Jesus: An Intimate Portrait
- Wednesday, March 16, 2005
After days and nights of grief, the women awakened before dawn on Sunday with plans to go back to Jesus' grave. Hearts breaking with sorrow and minds full of questions, Salome and the two women named Mary bought burial spices and went to say their final good-byes.
"Who can we get to roll back that stone and let us into the tomb?" they asked one another as they walked. They were already anxious about moving the stone door, getting past the guards, and dealing with a body that had been dead for three days, but they never anticipated another earthquake. The ground shook like a stormy sea.
What the women hadn't seen was the angel that came to Jesus' tomb during the earthquake. So brilliantly bright, he looked like a sustained flash of lightning; his clothes were as white as snow. The guards nearly died from fright — shaking at first and then so paralyzed by fear they looked like stone statues. They watched in terrified awe as the angel easily rolled the stone back up its groove and stuck it back where it was positioned before Friday afternoon.
Soon after the earthquake settled, the women arrived at the tomb. Mary Magdalene arrived first. She paused in amazement when she saw that the guards had fled and the tomb was wide open. As soon as the other two women caught up, they all walked past the large stone and into the tomb entrance. They expected to see Jesus' body, but it wasn't there! Instead, the angel was to their right, sitting on the shelf where the body had been. They didn't realize at first that he was an angel. They thought he was just a young man dressed in a white robe. He stood up, and when he did they saw another man — actually a second angel. They seemed to glow brighter and brighter, like white lightning. The women had already had enough to be startled about that day, but the presence of these celestial beings surely was the most frightening so far. They couldn't look at the brightness of the angels. They bent over and looked down at the ground, shielding their faces.
The first angel said, "Don't be afraid! You are looking for the body of Jesus of Nazareth. Why would you look for the living in a tomb? He has risen! He is not here. Look for yourselves at the shelf where they laid his body. After you've taken a good look, run and tell his disciples and Peter, ‘Jesus has risen from the dead and is going to meet you in Galilee. You'll see him there, just as he told you.' "
The women were speechless and trembling with fear and wonder. They turned and ran from the tomb, headed straight to Peter and the other ten disciples. Mary Magdalene told the men, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put his body!" As Joanna, the other Mary, and the rest of the women arrived, they all gave the same report. All eleven men listened as they heard news about an earthquake, missing guards, brightly lighted men, an open tomb, and the missing body. The women were excited and searching for words to report these amazing events. None of the men believed much of what they were saying because it sounded like nonsense to them.
Peter eventually determined it was obvious that something amazing had happened, and he wanted to see for himself. "Come on, let's go to Golgotha and see what is going on," Peter told the ten men.
Peter got a head start, but John outran him and arrived first. John stopped at the tomb entrance and looked inside. He saw that the linen burial strips that had been wrapped around Jesus' body on Friday just before sunset were now lying flat on the shelf without being unwound. When Peter arrived, he went past John and walked straight in. Peter examined the linen strips that John had seen from a distance. Then John came inside and suddenly remembered all Jesus' predictions about coming back from the dead. John saw, remembered, and believed. He didn't fully understand all that the Scriptures had said about Jesus' resurrection or how this had happened, but he believed.
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