Jerusalem was agog with the news of the empty tomb.
The soldiers had returned hastily at the crack of dawn and reported the events of the early hours of the morning to the chief priests. It had taken some calming down and extreme patience on the part of the chief priest to get the story out of the shaken soldiers.
Early in the morning on the first day of the week, while the men were warming themselves around the fire, and cracking jokes about the man in the tomb, there had been a strange event.
Suddenly, there was light all around them and flashes of lightning appeared in the sky. They had watched with open mouth as a terrific being had descended from the sky on the wings of the lightning. His face shone like the midday sun and they could not see his visage, his garments was pure white and reflected the light. The overall effect had been that of a fearsome being. Then as the being descended, there had been a terrible quake all over the surroundings of the hill and adjoining mountains and they all fell face down on their faces unable to move a muscle.
They stared with mouth agape as the being rolled the stone away from the mouth of the sepulcher like a kid picking up stones by the brooks. What had taken ten hefty soldiers to roll unto the mouth of the grave weighed nothing. Like they hadn’t seen enough, the man that had been dead for three days walked out of the grave and the being bowed down before it.
In the next instant, they were gone and silence reigned. It had taken them upwards of five minutes to recover their wits and flee the scene.
The chief priest and the members of the council had listened to the story of the soldiers calmly and then asked them to wait outside while they conferred.
“If we allow this news to spread among the people, then the latter error would be greater than the former and the people might stir up an insurrection” Caiaphas told the others
“That will not be good” another replied “if there is any sign of trouble, the romans will not think twice before taking over completely and we would lose our hold on the people”
“I presume that we would be the first target of the people’s wrath, we would have been the ones that delivered up the Messiah into the hands of the gentiles and you know there is quite a handful of the people that are willing to fight Caesar” another added
It was then decided that the soldiers be bribed to change their story. Instead they should say that the disciples of Jesus came by night while they were sleeping and stole the body to fulfill his predictions while he was alive that he would rise after the third day.
It took some convincing but the soldiers agreed. Spreading the story could endanger their lives but they had an assurance from the chief priest that they would speak to Pilate too.
Thus, by midday, the news of the empty tomb had spread and the lie that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus.
The news was received with mixed feelings and mostly outrage, even from those that did not believe in the divinity of Jesus. The roman army were known for their discipline and efficiency. To think that they would fall asleep while on duty was incredulous. Also, the amount of noise that would be generated from the number of people that would be needed to roll away the stone from the mouth of the tomb would definitely wake a deep sleeper and not to talk about a bunch of well-trained soldiers.
Something was definitely going on and it was evident that the chief priests and the romans had decided to hide the truth and cover it up with a halfhearted lie. It was rare for the chief priest and the romans to align together on an issue. Something really was amiss.
“They have taken the body of my Lord” Mary, of Magdala sobbed “and I don’t know where they have taken it to”. She didn’t bother hiding the tears, she was overwhelmed and distraught, sorrowful and angry. Her insides were roiling. How could they have done that? She thought with rising angst. Even in death, they wouldn’t let him be! Haven’t they done enough already? They had subjected him to the most disgraceful and cruelest death, would they dishonor his body too?
Fresh tears coursed down her eyes as these thoughts warred inside her. She remembered the shoddy trial- a mockery of justice, his tears and cries as the whip macerated his flesh leaving bare bones, the drops of blood that were coursing down his brows from the thorns digging into his scalps. The images made her shudder. She had sighed with relief when he had breath his last, at least then they had left him alone and the pain had come to an end. She had thought that was the end, little did she know that they had plans to dishonor his body too. What had he done to deserve such treatment?
She caught herself when she realized that she had been talking to a stranger that had entered the tomb while she had been crying and he had asked her why she was crying. She turned to him now
“Please if you know where his body had been taken to, tell me” she pleaded “I have come to anoint him” she pointed to the jar she had dropped on the floor besides her. She noted vaguely that the stranger looked familiar but she could not place where she had seen him before and she was too distraught to think about the connection. She needed to know where they have placed the body of her Lord whom they have buried hurriedly and shabbily like an outcast. They had not even bothered to wash the blood stains!
She had spent the whole Sabbath evening preparing the best spices she could concoct together to come and anoint him, and do something befitting. She would find the body at all cost, she thought determinedly.
The stranger was talking again and she turned her head sharply to look at him when he mentioned her name.
“How did you-“the words died on her lips. Standing in front of her was her Lord! She wondered how it was possible that she had not been able to recognize him earlier. Could it be that she was seeing things and imagining it all in her head? She shook her head to clear it and looked again and there, still standing a few feet from her was her Master.
Joy surged through her and like lightning she bolted up and lunged at him. He drew back and stretched his hands to stop her from coming closer. She frowned and looked at his eyes, and her breath caught. It was brimming with Joy and something else. She recognized it. It was love. Pure. Unadulterated. Tenderness.
She tried to reconcile what she saw in his eyes and his actions. Why was he putting a distance between himself and her? He had allowed her to wash his feet with her hair and anoint them with oil before.
He smiled. A knowing smile.
“You can’t touch me yet” his voice was soft and soothing, reassuring “I have not yet appeared to my Father”
His words hit her with the force of a fist and without thinking she bowed at his feet. Her Lord has risen, just like he had promised and he had not yet appeared before his Father and yet here he was talking with her.
Her heart soared.
He was talking again and when she looked at him, he was smiling that knowing smile again. “Go and tell my brethren and Peter, that I am arisen and I go to my Father and your Father; to my God and your God”
And then he was gone.
She pinched herself to reassure herself that she wasn’t dreaming. It was real. The Lord had arisen and had spoken to her.
Her Lord was alive!
She was laughing and crying at the same time. She saw her jar of oil lying on the floor and the linen with which the Lord was wrapped neatly folded on the corner. She gathered her shawl and her jar and ran as quickly as her legs could carry her back to the city, to the brethren.
She couldn’t wait to shout it from the roof tops
Christ is risen!
Happy Easter all and sundry!
read previous Easter Story here