The women departed, fearing yet joyful, at the incredible things they had witnessed. It seems to me that, on this morning, the disciples were probably separated and scattered at different locations. It was Mary Magdalene who summoned Peter and John to the tomb, as we learn in John’s gospel. My supposition is that Mary Magdalene went to the place where these two disciples were, while the others went in another direction to alert the rest of the group. Be that as it may, it does appear from John’s gospel that Mary came to doubt the angelic revelation soon thereafter. John tells us that after Peter and John had been mystified by seeing the empty tomb and the grave clothes laid in order, they departed, but Mary remained by the sepulcher weeping, thinking someone had stolen away His body. There the risen Lord appeared to this dear woman, whom He had delivered from demonic bondage, and would make the first to see Him in His glorified state. At first, Mary thought Him to be the gardener, and asked where they had laid Him. This indicates that she must have doubted the Lord was truly risen, perhaps questioning with herself whether she had misunderstood the angel, or if this was some kind of hallucination. But the Lord Jesus needed only to speak her name to remove all doubt, and bring her to His feet in profound worship, rejoicing that her Saviour lived again by the power of God.
It is difficult to discern precisely when Jesus met the women, for we know that He appeared first to Mary Magdalene outside the sepulcher. This is established both by Mark and John. It is my speculation that this is the other group of women who separated from Mary Magdalene to find and alert the other disciples. After having appeared to Mary, the Lord hastened to meet these other dear women, whose affection for Him even after His death had not diminished. The Lord greeted them cheerfully with the words, “All hail.” Unlike their sister, these women seem to have recognized Jesus at once. They believed the word of the angel who had told them that Christ was risen from the dead, and responded in the most appropriate fashion imaginable. Viewing the risen Lord, their hearts were aroused to a high pitch of fervent worship, and they immediately cast themselves down at the Lord’s feet, and worshipped Him. This is the proper response of every Christian in any age. Though we do not see Christ with our physical eyes, yet there is surely a beholding of Him with the eye of faith that is equally as real as the vision with which these women saw Him. When faith views the Saviour in His resurrected glory, it rejoices with joy unspeakable and full of glory, knowing that His resurrection is the seal of our salvation. “He was delivered for our offenses, and raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). We are risen with Him, and made to sit on the throne of glory with Him, for we are joined to Him by vital, covenant union, which neither earth nor hell can sever. Indeed, it cannot be emphasized strongly enough, that the resurrection of our Lord Jesus is among our most powerful motives for worship, and ought to invigorate our faith and zeal day by day.
It would appear that there was a mixture of fear in the women, even as they held Him by the feet and reverently worshipped. Jesus kindly adjures them, “Be not afraid.” In His presence there should be fullness of joy. We need not fear the presence of the Saviour, for He is no angry Judge to His people, but our best Friend, our elder Brother, our Husband, our Redeemer. Even when He chastises, it is from nothing but love and a desire for our best interest. Nevertheless, I think we can excuse the women for experiencing some trepidation in their heart, for who among us can imagine that we could ever be prepared to behold a dead man risen up to life again?
Just as the angel had told them, so Jesus commands them to inform His disciples that they should proceed into Galilee, and there they would see Him. However, it is cheering to note that the Lord did not wait so long to present Himself to His followers. That very evening He appeared to two of them on the road to Emmaus, then broke into the house where His disciples were cowering for fear of the Jews. One week later, He appeared again, to confirm the faith of doubting Thomas, who had not witnessed Him the first time. Only then did they obey the Lord’s word to go into Galilee, where He appeared to them along the lake shore, and gave them a great haul of fish.