What Happened Resurrection Morning?
Mary Magdalene heard the rush of bare feet along the stone floor. The others were ready, but she was still gathering the herbs she was responsible for. Burial is not a common ritual, maybe twice a year with an average harvest and everyone well fed. But this was not an ordinary burial—they were finishing the burial of the Rabbi, who had been killed by the Romans last Friday. The Sabbath was closing in, and the law forbade contact with the dead on Sabbath, so he had to be laid to rest before the sun set and the Sabbath began. A tear suddenly ran down her cheek into the herbal jar, and she realized that she was crying. He had been such a wonderful Rabbi, so kind and wise. Why did they have to kill him?
She wiped her cheek and wrapped the herbs into large napkin. As she hurried to the doorway, she saw that several others had entered the street; there was Mary the mother of the Rabbi, Salome, and others of Mary's group of friends. It was still very dark, not a star was to be seen, and the torches the women held were casting dancing shadows along the walls. They saw her, and began to walk slowly down the narrow twisting street. As she caught up, they all picked up the pace to get to the tomb and anoint the Rabbi.
The Rabbi's Mother smiled at her in a frail and soft way, and said, "Mary, do you think you can find the way in this darkness? My eyes are not young anymore."
And still full of tears, she thought. Mother Mary had wept so much for her son, but she said that this had been told to her years ago by an angel. She had always envied the Mother Mary so much. She was so respected, and must have been proud of her son the Rabbi.
"I can find it, Mary." She took Mary's hand and led her into the street with the others, going off to find her son's tomb.
As they came to the gate and passed into the trees east of the city, darkness seemed to engulf the light from the torches. Mary Magdalene wondered how they would talk the guards at the gate and the tomb into letting them complete their tasks. These soldiers were so crude, and might attack or rape them, and then lie to protect each other. No Roman judge would believe a Jewish woman over that of a soldier. But she loved the Rabbi so much she would risk anything to make sure he was properly buried with the traditional spices and ointments. There had simply been no time before.
She noticed the guards at the gate were agitated.
"What are you doing out at this hour?" one of the gate guards barked at them.
"Is it safe for us to pass?" Mother Mary asked.
"Yes, but what are YOU doing out?"
"We need to finish burying my son."
The guards eyes grew large with fright. There had been rumors that the night the Rabbi had died that evil omens had occurred across the city. The sky had darkened all that day, even at the noon hour. Some said that it was an eclipse, but Peter said that eclipses don't occur during Passover, because the moon is always full at Passover. The guard stepped back, "Go on about your business, woman. But be back here before my shift ends, or I will place it in my report."
That would be at noon Mary Magdalene knew. Not much time!
Mother Mary touched him gently on the shoulder, "We will be back before the first hour."
The guard seemed relieved and slowly walked back to the wall, wrapped his cloak tightly around himself, and leaned against the wall. "Did you feel the quake earlier this morning?" he asked.
"Yes," Mother Mary said softly.
"I saw a bright light from over there," he gestured toward the tomb area. "And I thought I heard men screaming." The guard took another drink from his wineskin, "It is not a good night to be about outside the walls. Go carefully."
Silently, the group of cloaked and hooded women made their way into the dark woods.
Peter rolled over and saw John sleeping like a baby. How can he sleep after all that had happened? The Rabbi unjustly killed by his enemies, using the power of the Romans to do their own dirty deeds. The Rabbi's religious revival, the efforts to rid Israel of the hated Romans, to crown him Messiah (I know that he was, he thought), all that was gone, blown away in the Westerly winds. Dust into the Heavens. All he had hoped for was gone. But something else greatly troubled him, and he couldn't even put it into conscious thought.
He jumped to his feet, and threw on his cloak. John opened an eye.
"Must you be so noisy?"
"The women have already left to complete the burial."
John sat up. "I lost track of the time, it has been dark for so long."
"Yes. And we must hurry if we are to see him for the last time." And to ask his forgiveness.
John pulled his cloak around himself.
"Is that a new cloak?" Peter asked.
"Yes, it is"
"Well, what happened to the other one, the one that James gave you?"
"I lost it" John said irritably as he tugged a piece of bread from the fresh loaf the women had made that morning.
"Well, then how did you lose it?" Peter was not going to let it go.
John tore a big bite from the piece of bread and glared at Peter, "I shed it to elude some fellows at the trial."
Peter laughed, "Well, I hope the person who ended up with it appreciates your charity."
