April 5, Sunday
Before daybreak on the Sunday morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb. They were primarily concerned with who could help them roll the large stone away from the entrance.
About that time there was a great earthquake. An angel of the Lord had descended from heaven, rolled the stone back exposing the tomb, and was sitting on the stone in blazing brightness. In great fear the guards were stunned and fell down as though dead.
As the women approached the spot, they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled away. They saw a couple of angels standing near the tomb in shining garments, and one sitting on the rock in his long white robe. They were terrified and were about to run when one of the angels said, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? Don’t be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified. He is not here, for He has risen as He said.
“Remember how He explained all this to you back in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’
“Come, see the place where they laid Him. Then go quickly, find His disciples, especially Peter, and give them the good news!”
The women looked in the tomb; and indeed, there was no body there. They recalled what He had told them and hurried as fast as they could to tell the disciples. Never in their lives had they felt such intense joy mixed with fear!
Now, while they were looking for the disciples, the guards were reporting to the chief priests what had just happened. Quickly the priests assembled with the elders and decided to bribe the soldiers into saying that “they had fallen asleep and that Jesus’ disciples had come during the night and stolen the body.” Ordinarily this breach of duty would have meant certain death for careless guards; but the Pharisees assured them that if the governor ever heard about it, they would pay him off and there would be no reprisal.
The men took the money and spread their alibi so effectively that people today still believe the lie.
Mary Magdalene found Peter and John, the beloved disciple, and told them that the body was gone. Before she had time to tell the whole story, they started running for the tomb.
John got to the tomb first and could see the pile of linens, but he didn’t go in. When Peter got there, he ran right in to investigate. He saw the pile of linens which had been wrapped around the body and off to the side the handkerchief that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. It had been carefully folded before being placed there. John followed him in and believed Jesus was alive even though he didn’t yet understood from Scripture that He must rise from the dead.
The disciples returned to their homes, astonished and mystified.
By this time, Mary Magdalene had returned to the garden tomb and saw two angels inside, one at the head and the other at the foot of the ledge where the body of Jesus had been laid.
“Woman,” they inquired, “why are you weeping?”
She answered them, “Because someone has taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where they have laid Him.”
Then, out of the corner of her eye, she saw someone coming up behind her. Assuming it was a gardener, she begged Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him and I will take care of the body.”
Blinded by her tears and consumed with grief, she hadn’t recognized that it was, in fact, Jesus she was speaking with. But then she heard His voice.
Jesus said to her, “Mary!”
She turned to look at Him more closely and exclaimed, “Rabboni!” (which is Aramaic for “Teacher”).
“Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus said. “Go tell My brothers that I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.”
Mary met up with several of the other women and went to tell all the disciples what had happened. Along the way, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Yes, rejoice!”
The women fell at His feet and worshiped. Then Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid. Tell My brethren I’ll meet them in Galilee.”
However, when the women had told the whole story to the disciples, they wouldn’t believe them. It sounded like a fairy tale.
That afternoon, two of them were heading to their home in Emmaus, a village about seven miles from Jerusalem.
They talked over the bizarre events of the week and tried to make sense of this new report from the women. Jesus came up alongside them, but for some reason they didn’t recognize Him.
“What is all this I hear you talking about?” He asked. “And why are you so sad?”
One of the two, whose name was Cleopas, answered Him, “Have You not been around Jerusalem this weekend? Haven’t you heard the news?”
“What news?” Jesus inquired.
So they poured out the details. “We’re talking about Jesus of Nazareth. He was a tremendous prophet whose teachings and miracles were praised all over the country. We really thought He was going to be the One to deliver Israel from oppression, but the chief priests and our rulers had Him condemned to death. He was crucified just three days ago.
“But that’s not all! Earlier today, some women we know went to the tomb; and, well, You’re not going to believe this, but they said that some angels appeared and told them that Jesus was alive. A couple of the guys ran to check it out; and sure enough, the tomb was open and empty, but they never saw Jesus.”
“Oh, you just don’t get it, do you?” Jesus remarked. “You just can’t wrap your minds around what the prophets have been saying down through history. Didn’t they state clearly that the Messiah would first suffer and then enter His glory?”
For the next few miles, Jesus explained the Scriptures to them from Moses to Malachi, highlighting every passage which pointed to Him.
They were nearly home, and Jesus indicated that He would be traveling on. They begged Him to join them for dinner, saying, “Please, won’t You stay with us? It is nearly evening already.”
So Jesus accompanied them into the house. During the meal, He picked up the bread, blessed and broke it, and handed each of them a piece. At that moment their eyes were opened and they recognized that it was Him. In that same moment He vanished from their sight.
“Unbelievable!” one exclaimed. “Did you feel what I felt along the road as He explained the Scriptures?”
“Yes, it was like my heart was on fire!”
They couldn’t contain themselves. They hurried out and retraced their steps all the way back to Jerusalem to find the other disciples. Most of the disciples, plus a few others, were gathered together, doors tightly bolted shut for fear of what the Jewish leaders might do next.
The two from Emmaus were ushered in. They could hardly keep themselves from shouting, “It’s true! The Lord is really alive! He appeared to Simon and now to us!”
They went on to describe the remarkable conversation along the road and that amazing moment when they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread.
Suddenly, while they were all discussing these extraordinary reports, Jesus Himself entered the room, but not through the door. He just appeared in the middle of the room.
“Shalom!” He said, “Look, it is really Me!” He showed them the scars where the nails had penetrated His skin.
They were all terrified, thinking that it was a ghost or apparition.
“Really,” Jesus assured them, “you can touch Me; I’m real. A spirit wouldn’t have flesh and bones, would it?”
They couldn’t believe their eyes. But they couldn’t deny what they were seeing.
Then Jesus said, “Have you got anything to eat here? I’m hungry.” So they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and some honeycomb. He ate it and they watched in wonder at the sight. Then He rebuked the men for not believing the reports the women had brought earlier in the day.
Thomas, also called Didymus, wasn’t at this gathering; and when the rest of them reported about Jesus’ appearance, he stated categorically that he wouldn’t believe until he had personally put his finger through the nail print in Jesus’ hands and stuck his hand in the place where the spear had pierced Jesus’ side. He was in for a surprise eight days later when they were all together again. Just like the last time, with the doors fastened securely, Jesus appeared right in the middle of the room.
He motioned to Thomas, “Come, friend. Put your finger here,” He said, stretching out His hands. “Stick your hand in My side if you want to. Whatever it takes, be done with unbelief!”
Thomas melted. “My Lord and my God!” was all he could say.
Jesus addressed him again, saying, “Thomas, now that you can see for yourself, you believe. Blessed are all who believe even though they haven’t seen what you have.”