PREPARING WOMEN WITNESSES.
761. The Lord was certainly preparing these women from Galilee to receive that “testimony of Jesus” which is the “spirit of prophecy.” Bishop Westcott, in his commentary of the Gospel of John, gives the following order of events connected with the Resurrection:
Just before 6 p.m., Saturday, Mary Magdalene and the “other Mary” (not the Mother) go to view the sepulchre (Matthew 28:1).
After 6 p.m., Saturday, The two Marys and Salome purchase spices (Mark 16:1).
Very early Sunday, The Resurrection occurs, then the earthquake, descent of an angel, opening of the tomb, and fall of the guards. [Bishop Westcott does not so state, but we have quoted Alford as showing that the women witnessed these things. It is clear, by comparison with Mark’s account, that Salome was with the two Marys, and, excepting Mary Magdalene, the women were too frightened to do anything, or see anything clearly. Mary Magdalene grasped the situation more clearly, and ran for Peter and John].
762. Bishop Westcott’s arrangement of events continues thus:
5 a.m., The two Marys, Salome, and probably other women, start for the sepulchre in the twilight. Mary Magdalene goes before, and returns at once to Peter and John (John 20:1-2).
5.30 a.m., Her companions reach the sepulchre when the sun had risen (Mark 16:2).¾A vision of an angel. Message to the disciples (Matthew 28:5-7, Mark 16:5-7).
6 a.m., Another party, among whom is Joanna, come a little later, but still early morning (Luke 24:1 compare Mark 16:1). A vision of “two young men,” words of comfort and instruction (Luke 24:4).
6.30 a.m., The visit of Peter and John (John 20:3-10). After they “went away again” Mary Magdalene sees two angels (John 20:11-13). About this time, the company of women carry their tidings to the Apostles (Luke 24:10).
7 a.m., THE LORD reveals Himself to Mary Magdalene (John 20:14-18; Mark 16:9). Not long after, He reveals Himself, as it appears, to the company of women who are returning to the sepulchre again, and gives them a charge to the brethren to go to Galilee (Matthew 28:9). [But this charge included also the women. Alford says: “Not spoken to the women directly, but certainly indirectly including them. The idea of their being merely messengers to the Apostles, without hearing any share in the promise (“¾there shall they see Me”), is against the spirit of the context”].
763. The Apostles Peter and John had seen the tomb, but nothing more than that.
After 4 p.m., Christ appears to Peter (Luke 24:34; compare 1 Cor. 15:5).
From 4-6 p.m., Appears to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-32. Mark 16:12).
8 p.m., Christ’s appearance to the eleven, and others (Luke 24:36; Mark 16:14; John 20:19).
764. We see, therefore, that all the events of the morning of the Resurrection were seen by women disciples only. Two evidential points of tremendous importance were lodged with them. Matthew tells us with particularity that the two Marys were “sitting over against the sepulcher,” after Christ was buried, and the stone rolled against its door. “The chief priests and Pharisees” went that night and demanded that the tomb be sealed, and a watch set before it. Pilate assented: “So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone and setting a watch.” Who saw this done? Not John; he does not speak of the matter. The two Marys saw it, being the last at the tomb.
765. On the next morning, the angel said to the Marys: “Come and see the place where the Lord lay.” It was not, certainly, to satisfy their curiosity he said this; it was not even to put them at ease, and gratify their tender interest. No, not at all; it was these two who had seen “where” and “how” His body was laid away (Mark 15:47, Luke 23:55), who are now called to see where and how the wrappings of the body yet lay. Mary Magdalene runs to call Peter and John to see. And John tells us that he outran Peter, and came and looked in and “saw the linen cloths. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen cloths [not “clothes”¾see R. V.¾the wrappings of a dead body] lie, and the napkin that was about His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in that other disciple, which came first to the sepulcher [John], and he saw and believed” (John 20:5-8).
766. What did they see? They saw plain evidences to refute what the guards told. For the guards, when they recovered, rushed off to the chief priests, and told what had happened. “A great earthquake, and a something, that frightened us horribly; when we collected our senses, the great stone was completely off the tomb’s mouth; and yet we know no human hand did it. We were wide awake; we saw everything. No human being was anywhere in sight, save two or three women. But they did not come near, so long as we were there. We looked into the tomb, and are absolutely sure the body is not there; but the grave-cloths lie there empty.”
767. The Sanhedrin, in part or whole, was called together, and the guards most carefully questioned on every point. At the end, all they could do was to believe the guards. So they bribed them heavily to tell a falsehood: “His disciples came by night, and stole Him away while we slept” (Matt. 28:11-13). But what the women witnessed¾the earthquake and all, with Mary’s quick obedience had preserved strong counter-testimony to that. Could anybody have snatched up a dead body and carried it away¾either the Jews or the Apostles¾and left the grave-cloths not even disturbed? The head cloth at the head; the lower-limb cloths extending along towards the feet; just in the position in which they had placed the body the night before? “It was clear, therefore,” says Bishop Westcott, “that the body had not been stolen by enemies; it was scarcely less clear that it had not been taken away by friends.” “The undisturbed grave-cloths show that the Lord had risen through and out of them;” as someone has expressed it, Christ “passed through the heavy wrappings as He later passed through doors” (John 20:7, 19).
768. And John says that when he and Peter fully grasped what Mary showed them¾what the angel had pointed out to her,¾then they believed: “For as yet [after all that Jesus had plainly told Peter and John] they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.” Mary herself had not seen the importance of this evidence,¾the impossibility that human hands could have removed the body and left the grave-cloths undisturbed. Then, as she stood without, weeping, the Lord Himself appeared to her and “She, supposing Him to be the gardener, saith unto Him, Sir, if thou have borne Him hence, tell be where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away”¾John 20:15.
769. Now we understand better that Jesus entrusted to those women who followed Him out of Galilee the most important items of evidence connected with the events of the Resurrection. They saw where and how the body lay; they saw the sealing of the tomb; they saw the bursting of the seal, and rolling away of the stone by the angel; they saw the guards fall as dead, and could testify that the guards were not asleep when the tomb was opened; and they saw the evidences that the body had come through the grave-cloths, leaving them undisturbed, just where they were the night before, about the body, which had now departed. In the evening, “the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them (Luke 24:33-48), which would mean the women particularly, and Jesus appeared in their midst, and said: “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day . . . And ye are witnesses of these things.” But He could not, by these mere words, make Peter, or John, or James, a witness of things they had not seen. He spoke this of those who had witnessed these events,¾particularly, therefore of the women, who had witnessed far more than any of the Twelve.