As Peter stepped through the doorway, he saw the sunrise in a breaking glow of light, and he heard a rooster crow, and his heart sank in his chest. John had been ready to make an angry retort, but saw Peter's sunken eyes, and walked up and embraced him instead. With his arm over Peter's shoulder, they walked toward the tomb.
Mary Magdalene crept up to the tomb area and looked for the guards. She wanted to get an idea of what their mood was before they entered. If they were drunk and wild, then only the Mother, Salome and she would go in and they would leave the others outside the area. But she hoped they would be in a better mood at the thought of leaving their shift and would roll the stone away for them. It was so big, that stone, and they would not be able to move it without help. The men had been so listless and saddened the last two days, and no one wanted to bother them. She was surprised to not hear the guards from where she was, and moved forward to see what was going on.
She was shocked by what she saw, and ran back to the Mother, "The guards are gone and the tomb lays open!"
Mother Mary was aghast, and hurried to the open tomb as the other women scurried behind her. Not one guard was around, and Mary looked into the Tomb itself. It was empty!
"Where have they taken my son's remains?" she cried. She looked around, "Where is Mary Magdalene?"
"Do not be afraid, Mary, nor amazed." Two young men in radiant white clothing had entered the tomb.
Mary became frightened and fell to her knees, as did the women behind her.
"I know that you look for Jesus, your son, but why look for the living among the dead? He is risen, as He had said. Remember how He had told you in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered up into the hands of sinful men and be crucified? And that on the third day He would rise again?"
Then these things came back to Mother Mary's mind. Yes, she could recall His words now.
"Come, Mary, and see the place where they had laid Him!"
The second man said, "Yes, it is amazing that men would want to entomb the Lord of Life itself, and yet more amazing that He would allow it done, but hurry to Peter and the others that they might not grieve any more. Tell them that the Lord has risen and He will meet with all of you in Galilee."
Then the first one spoke again, "Yes, go now and tell them the good news; the Lord has conquered Death itself!"
The women slowly stood, first Mother Mary, then Salome and the others, and they hurried out. Though they were filled with fear, there was a great joy as well; could it be true? Could the Rabbi be alive again?
Mary Magdalene was running down the path they had taken to the tomb. Peter and John were just emerging from the city gate as she caught Peter by the arm, "They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we know not where they have laid him!"
Peter grew despondent. It wasn't enough that they murdered Him, now they must desecrate His grave as well? He and John started running toward the tomb. What other humiliation must that good man endure? he thought. John had gotten way ahead of him, and Peter redoubled his efforts to catch up.
John got to the tomb first and looked in as he leaned against the opening, catching his breath. Peter didn't hesitate and ran on inside and searched around. It was empty; only the linen clothes were left in a heap, and the head cloth was rolled up and at the place where His head had been laid. Mary Magdalene was telling the truth. What could this possibly mean? Disappointed at not seeing the Rabbi, Peter took the cloth and put it in his robe—at least he can remember the Rabbi when he looked on these. He and John stared at each other in confusion, why would someone steal His body and take the time to remove the burial garments? They walked toward the house silently, trying to make sense of it all.
Mary Magdalene was tired, and took the slower path up, not following the hurried men who took the more direct path. She sat down to rest and remembered the Rabbi's face that day that He had cured her of her madness. She had no idea what He had done; he was a wise Rabbi and these men were acquainted with many sources of knowledge. They said she had been possessed by demons; she couldn't remember anything more than His face that day; its kindness and grace as He touched her cheek and gently felt her face. He touched her not like some lecherous brute or with the condescension so often shown by other men toward women, but with respect, and courtesy. He had won her heart with that simple touch, and later, as she heard His message of obedience to God, she grew sorry for the wasteful life she had lived, of a rich man's spoiled daughter. She realized the pain she had caused her servants, of the wrong she had caused with her adulterous affairs, and her greedy dealings with the city merchants. Later when she saw Him again at Simon of Magdala's house, she bought ointment and sat at His feet. With her tears she washed his dust-covered feet, and dried them with her hair. She loved him so—her hair was no matter. Then she poured oil on His feet, and anointed them. She followed his family and disciples everywhere they went from that day forward, and she saw and heard so many wonderful things. Then, last Friday, the Pharisees came and took Him in the middle of the night and killed Him. She watched Him die in agony, bleeding from his arms and feet, barely able to breathe. And now, they have stolen His body as well. Her grief flowed again, in tears down her face. Or did they?
