I love the dramatic feel of this scene when the accounts from all four Gospels are combined into one narrative! Read on ...
(Painting below by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, my all-time favorite painter.)
(My commentary in italics. All other text: Matt. 28:1–15; Mark 16:1–14; Luke 24:1–12; John 20:1–18.)
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
As the first day of the week began to dawn, very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary and certain other women with them came to see the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.
At some point before the women arrive, the guards at the tomb have an experience that changes their lives forever...
And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
Now, they weren’t actually dead, just unconscious. Eventually, they recovered and made their way into the city and reported to the chief priests all the things that had happened. When they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, saying, “Tell them, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept.’ And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.
Of course, as all this was happening, the women continued to draw near the tomb...
And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. Then Mary Magdalene ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
Think about that last sentence. Why would Mary Magdalene assume the worst and immediately report it to the disciples?
So while she was giving her bad report, the remaining women entered the tomb...
They went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus … they were greatly perplexed about this. But what they did find was a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side and two men stood by them in shining garments; and the women were alarmed, and bowed their faces to the earth.
But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here; for He is risen, as He said.
Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ “ And they remembered His words. “Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples and Peter that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear (for they trembled and were amazed, and they said nothing to anyone) and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. Upon their arrival, they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who gave reports to the apostles.
Now think about that: The disciples are now hearing two different reports. First, Mary Magdalene’s report of a stolen body and then the others’ encounters with angels....How do you think the disciples responded? How would you have responded?
The Bible says that the women’s words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.
Then Peter and the other disciple set out to go to the tomb. They both ran together, and the other disciple outran Peter and came to the tomb first. And he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there by themselves; yet he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.
But Mary Magdalene stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there (He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons), and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him, “Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’ ”
So Mary came and told the disciples (those who had been with Him), as they mourned and wept that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.
The Bible goes on to tell us that He appeared to the other women as they made their way back, to the men on the road to Damascus, and eventually to the disciples themselves, scolding them for their unwillingness to believe that He had indeed risen from the dead.