This subject and text has been invested in and written about so heavily, it’s hard to know how to approach it and not sound “been there, done that—BORING.” I will try to approach it from Luke’s particular perspective, grabbing in particular what he wants us to see.
Luke’s imagery at the onset is designed to alert us literarily to a new beginning: “On the first day of the week, very early in the morning.” He also retrieves a theme that he has been hammering through the book: The value of women in the eyes of the Bible, the exaltation of the downtrodden, and the making first of those whom the culture regards as last. He did it with women in the first (and subsequent) chapters, with shepherds, with the sick and poor all through the book, and now again.
Then comes the unexpected shocker of all shockers: “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” One’s immediate thought (let’s be honest): robbers. And no corpse. Robbers. But we’re jumping to conclusions. Suddenly angels appear, not unlike the night he was born: “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.” And that’s not Luke’s only mention. We’ve also seen angels at John’s birth, appearing to Mary, and speaking to Joseph in a dream. Luke is revisiting a theme, like bookends in Jesus’ life: Heaven has come to earth. They offer a different interpretation than the default (robbers): He is alive. What? What? We put ourselves in their place, and react either with sheer stupefaction or brittle disbelief. He reminds them of Jesus’ prophetic words.
The women now, like the shepherds of chapter 2, are the first missionaries of the resurrection. They tell the story to the disciples. It’s ironic because women, like shepherds, were barred from giving witness in a court of law: too unreliable. The disciples act like any normal person would: “I don’t believe a word of it. You’re nuts. That’s not possible. People don’t come back from the dead—duh.”
Something was pulling them from the inside, though, and Pete runs to the tomb to check out the claims. “I have to see for myself.” When he looked, he “wondered to himself what had happened.” The disciples weren’t morons who closed their eyes and minds, and followed Jesus willy-nilly in blind faith. They hadn’t given any credence to his words that he would some day rise again, they didn’t believe Mary when she told it to them, and he wasn’t even necessarily convinced when he looked in the empty tomb. Peter wasn’t gullible, and he wasn’t stupid. Luke wants us to know that Peter was eventually convinced because of the hard, irrefutable evidence (still coming), not because he was an exploitable twit.