AD 30, Pilate’s palace
Last watch of the night
The night was eerily silent. The air was still and the normal chirping of the cicadas was absent.
The night was cold but she was covered in sweat. The dreams were always the same; since the night before the crucifixion. She dreaded going to bed nowadays- the dreams were horrifying.
She looked at her husband lying beside her; he was fast asleep, snoring lightly. She resisted the urge to wake him up; he would dismiss her as usual. If only he had listened to her and not bowed to pressure from the Jewish leaders.
She was sure the man was innocent, and was only brought before her husband because the Jewish leaders were afraid to lose their hold on the people. He was killed out of sheer jealousy, and her husband had aided them.
High priest palace
Last watch of the night
Caiaphas stared at the fire, his mind far away. A thought has been disturbing him since the crucifixion of the blasphemer. What if he truly was the son of God like he claimed to be?
Strange happenings had been occurring since the evening of the crucifixion. Could these things be signs? The implication of orchestrating the death of God’s son was enormous and he could not bear to think of them.
But then if he had been the Messiah like he claimed to be, he shouldn’t have died at the hands of the gentiles; the Messiah was supposed to deliver them from the oppression of the gentiles.
The more he thought about it, the more he became sure that even if he had not been the Messiah, the man was definitely a righteous man, only that could explain the strange occurrences.
He was experiencing what he hadn’t experienced in a long time – remorse, and a twinge of guilty conscience.
First hour of the day
The sky was turning gray, dawn was coming. The cold was biting. Claudius rubbed his hands together and placed them over the dying fire. He looked at the stone in front of the sepulcher and wondered about the man that was lying inside. He was no ordinary man. He had never believed in the claims of the Israelites about their God; only one God who was creator of all.
He had always seen the Jews as proud and arrogant and he hated them because of their claim to belong to the one and true God who created heaven and earth and would refrain from worshipping other gods; they even acted superior because they claimed to be the chosen race. But events of the last few days have begun to change his mind.
The man they had crucified was definitely a righteous man and even his claim of being the son of God might not be far from the truth. He kept this to himself however and dared not share it with his friends who were huddled around the fire, cracking anti-Semitic jokes.
The events that happened next were a blur- one minute he was sitting around the fire with friends, the next he was flat on the floor. There were flashes of lightning in the sky, rolling thunder and the ground was quaking. He could hear the fearful voices of his comrades.
The sky became brilliantly lit, and a being descended from the sky, his features were indescribable. He went to the mouth of the tomb and rolled the stone away like they weighed nothing. Somewhere at the back of his mind, his military training was telling him to resist but he was paralyzed and couldn’t move- he just stared.
Then something even more amazing happened. The man they had buried three days ago was walking out of the tomb, and was shining like the sun! And the terrible being that came from the sky was paying obeisance to him.
Just then Claudius heard movements to his right and saw that his men were fleeing. Suddenly, he could move again and before he knew what he was doing, he was on his feet and running too.
First hour of the day
Mary Magdalene was restless. She was pacing up and down the room. What was delaying the others? She mused.
Just then the door opened and Joanna and three others came in carrying the ointments they had prepared yesterday.
Without further delay, they set out towards the city gates. The city was just about waking up and very soon, the sounds of women going to the well would fill the streets. They hurried towards the gates which were just being opened.
Mary Magdalene was at the head of the procession and even as she was walking briskly, her mind was in overdrive. Her paramount thought was how they were going to move the stone that was set at the mouth of the tomb.
From her vintage point, she had seen that it took twenty soldiers to roll the stone to the mouth of the cave, and they were just a bunch of women. She was lost in thought that she did not notice until one of the women gasped.
When she looked at what the others saw, she was transfixed: the tomb was open.
Without thinking, she ran the remaining distance to the tomb and stopped just shy of the entrance. She stood there till the others arrived, and gathering her courage, went inside. The tomb was empty.
Peter was lying on the mat at the corner of the room, staring at the roof. While others slept, he hadn’t slept a wink.
To his right was john, he had had a restless sleep, talking in his sleep and tossing severally. Apparently, he was having nightmares about the crucifixion because he kept repeating ‘’yeshua yeshua”.
Peter envied his devotion to the master. If only he had been that strong, he wouldn’t have denied Him.
At the remembrance of that night, fresh tears came to his eyes- he had failed the master, just like the master predicted. If only he had been more watchful and heedful of the master’s warning. But now it was too late.
What troubled him most was why the master had allowed himself to be taken, beaten and crucified. Was he not the savior they had been expecting? Surely, he was the son of God, there was no doubt about that, he had seen too much to doubt that.
