Mark says that the three women went to the tomb early in the morning, saw and heard the unexpected, and fled in terror. Why? Jesus is risen. Why not embrace the moment in uncontainable joy? Why flee in terror?
It’s the old problem of already knowing the end of the story, and knowing it so superficially well that it loses the impact it had on them.
It was dark. Before dawn. It was a strange place. Cemeteries are spooky enough as it is at night. They expected a closed tomb, a guard or two, and a dead body to be anointed. They didn’t expect anything else, but they knew danger lurked unseen.
Let me put it to you this way in a more prosaic and somewhat humiliating way. Have you ever got up in the middle of the night to relieve yourself, staggered toward the bathroom, and had an unexpected voice loom out of the dark “I’m In Here!”? Don’t tell me that didn’t scare the living daylights out of you. And that’s nothing.
Compound that with a dark night in a strange and dangerous place in which three women were following up on the brutal murder of their beloved friend and teacher. They entered the unexpectedly unguarded, open tomb like characters in a horror movie entering a forbidden mansion. Boom! It’s light! Some guy in white says not to be scared, Jesus is risen. Are you kidding? What could they be but scared out of their minds, and nothing could make more sense than to get out of there fast.
I think Mark has it right.
There has to be time for the heart to stop pounding, for the message to be truly heard, and for it’s meaning to make itself clear.