Suddenly, she realized she had not yet gone all the way in. Maybe Joseph had moved the body, or someone else had come to prepare it too? She got up and walked quickly to the tomb, and she could not help but cry the whole way. What had happened to that great man was simply unfair. As she entered, she saw two men sitting one at each end of the bench His body had laid on, and for some reason she was reminded of the descriptions she had read of the Ark of the Covenant.
"Woman, why do you cry," an angel said.
"Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him." So she was wrong, His body was gone, and she wept even more. She turned to go, and another man came into the tomb.
"Woman, why do you cry so?"
Who was this, the gardener? Turning from him, she said, "Sir, if you have taken my Lord's body, tell me where He is laid and I will get him myself."
"Mary," He said, in that same gentle voice she had heard that day long ago.
"Rabboni!" She grabbed him and hugged Him close to her. He began to pull away, but she would not let Him go.
"Mary, don't cling to me. I must still return to the Father. I must go to Him, to your Father and my father."
She stepped back in amazement, her face glowing with joy. The men on the bench were angels! This was all true! It was too good to believe!
"Go Mary, and tell the others of this good news. I wish to speak with my Mother, and the others too." He stepped away from her and walked down the path to the city gate. When she emerged from the tomb, He was gone. She ran down the fastest path she knew; the others must hear this!
As she charged into the house, she saw the mournful group had begun to eat breakfast. She cried out, "I have seen the Rabbi! I have seen the Rabbi! He is alive!"
Thomas looked at her and spat out, "It seems that her sorrow has brought the demons back into her mind." And they all turned away.
Mother Mary was confused. What was the meaning of those angels? Could her son truly be alive?
"Rejoice!" said a young man in front of her group. She stepped around the other women to see who it was—it WAS HIM! Her son was alive!
"Dear son! Dear son!" she wept. Then the other women recognized Him also, and they all wept and kissed Him and worshipped Him.
Jesus kissed His Mother and said to her, "Go to the other disciples and tell them this good news. I will meet them all in Galilee, so go there and I will see you all again."
Then He was gone, and Mary wept and they all made their way back to the house to tell the other disciples. When they got there, they saw Mary Magdalene arguing with them, and Mary Mother of Jesus took the eleven remaining apostles and told them quietly, "My son is alive. I saw Him just a while ago. Mary of Magdala tells the truth. We are to go to Galilee to see Him again as a whole group." She saw the disbelief in their eyes.
Thomas, gently took her hand. "Mother, it is not unusual for a mother in grief at the loss of her son to imagine seeing him or some ghost."
Mother Mary yanked her hand away, "Thomas I will not be patronized! He is alive! I saw Him myself!" She looked around at their disbelieving stares, "We will set out for Galilee in the morning!"
Claudius the Centurion led his men into the outer Temple courtyard and looked around. The place was crowded with men, animals for sacrifice, money changers, women, and, worst of all, children. He stared at the chaos and then led the men on into a small room that was outside another, deeper room. He commanded them to wait for him outside as he went into the innermost chamber, and there he saw them—the secret leaders of the Sanhedrin. Every council has its power men and its na´ve fools. These were the tough minded men for whom power was known to be the only consideration. Who had it and who had the most of it was all that really mattered at the end of the day. And Claudius could respect such men.
"Hail, Claudius!" The older one spoke out.
"Greetings, esteemed Council men." Claudius sneered.
The elder allowed himself a little smile, "Now, Centurion, we needn't be churlish here. We can help each other."
"What help do I need from politicians?"
"Eheh, we are not politicians, in the manner in which you mean, but none-the-less, you ask a good question." He turned quickly and asked, "What happens to guards who fall asleep while on duty in the Emperor's Legion's?"
"No one fell asleep; if they did we would have them executed."
"And might the Officer in charge of the watch not have your head as well?"
"Why would he desire that?"
The elder smiled more, "Jesus of Nazareth claimed he would arise from the dead in three days. So we procured a guard, your guard, to ensure that this did not happen."
"Yes, I have read the report," Claudius looked around him at these other council members, all watching him intently. "Why does this interest you? My commander readily believes every superstition that comes his way. Why would he not believe that this earthquake caused the tomb to open up and the disciples came stole the body?"
The elder looked at the other councilmen, "Because the exact description could make people think it was not the disciples of this Jesus, but angels instead."
