Unpacking the confusion at Jesus’ tomb

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Tomb of Jesus

Question: Why did the women go to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his body, knowing the tomb was sealed with a stone too heavy for them to move?

Phyllis Deroian, Morrisville, Pennsylvania

Answer: The Resurrection accounts paint a picture of urgency. Frankly, there is a lot of running around on that Easter morning. Now that the Sabbath is over, the women seem urgent to finish their task of anointing Jesus’ body, which had only been partially accomplished Good Friday afternoon due to the impending Sabbath, which was also a solemn one of Passover. It seems, in their haste, that they had not considered who would roll the stone back. Mark has them asking each other this very question, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (16:3). This is human; we all can overlook details when we are anxious or urgent. Perhaps, too, they thought others would be at the tombs and that they could ask help from the men there. Although it was early, people in those regions at that time rose early to take advantage of the sunlight. Further, at that time, Sunday was more like a Monday morning for us. Hence, they might have figured it would not be difficult to find help. The tombs were just outside the city gates and there would be a lot of coming and going.

At any rate, these are just speculations on what their thoughts were. The main literary purpose of mentioning the stone at all is to focus on the fact that the stone was rolled away when they did arrive, causing them wonder and fear. The rolled back stone is evidence of the resurrection, but they see nefarious purposes behind it such as grave robbers. It will take time for them to realize Jesus is risen. So, too, for us. We often see God’s interventions and, being easily negative and discouraged, see risks not resurrection. We, too, must make a journey to interpret properly the open tomb and go from being victims to victors in Christ Jesus.

Msgr. Charles Pope

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. at blog.adw.org. Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com.