But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. 6Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,7that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” 8Then they remembered his words, 9and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. 10Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. 11But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. 12But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.
Translation: But on the first of sabbath, at deep dawn, they came to the tomb to bring the spices they had made ready, and they found the stone had been rolled away from the tomb. But when they entered in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.
And it happened, in their perplexity concerning this, behold, two men in shining clothes came to them. And as they were being afraid, and bowed (their) faces to the ground, they said to them, "Why do you seek the living with the dead? He is not here, but he has been raised. Remember what he spoke to you, yet being in Galilee, saying, 'It is necessary (for) the son of man to be delivered into the hands of sinful human beings, and to be crucified, and on the third day to rise?"
And they remembered his words, and returned from the tomb. They told all these things to the eleven and all the others. And it was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary of James, and the others with them. They said these things to the apostles, and their words seemed like nonsense before them, and they were not trusting them. Then Peter arose, and ran to the tomb, and stooping down, he sees the linen clothes laid by themselves. He departed, wondering to himself at what had happened.
Background and situation: The Luke resurrection account is only loosely based on Mark. Much of the material, in fact, may be not only pre-Lukan, but also pre-Markan. That is, stories related to "empty tomb" and "resurrection appearances" likely circulated in the very earliest church. Mark, Matthew, and Luke appear to be working with these traditions.
The beginning of Luke's resurrection account: The phrase "first of sabbath" refers to the first day after the sabbath, which would be Sunday. The phrase orthrou batheos means "deep twilight" or "earliest dawn." The women are not specifically identified as of yet, but we have already been told they are Galilean (23:55). They had been to the tomb following the crucifixion of Jesus where "they saw the tomb and how his body was laid" (23:55).
In Mark, the women worry about how they will get the stone rolled back. In Matthew, an angel had rolled the stone away. Luke expresses less concern about the stone. He simply notes that they found (euron) the stone rolled away. What they did not find (oux euron) was the body "of the Lord Jesus." (The phrase "of the Lord Jesus" does not appear in the Western text and, therefore, is not included in the NRSV. Several other early manuscripts do include it, however.)
Verse 4 begins with egeneto--"it happened"--signalling a moment of special import. The women are described as perplexed by the absence of the body, a body they had already seen in this same space just two days previous. (Saturday had been the sabbath, and, observing sabbath, the women were not to go to the tomb on that day. They went the following day, Sunday, instead.)
Aporeo, translated "perplexed," has a broad range of meaning--"at a loss," "uncertain," "to be embarrassed." The word comes from poros, which means "way, transit, resource." The prefix "a" means "not"--hence, aporeo means "no way" or "without a resource." The women had no "resource" for understanding what had happened. They were "perplexed."
"Behold!" Two men (andres duo) "in shining clothes" came to them. Andres duo is also used to speak of Moses and Elijah at the transfiguration of Jesus in 9:30. "Shining clothes" also recalls the transfiguration, though, in that story, Jesus is the one with the shining clothes. Later (24:23), the two men will be referred to as "angels," but, for now, they are simply identified as "men."
By comparison, in Mark, the women are greeted by a "young man" in the tomb. In Matthew, they are met by a single "angel." In the fourth gospel, it is Jesus himself who greets Mary Magdalene (only).
The women are afraid (emphobon) and assume a posture of both humility and self-protection. They bow their faces to the ground. (Fear plays a role also in Mark and Matthew, but is not mentioned in the fourth gospel.) The two men ask a question that appears, at first glance, to be a rebuke of the women: "Why do you seek the living with the dead?"
Jesus had said something like this in 20:38: "Now he is God not of the dead, but of the living; for to him all of them are alive." Schweizer notes a Jewish saying that warns against summoning the spirits of the dead--"Is it customary to look for the dead among the living, and the living among the dead?"--which may also lie behind the question of the two men.
The women are directed away from the tomb: "He is not here, but he has been raised (egerthe)." Egerthe is an aorist passive--"he has been raised." It was not something Jesus did, but something that was done to him by God (Acts 3:15).
Alone among the four gospels, Luke accents "remembering." The two men tell the women to "remember" what Jesus had said in Galilee: "It is necessary (for) the son of man to be delivered into the hands of sinful human beings, and to be crucified, and on the third day to rise?" (As in Mark and Matthew, Jesus speaks of his death and subsequent resurrection three times during his ministry. The statement spoken by the two men is a conflation of those three statements. See 9:22, 44, and 18:32-33.)
