a supernatural intervention, aren’t they? At least the people to whom I speak. Although my fellow—I must remember his name. Actually, it’s better I don’t remember his name, because then I can’t be guilty of maligning him by name. It’s just I had this figure—he’s a very clear figure, but he was on again this week. He was on Larry King again this week, if you were watching. I only saw Larry King for about five minutes, turned it on, and oops, there he was again. And someone called in and said that they were needing to get in touch with their uncle, and he said, “Does your uncle like cars?” and the person said, “No,” and he said, “I’m seeing something about flowers. Does that mean anything?” The person said, “No.” He tried about seven things, the person said, “No. No. No. No. No.” I was rejoicing at it. I was jumping up and down. I said, “This is so good!” The classic interest in séances and the dark side of things. But go to those same people and tell them of one who has gone through death and has come out on the other side and the announcement of which has been made by the supernatural intervention of an angelic throng, and they’ll say to you, “You don’t expect me to believe that kind of thing, do you?” Now, I would be unnerved by this were it not for the fact that the Bible tells me that the god of this age has blinded the eyes of men and women so that they cannot actually see the truth when it is right in front of their faces, and that they will embrace a lie before they will follow the truth.
Now, there’s something here that I’m sure you’ve already picked up on. I want to point it out to you as a reminder to those who are at the top of the class, and that is that the perplexity of these women gives way at least to a measure of clarity not as a result of seeing an empty tomb and not as a result of meeting two angels. You notice that? You see, the story here is not, “And we went over there, and we saw the tomb was empty, and we met a couple of angels, and we’re back to tell you: no body, couple of angels.” No. Empty tomb plus angelic visitation minus explanation, or minus interpretation, equals danger. Empty tomb plus angelic visitation minus interpretation equals danger. That is why, you will notice, the angels speak. The angels speak a word. The angels speak, if you like, the Word. The angels do what? They bring the Bible to the women! The Bible that is yet to become inscripturated, but nevertheless, the Word of Christ himself. That is why they said to ’em, verse 6, “He’s not here; he’s risen! Remember? Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee.” And then they quote from chapter 9, and again from chapter 18: “The Son of Man”—these are the words of Jesus—“The Son of Man,” he told his followers, “must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.” And then it says, “[And] then they remembered his words.” And it was when they remembered the words of Christ, when they interpreted the events in light of the Word—then at that point, confusion began to give way to clarity.
We live in an age that is fascinated by stories of the equivalent of empty tombs and angelic visitations. May I remind you of what I’ve told you before: that the confidence of heaven is in the Scriptures. And if you want to hear from God, if you want to know about God, if you want to meet God, then ultimately and finally and savingly, you meet him in the person of his Son, and you are encountering his Son in the pages of the Bible. And that’s why so many of you know so little about God, because you’ve never really considered the Bible. And that’s why some of you are coming to faith in God, because the Bible is starting to shine into your minds, and you’re realizing that the way to faith is not by some religious mysticism, the way to faith is not by the disengaging of your mental faculties, but that the way to faith is by hearing the Word of God. And they heard the Word of God.
You find the same thing, remember, back in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. And the rich man dies and he goes to hell, and finding himself there, he’s so concerned that he would first of all get relief and requires water, which he is denied, and then asks Abraham if somebody would go and tell his brothers about the danger of ending up in this place. And you may remember how the dialogue proceeds, and it finally ends up with the rich man giving orders from hell: “No, no,” he says. Interestingly, in hell, people will still be giving orders and still be denying and still be raging. “No, no,” he says, “if somebody would go to my brothers, if somebody could rise from the dead and go to my brothers and tell them, then my brothers would all believe.” And Abraham says, “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets”—in other words, if they won’t pay attention to the Bible—“they will not believe even if someone were to rise from the dead.”
Now, you have this very same principle here. An empty tomb, an angelic visitation, which is then interpreted in the light of the word of Christ himself. And there is, of course, a wonderful little sermon that I’ll give to you that you can preach somewhere when you’re doing a talk: the women remembered, and then the women returned, and then the women relayed the news. But we won’t do that sermon now. Let me draw this to a close.
The announcement of the resurrection, you will notice—verse 9 and following—is not an end in itself. The announcement of the resurrection is a springboard for action. Mark actually tells us that the angels said to the women, “We want you to go and tell his disciples and tell Peter.” Because it is this story, it is this news, it is the putting together of this investigative report, which is finally going to convince these folks that they have a reason to live, that there is a significance in their discipleship, that there is a relevance in their proclaiming of the kingdom. And so, verse 9: “When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others.” And verse 10 tells us who was involved in the reporting, and verse 11 tells us how the men—the big, noble, tough guys—received this: “They did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense,” like gobbledygook, like feverish ramblings, like an old wives’ tale. The word, when it is used in medical terminology, it describes the wild talk of someone who is delirious. The wild talk of delirium. And you can imagine these women appearing in on them. They’re already having their discussions about how everything has come to a sorry end, and in they come with the story. They can just hear words. Someone’s making tea in the kitchen, and they can hear “tomb,” “empty,” “stone,” “gone,” “angels,” “remember”—all these words all jumbling in on top of them. And somebody says, “Oh, I wish you would all be quiet. Any sensible man can see that it’s all over. It’s done!”
