23 April 2023

The resurrection in 𝘓𝘶𝘬𝘦.

Luke 24.1-12.

As I’ve pointed out more than once, Jesus himself pointed out more than once Mk 8.31, 9.31, 10.33-34 that when he went to Jerusalem this time, he’d get arrested and crucified—but rise again. This wasn’t a secret plan.

Oh, it mighta felt like a secret plan to his dense followers, who promptly forgot all about the “and risen on the third day” part after Jesus got killed. Trauma will do that to you. Fresh trauma—’cause it was early Sunday morning, probably before most of them had even had their morning wine, and Jesus had died only Friday afternoon.

(Yes, morning wine. Tea wasn’t invented till the 200s, and coffee till the 1400s, so people back then typically drank beer in the morning. No, I’m not kidding! But beer wasn’t an option during the Feast of Unleavened Bread—they had to get all the yeast out of the house, which means no beer, even in Passover observances today. So, wine. No, not watered-down wine; that’s a pagan Greek practice, and it’s a myth invented by American teetotalers that Judeans did it too. They drank regular kosher wine. Kids too. But ordinarily, beer… until God blessed the Chinese with tea, and the Yemenis with coffee. Okay, digression over.)

So the Eleven and the other students really weren’t expecting resurrection. They were still mourning Jesus’s death. That’s why they were gathered together: Mourning. Wearing torn clothes, pouring ash from the fireplace onto their heads, weeping, remembering Jesus, wondering what might come next.

Movies tend to depict these followers as in hiding—panicked in case the authorities were coming for them next. Which isn’t at all how the gospels describe things. Yes, they were anxious about the Judeans, Jn 20.19 but in the same gospel of John which says this, you also see the apostle John moving freely about the city, temple, and even into the head priest’s house to witness Jesus’s trial. This is hardly the behavior of someone who fears arrest! Nope; the authorities got the guy they wanted, and didn’t care about the followers until they themselves started doing as Jesus did—namely curing people and proclaiming God’s kingdom. Ac 4.1 Just in case, they kept their heads down—but the men were free to go home, and the women were free to even take spices to Jesus’s sepulcher.

Except when they did, the corpse wasn’t there. Because it was no longer a corpse.

Luke 24.1-12.
1 At early dawn on the first day of the week,
women, bringing prepared spices, come to the sepulcher.
2 These women find the stone
had been rolled away from the sepulcher.
3 On entering, the women do not find
the body of Master Jesus.
4 It happens while the women are dumbfounded about this:
Look, two men in brilliant clothing, sitting by them.
5 As this frightened the women,
who fall over on their faces to the ground,
the men tell them,
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?
6 He’s not here. He’s risen!
Remember what he tells you when you are still in the Galilee,
7 saying this of the Son of Man:
He has to be delivered into the hands of sinful people,
and crucified,
and risen on the third day.”
8 And the women remember Jesus’s words,
9 and, returning from the sepulcher,
the women tell all these things to the Eleven
and all the other students.
10 It was Mary the Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary of James,
and all the other women with them:
They were saying these things to the apostles.
11 The events appeared to the apostles
as if these words were a fairy tale,
and they don’t believe it.
12 Simon Peter rises and runs to the sepulcher,
and leans in to see only the linen strips,
and leaves, wondering to himself what had happened.

Bringing spices.

Some preachers have speculated the women brought spices because the entombment was done in a hurry, Lk 23.50-54 and Joseph of Arimathea, who owned the sepulcher Mt 27.60 and volunteered to take Jesus’s body, Mt 27.58 might not have had the time to do it properly or thoroughly. True, they did do it quickly… but they knew how to do it quickly. Judean custom at the time was to inter a body the very same day the person died. (Today’s Jews do it within 24 hours, unless it’s Sabbath.) Even if the person died right before sundown, the end of the Hebrew day, Judeans knew how to prepare and inter a body quickly. They planned ahead for such things; they had linen strips and spices already prepared in case anyone died. When Nicodemus showed up with ὀθονίοις/othoníhis, linen strips, and a hundredweight (72½ pounds, or 33 kilos) of myrrh and aloe, Jn 19.19 it’s because he had got into someone’s already-prepared stash of funeral supplies.