The women have already been identified as Galilean. The two men assert that the women had indeed heard these words previously, in Galilee, indicating that they were present when Jesus first spoke them. However, both 9:22, 44 and 18:32-33 indicate that Jesus was speaking to the disciples--"only the disciples" (9:18), "his disciples" (9:43), and "the twelve" (18:31). Nevertheless, the two men/angels assume that the women had indeed heard this. It was told "to you" (humin). These women are assumed to be among Jesus' earliest followers.
The two men/angels make slight changes to the earlier sayings. Instead of "killed," the method of death is described exactly: "crucified." Also, those who crucified Jesus are now identified as "sinners." The phrase is eis xeiras anthropown hamartolown--literally, "into hands of sinful human beings." (In 9:44, Jesus is said to be betrayed "into human hands." In 18:32, he is handed over to "gentiles.")
Luke wants us to know that the crucifixion of Jesus was a sin and thus contrary to God's intention. Nevertheless, "it is necessary" (dei) for these things to have happened. It was also "necessary" for Jesus to "suffer" (9:22) and for Jesus to go to Jerusalem (9:51) and for him to be "counted among the lawless" (22:37).
The women "remembered his words." This is reminiscent of 22:61 in which Peter "remembered the word of the Lord." Remembering has to do with more than recall. The thief on the cross had asked Jesus to "remember me when you come into your kingdom" (23:42). "Do this in remembrance of me," Jesus had said in 22:19. Remembering, for Luke, has to do with a re-presentation of a past event in such a way that understanding, insight, awareness, and perception are included as well as simple recollection.
The women leave the tomb and "told all these things" to the disciples and "all the others." Only now are (some of) the women named--Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and "Mary of James." The word "Magdalene" appears before "Mary," which is unusual. "Magdalene" may mean that Mary was from the town of Magdala, although this is never stated anywhere in the New Testament. "Magdalene" may also mean "elegant," "great," or "magnificent," in which case the word may be a title rather than a geographical designation, and may mean that Mary was known as "the Great."
Luke is the only gospel writer to mention Mary Magdalene before the passion and resurrection narratives. In 8:3, Mary and Joanna (also mentioned here), are said to have financially supported the Jesus movement.
"Mary of James" would typically indicate that this Mary was the spouse of James. The name is likely taken from Mark where she is mentioned as being at the empty tomb. In 15:40, however, Mark identifies her as the mother of James and Joses.
As a point of reference, Mark identifies Mary Magdalene, Mary, and Salome at the tomb. Matthew has Mary Magdalene and "the other Mary." The fourth gospel has Mary Magdalene, Peter, and the beloved disciple. The common element in each account is the presence of Mary Magdalene, who, incidentally, is always listed first.
"They said these things to the apostles"--Luke uses the word "apostles" half a dozen times, Mark and Matthew once, John not at all--"and their words seemed like nonsense before them." The word translated as "nonsense" is leros, "silly talk." (The word came from the field of medicine where it referred to delirium which sometimes accompanies high fever.) The women were thought to be out of their minds, in other words.
The (now) eleven disciples respond cynically and dismissively. "They were not trusting (apistoun)" the women. This perhaps should not be surprising. They didn't get it when Jesus told them either--"they did not understand" (9:45). Not only that, but the verb here is imperfect, meaning they were continuing in "not trusting."
That said, the women had told them "all these things," which would include empty tomb, the appearance of the two men, and what the two men had said. The understandable reasons for the skepticism of the men are rapidly disappearing. It begins to appear that the men have been dismissive simply because the witnesses were women.
Peter, however, is at least intrigued enough to go the tomb himself. Indeed, he ran. (Peter also ran in John 20, where, like here, he also stooped down to look in.) Peter "sees"--present tense--the linen cloths, which were "laid by themselves," but, of course, sees no body. He left "wondering to himself." His response is not yet up to that of the women--"wondering to himself" is not the same as remembering Jesus' words and telling them to others--but he seems to be on a positive trajectory.
This is only the beginning of Luke's resurrection story. It will continue in the Emmaus story (24:13-35), Jesus' final appearance to the disciples (24:36-49), and his ascension into heaven (24:50-53). One notes that Luke has nothing about Jesus "going ahead of you to Galilee, there you will see him," as both Mark and Matthew do.
Indeed, in Luke, Jesus tells his disciples that the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sins is to begin in Jerusalem (24:47) and urges the disciples "to stay here in (Jerusalem)" (24:49). The reinvigoration of Jesus' mission will not be through a return to the place of its beginning in Galilee. The mission will be renewed not in the hinterlands but in the Holy City. It will travel from there to the capital of the Empire, Rome itself (Acts 28:14).
Image: The resurrected Christ, Matthias Grunewald