Now, my dear agnostic friends, those of you who are hanging your lives on your ability to rebut the historicity of the resurrection, ponder this: Do we have here, in the apostles, a group of men poised on the brink of belief, needing only the shadow of an excuse to launch themselves forth into the Jerusalem streets proclaiming the resurrection? Is that what we have here? No. We have a group of eleven complete skeptics, totally unwilling to accept the woman’s report, prepared to dismiss it as delirious twaddle.
Now, let me wrap this. There you see them. “They did[n’t] believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense.” What a sorry bunch. A dejected and paralyzed company. Like a football team—that is, a soccer team—that has gone in at halftime and is sitting in the locker room dejected, dispirited. They’re now losing seven–nil, and none of them want to go back out for the second half. And the one who’s wearing the armband, the self-appointed spokesman and captain—in this instance, Peter—he has made as big a mess of it as anybody in the room. And indeed, his voice is virtually silent. There’s no air in his balloon. There’s no wind in his sails. He has crumbled at the questions of a servant girl, and he, perhaps more than any other, is aware of his failure. So it’s quite wonderful, isn’t it, when it says in verse 12 that “Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb”? There we go again, good ol’ Peter!
Jesus comes walking on the water. Peter says, “Can I try that?”
Jesus says, “Sure, you wanna walk on the water, go ahead.”
“Who do people say that I am?”
“You’re the Christ, the Son of the living God!”
“Top of the class, Peter!”
“Now, Peter, we’re going to go up to Jerusalem, and I’m going to die and be in a dreadful predicament.” Peter says, “Oh no you’re not!” Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan!”
“Lord, if everybody bails on you, I’m your man. I have your back!”
“Weren’t you with them?”
“No. Jesus? No. Uh-uh.”
“You sound a lot like him.”
“No. You need your ears cleaned out, miss. I do not sound like him. I stinking well don’t sound like him! Do you understand that?”
“Well, we think we saw you with him.”
“Now don’t get me mad. I don’t wanna start using bad language with you, miss.”
But this Peter, he got up to check it out. You bet your life he did! Why? This was his only hope, wasn’t it? If Jesus is alive, if he has a message for the scattered, demoralized group of which he is the self-appointed captain, then maybe there’s just hope for him.
But there is hope for him. We’ll come to that. That’s the wonderful story of the resurrection. There’s hope for those of us who’ve made a hash of it. There’s hope for those of us who’ve opened our big mouths when we shouldn’t and kept our mouths quiet when we should. There’s hope for those of us who stepped over, thinking we could walk on water, and virtually drowned ourselves and everyone else along, who made these great protestations of faith. There’s hope. Oh yes, there is.
But let me end where I began, with the women—on the first day of the week, early in the morning, women, spices prepared, ready, action, following their hearts into the realm of disappointment and decay, eventually their bewildered silence giving way to the topsy-turvy recounting of the sight that they’d seen and the words that they’d heard. No one, I remind you, who wanted to fabricate a convincing account of the resurrection in first-century Palestine would’ve dreamed of doing it in this way. The testimony of the women was inadmissible in a court of law. And God sets it up that the women will be the recipients of the news and the tellers of the story and the bearers of the message.
Surely it’s just a classic illustration of what Paul refers to: “He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.” And to ponder that, I need nothing other than a mirror. Don’t you? Look around. This is a company in crisis. This is a group of individuals able on a Sunday morning to conceal all the things that really rock our boat and wrestle us to the ground and pin us to the mat. And God says, “You’re my group. ’Cause I chose the weak things and the things that aren’t to show the things that are that they’re really not, by the power of the risen Christ.”
Father, I pray that you will forgive us when we are tempted to rely on who we are or what we think we are, as if, somehow or another, that we presented that which you needed in order to accomplish your purposes. But you have put your treasure in old clay pots so that the transcendent power might be seen to belong to God and not to us. Forgive us for thinking wrongly about these things, and encourage us that you come to the beleaguered and to the unbelieving, to the skeptical and the confused, and shining in the light of your Word and filling the sails by the power of your Spirit, you get us up and ready for another day, another lap, another mile on the journey.
May the grace and the mercy and the peace of the risen Lord Jesus Christ be the portion of each one who believes, today and forevermore. Amen.
 See Jeremiah 29:13.
 See Luke 19:10.
 Luke 1:3–4 (NIV 1984).
 See 1 John 1:1.
 Luke 23:55–56 (paraphrased).
 Mark 16:3 (NIV 1984).
 John 11:21–24 (paraphrased).
 John 20:12 (paraphrased).
 James Chadwick, “Angels We Have Heard on High” (1862).
 See Luke 2:9–11.
 William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke, The Daily Study Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1956), 304–5.
 Luke 24:21 (paraphrased).
 See 2 Corinthians 4:4.
 See Luke 9:22; 18:31–33.
 See Luke 16:19–31.
 Mark 16:7 (paraphrased).
 See Matthew 26:69–72; Mark 14:66–70; Luke 22:56–57; John 18:16–17.
 See Matthew 14:28–29.
 Matthew 16:13, 16 (paraphrased).
 See Matthew 16:21–23.
 Matthew 26:33 (paraphrased).
 See Matthew 26:69–74.
 See Matthew 14:28–30.
 1 Corinthians 1:28 (NIV 1984).
 See 2 Corinthians 4:7.
Copyright © 2021, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.