Joseph wrapped Jesus’s body σινδόνι/sindóni, “in fine linen” Mt 27.59, Lk 23.53 —which the ESV calls “a linen shroud,” but shrouds are a medieval practice, not a first-century one. (Yep, the Shroud of Turin isn’t legit. It’s interesting… but it’s not Jesus’s.) Like Luke later says, Lk 24.12 and John said, linen strips. The strips were soaked in the myrrh and aloes, partly to keep the corpse from getting stinky, and partly to encourage decay. Yes, encourage—because after a year, they’d open the sepulcher back up, gather the bones, put them in an ossuary, and put that in either the cemetery, or further back in the sepulcher. The bones were all they cared to keep… because in Ezekiel, the LORD resurrected the people of Israel from dry bones, Ek 37.1-14 so that’s what they figured the resurrection of the dead will look like.

So why’d the women bring spices and ointments to anoint a corpse which was already thoroughly anointed? Well duh: They wanted to contribute. It’s not because the body needed more ointment; it’s because they wanted to do something for Jesus too. So while Joseph and Nicodemus prepared the body, the women went home and prepared their own perfumes—then rested on Sabbath, Lk 23.56 then Sunday morning, off to the sepulcher they went.

Only Matthew states the Judeans had put a guard over the sepulcher in case the Christians stole the body. The other gospels mention no such thing, and if you only read them, you’d get the idea Jesus’s women disciples didn’t expect anyone to be there, and weren’t all that worried about getting the stone moved away from the door. Maybe there were enough of them to move it. Maybe they brought a crowbar. I dunno.

Either way, in either gospel, they found the stone was off the door, and Jesus’s body wasn’t there. Preachers are often gonna say “And the tomb was empty!” because Luke said no one had yet been placed in it. Lk 23.53 There was nothing left but the linen strips. Someone had unwound all the wet, aloe-soaked strips from Jesus’s body, then taken the buck-naked bloody corpse! Which, when you think about it, is the weirdest way to steal a body. Why would you not just leave the strips on?

But the whole stole-the-body idea was immediately debunked by the angels showing up.


Well, Luke never calls them angels. They’re ἄνδρες/ándres, “men.” Wearing clothes Luke describes as ἀστραπτούσῃ/astraptúsi, “bright like lightning.” They’re not just white, but glowing. Luke didn’t have enough evidence to state these are definitely angels, but the glowing clothes are meant to tip you off these likely weren’t just men. Angels in human form, likely.

Why angels? ’Cause you realize Jesus could’ve just stayed there in the sepulcher and waited for the women, and announced his own resurrection himself. He was still in the area; Matthew describes him appearing to the women shortly after, and Mark and John describe him appearing to Mary of Magdala shortly after. Why’d he leave and come back?

My guess is he had to go get clothes. Buck naked, remember?

Of course, whenever I tell people this, they laugh. Jesus wouldn’t have to get clothes; the Father would magically provide him a loincloth, tunic, and robe! (Or a shining white tunic with a red toga, if medieval Christian art is to be believed. Although some Americans prefer a blue toga. Makes him look less Communist.) They don’t like the perfectly rational explanation; they prefer a more supernatural one. Jesus rose, then immediately disappeared into the ether for some reason, then reappeared to say hi to Mary, then disappeared again; then reappeared to say hi to the disciples, then disappeared again. For some reason he keeps blinking in and out, like that one episode of Star Trek where Captain Kirk keeps phasing between universes. Apparently resurrection is a shaky procedure.

But I don’t believe resurrection is a shaky procedure. Jesus is back! Really, physically, permanently back. (And left, for now. But coming back!) And just as he still eats food, Lk 24.43 he still wears clothing, and needed to go get some. Don’t know where he got it; don’t think he swiped it off somebody’s clothesline. But linen strips just wouldn’t do.

Anyway, in his absence somebody had to tell the women what was happening, and you know the angels were just itching to announce the good news. And did.

Unfortunately the men didn’t believe the women, ’cause it’s a pretty unbelievable-sounding story. But y’notice one of them got out of his seat and ran to the sepulcher to see what was what. And in John, John says he ran there too; he actually outran Simon Peter to the sepulcher, saw for himself, and believed. Jn 20.3-10 Peter, Luke states, still wondered what happened… because the idea of resurrection before the End, which is when Pharisees said resurrection was supposed to happen, simply didn’t occur to any of them as a possibility. Something happened to Jesus… and it didn’t yet sink in what. He’d have to appear to them himself first.