What happens now? He wondered. What was their fate? It had been three days now…
His thought was interrupted by the urgent knocking at the door. He frowned as he stood up to answer the door. Who could that be?
At the door, he was greeted by a group of wide eyed and breathless women, all speaking at once. He tried to follow them but he couldn’t.
The loud knocking had awakened the others and they now gathered behind him. They listened with open mouths as they listened to the accounts of the women.
Peter didn’t know what to believe. Who would have moved the body of the Master? That tomb was heavily guarded by the roman soldiers. He was going to have to see for himself before he believed what he was hearing.
Breathless, Peter bent over in front of the tomb. It was open alright. His lungs burned from the run. He was the last to arrive; the others were younger than him and so were faster. But none of them had entered- they were waiting for him.
After a few moments, he entered the tomb. It was empty. He scanned the room again not believing. The only thing in the tomb was the linen that had been wrapped around the master’s body at burial. Puzzled he left the tomb along with others.
Maybe the governor had given an order to remove his body from the sepulcher, definitely at the instigation of the high priest.
None noticed that Mary Magdalene wasn’t with them; they were too caught in their sorrow to notice.
Mary Magdalene sat at the entrance of the tomb, weeping. They had taken away the body of her Lord.
First they accused him wrongly, and then they sentenced him to a horrible death. Even in death, they wouldn’t let him be buried properly. They have dishonored him even in death.
Something caught her attention from the corner of her eye, and she looked into the tomb.
There appeared to be someone in there. She went into the tomb to find out and saw two men sitting down where the body of the Master had lain. The men wore shining apparel and their countenances were shining.
“Why are you weeping woman?” they said to her
“They have taken away the body of my Lord” she replied “and I don’t know where they have taken it”
Just then another walked in. Who were these people? She thought. What were they doing here? Were they the ones that moved the body?
The man asked her the same question the two men asked her. She was losing her patience. She needed answers now.
“Tell me where you have taken him to and I will go and carry him” she said to the new man.
“Mary” the man said gently.
She looked at him sharply. How had he known her name?
And then recognition hit.
She hadn’t bothered to look at him before, that was why she didn’t recognize him.
There he was! And he was alive! Her Lord was alive! It took a while before her body reacted. She lunged at him.
“Touch me not; I have not yet ascended to my Father” he told her, stopping her. “Go to my brethren, and tell them I ascend to my Father, and your Father; and to my God and your God”
And then He was gone.
For several moments Mary just stood there taking in the incident. The Lord has risen, and had first appeared to her even before ascending to heaven to appear before His Father- their Father. And He said to go tell His brethren- not friends anymore, not disciples, but brethren!
Jerusalem, upper room
The disciples were huddled together after supper, although only few had eaten. Many were talking in hushed tones.
The news of the Lord’s resurrection had spread to the disciples and they had all gathered together that evening.
Mary was the centre of attention, as many were gathered around her asking for more details about her encounter with the risen Lord.
Peter and the rest of the twelve, except Thomas were gathered together, and discussing. They were afraid of what the Jewish leaders would do should the news of the resurrection get to them. The doors had been locked from the inside and everybody had been ordered to stay indoors.
Then He was there.
“Peace be unto you” his voice rich and comforting. He looked into their eyes and could see despair and sadness, His heart ached for them. He could see disbelieve and fear in some; they thought he was a ghost.
He marveled at their unbelief. He showed them His hands and feet. He could see the joy and hope in their eyes as it slowly returned. His heart swelled. These were his brethren, beloved, chosen from among men to be sanctified unto His God.
Jerusalem was filled with news of the Messiah’s resurrection; he who had been condemned to die had overcome death. But the high priest and Jewish leaders wanting to save face had bribed the soldiers to spread a lie that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus in the middle of the night, and were now claiming he was resurrected.
The disciples were not bothered about this; in the past 40days, the Lord had been appearing to them severally and preparing them for the days ahead. They didn’t have Him with them always like before his crucifixion but he has promised them another- the comforter, His Spirit, the Holy Ghost, who will dwell with them and in them.
Now they were gathered together to witness his ascension into heaven, his mission fulfilled.
In death, he has birthed life- eternal life; in his life, he has given salvation and dominion- to reign as kings on earth.
So parting, he gave them his final charge and left a promise “Go make disciples of all nations” he charged them. “I am with you always even unto the end of the world” he promised
Then he began His ascension while they steadfastly looked up into heaven until they saw Him no more.
There was an eerie silence. Uncertain what to do they stared.
Then two angels appeared. “Men of Galilee” they said, “why are you all staring intently at the skies? This same Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven shall also come back in like manner as you have seen him ascend”
Happy Easter to all and sundry!