Claudius took a step back, "How did you know this?"
"We have our sources, Centurion. But that is not important, what IS important is that we come to an understanding; a modification of the report."
"And what 'modification' might that be?" he growled, not accustomed to having these barbaric Jews leading him by the nose.
"We won’t cast doubt on your report's events as described, but you will change it in one minor detail; you say your men fell asleep, no angels! We can guarantee that your superiors will not punish you for this report of negligence; we will make sure they know the true nature of what happened."
Claudius rubbed his chin and thought it through. "Deal," he said and offered his hand in agreement.
The elder pulled away, "I cannot touch hands that have held unleavened bread till the feast of the Passover is over."
Claudius stood straight, "It is of no consequence, I want some cash up front now, however."
"Certainly, Centurion, and we will see to it that your superiors do not question you on this matter at all."
Luke looked at Cleopas,"It is not possible for a man to raise himself from the dead! I have heard of those thought dead suddenly coming alive, I am a physician, but not from this kind of wounding. With his wounds and the size of the stones, he could not have rolled it away himself and overpowered a Roman guard!"
Cleopas retorted, "But then what did the women see?"
Luke was about to answer, when a stranger asked them, "What has you young men so animated this early in the morning?"
Luke spoke up, "We are discussing the things concerning Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened, and certain women of our company amazed us, having been early at the tomb; and when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive."
The stranger asked, "Then do you believe these women?"
Cleopas snorted, "Ah! Women, they think more with their hearts than their heads!"
The stranger sighed, "Did not this Nazarene tell you that this man was to die at the hands of the Romans?"
Luke and Cleopas both nodded in unison, and when they noticed each other they stopped it immediately.
The stranger continued, "Did he not show you the twenty-second Psalm that speaks of the Messiahs feet and hands being pierced, or of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah..."
A few miles later, the stranger continued to instruct them, and young Luke and Cleopas were amazed.
"And so, you see how the Suffering Servant died for the sins of the people?"
"And so, on what better day than the very exact same day that Moses had the ancient Israelites sacrifice their lambs and put the blood upon their doorframes, so that the Angel of Death might pass them by? This Rabbi of yours, he was the Final Paschal Lamb, sacrificed once and for all eternity, as were the lambs of captive Israel."
"What is your name sir? We must have seen you in the disciple's assembly..."
"Ah, it is no matter, though actually I am very hungry. Can we go into your home and eat?"
Cleopas spoke up, "Of course, here follow me."
The servants washed the men's feet as they reclined to eat the prepared meal. The stranger took the wine and poured them each a cup, and then he took the bread, and suddenly they saw who He was...
"Rabbi!" and they bowed before him.
When they looked up, He was gone.
Without hesitation, they both jumped up and ran to Jerusalem, and to the house that they had last eaten with the Rabbi.
Luke ran upstairs to the Apostles and told them in hurried breath, "We saw the Rabbi!"
But still, the Apostles could not believe what they were hearing. Thomas exclaimed, "I cannot bear this any longer!" and he stormed from the house.
"Bolt the doors and shutter the windows!" Peter instructed, he felt confused about all the stories he was hearing, and wanted to make certain that the wrong ears did not hear what they discussed.
As the sat discussing these confusing events, the Rabbi was suddenly among them, "Peace be unto you!"
The Apostles were frightened, how did He get inside? Only a spirit can pass through walls and locked doors. What manner of apparition is this?
"Why are you troubled? and wherefore do questionings arise in your heart? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you behold me having. " And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet and his side. And they were all amazed and worshipped him.
And after this day, Thomas got to witness the resurrected Rabbi as did the other Apostles, and he worshipped what he had denied so heartily only a week before. Peter had his dark secret forgiven by the Rabbi, and, as he had denied Him three times, the Rabbi prompted Peter to affirm his devotion and love three times as well, and Peter forgave himself for his own treachery. All these simple men were reborn that day, and fed on dozens of other appearances by Him, in the sight of hundreds of witnesses. Beginning with Pentecost, the Apostles were lit on fire to spread the good news of Jesus' teachings, of the message that we are all Gods children, and we can all be forgiven our sins. And for this message, all the Apostles died violent and gruesome deaths, sealing the veracity of what they saw with their own blood. All of them were executed except for John who died in exile.
Today that flame continues to spread, and it has grown to over one and a half billion in members.
Last updated March 31, 2008