It is a Sunday evening. You are lying in bed, reviewing the events of the past few days, and wondering if they will be coming for you. You have remained outside of Jerusalem since Friday, cutoff from all the activity of the city. After all, this has been a trying time for you. For the last two years you have been following an itinerant Galilean preacher named Jesus. Your Judean friends have found this curious, and the teasing has had more bite than in the past. “A Galilean,” they say. “What could you hope to learn from a Galilean. Follow a Pharisee. They have been well trained, and most of them come from better stock.”
Still, though you did not follow Him constantly, the way your young friend Daniel did, whenever He was in Jerusalem, you were there. A week ago now Jesus returned to Jerusalem. Even though it was feast time, there was some question as to whether He would come. The Sanhedrin has been seeking an opportunity to seize Him, and coming back to Jerusalem would likely provoke them into action. Especially when He came into the city with people ringing with praises for Him. This only infuriated the leaders more, especially when He told them that if the people were silent, the rocks would cry out.
The week following that entry is a blur. Various groups confronted him on more than one occasion. Each time He answered them in a way that did not allow them to accuse Him of anything. But this only increased their rage. And unknown to anyone, except possibly Jesus Himself (didn’t He seem to know what the disciples were doing before they themselves did), Judas (one of the twelve!) began to plot with the Sanhedrin against Jesus. Rumor has it the price was thirty pieces of silver. Of course, it does Judas no good now, as in shame he hung himself.
It was Friday morning. Daniel came running to meet you as you headed into Jerusalem. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Last night, we celebrated the Passover. Jesus was with the twelve in the upper room, and apparently said some pretty heavy things. Then, we all went together to the Mount of Olives and He went off with Peter, James, and John. They returned just as the Romans were coming up the hill. Judas was leading them! He kissed Jesus, but I’m sure it was just a way of marking Him for the Romans. Anyway, Jesus spoke to the soldiers and they all fell down. Peter cut off the ear of one of the servants, but Jesus healed Him; one of those who had come to arrest Him! We all scattered, and Jesus went with them. This morning Pilate wanted to let Him go, but the crowds demanded His crucifixion, and asked that Barabbas be released instead. They are taking Him to Golgotha with two others to be crucified. I wanted you to know that it may not be safe for His followers now.”
You spent some time with Daniel, trying to gather as many facts as possible, but there isn’t really much more he knows. He says he is going to hide, and recommends you do the same. He had been so sure Jesus was the Messiah; now he is heartbroken. He bids you farewell, and the tone in his voice indicates he doesn’t expect to see you again. Even so, you went to Golgotha. There you saw the horror, as Jesus suffered. Shortly after you arrived, the day turned black, and for three hours you waited. You thought maybe Jesus would come out of the darkness with a heavenly army and destroy all those who put Him there and restore the land. Instead, shortly after the darkness cleared, He breathed His last. A few times, you think He spoke, but you stayed far enough back that whatever it was, you couldn’t hear Him.
It was first with anger, then with amazement, that you saw Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimethea come and take Him from the cross. Rumor among the disciples says that Nicodemus had come to Jesus once at night, to question Him, but Joseph? Joseph was a rich man, a member of the Sanhedrin that, as far as you know, had no previous association with Jesus. Why should they be the one’s to care for Him. But then you realized that none of His disciples were there, except John and a few of the women, and that Nicodemus and Joseph were risking a lot to show their sympathy with Jesus at this time. So you followed and watched as they prepared Him for burial. You also saw as they put Him in a new tomb, one probably intended for Joseph Himself. And then, as the Romans sealed the tomb, you felt the stone roll across your heart as well.
You awake with a start early Monday morning at the pounding on your door. In your mind, you already know it is the Romans come to round up Jesus’ followers and put a final end to His ministry by killing all who supported it. Still, you go to the door. If Nicodemus and Joseph were willing to risk what they had, then you are willing to be numbered with Jesus' followers as well. To your surprise, it is Daniel, and there is a light in his eyes you thought had been forever extinguished. You let him in, and his first words are, “He’s alive!” You tell him to calm down and you fix a pot of coffee and ask Him to explain.
“It all started yesterday morning. A bunch of the women went to the tomb to give Jesus a proper burial. They had seen where Joseph had taken Him, and they wanted to make sure He had been properly carried for, since Joseph and Nicodemus were in a hurry to complete the work before sundown and the beginning of the Sabbath. Anyway, what happened was this:
Luke 24:1 BUT on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel; 5 and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? 6 “He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, 7 saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” 8 And they remembered His words, 9 and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. 11 And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. (NASB) – See also Matthew 28:1-10 and Mark 16:1-8
Daniel pauses, looks at his cup, and continues, "I mean, we all saw Him do some miraculous things, but to rise from the dead! Anyway, Mary convinced Peter and John to go look. I think the other women had gone to find the other disciples. John was ahead of Peter, but stopped outside.” At this point you interrupt, knowing Peter's personality, and say, “But Peter just charged right in.” “You better believe it,” Daniel answers. "But stop interupting me. Okay, let me start over.
John 20:1 NOW on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. 2 And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” 3 Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they were going to the tomb. 4 And the two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter, and came to the tomb first; 5 and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. 6 Simon Peter therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed. 9 For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. 10 So the disciples went away again to their own homes. (NASB) – See also Luke 24:12
“Now let me get this straight, your saying that Jesus not only rose from the dead, but that He, or an angel, took the care to roll up the face cloth? I’ve got to believe Mary’s instinct was right, that in fact the Romans or the Pharisees had taken the body.”
“You're interupting again. Let me finish. Sure, that seems more reasonable, but for what reason would they do it? What could they hope to gain unless they were going to publicly display the body? But they haven’t, and there’s more. See, Mary didn’t leave with Peter and John, but stayed by the tomb:
John 20:11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; 12 and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” 14 When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her. (NASB) – See also Mark 16:9-11
“Mary has seen Him! Come on, Daniel. I went to the crucifixion. I saw Him die. The soldier stuck a cross in His side. Sure, He raised Lazarus, but Himself? And if He could do that, if He has that kind of power, why did He let them kill Him in the first place?”
“Look, just give me a chance to tell you all I know. I don’t know that I can answer all your questions now, but I’m sure that before Jesus is done, we’ll understand. He’s already started to explain … Wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Next, He showed Himself to the other women:
Matthew 28:9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me.” (NASB)
“We have word that around this time the guards were reporting that the body was missing. The leaders bought them off, which should indicate to you that the leaders didn’t take the body. Apparently they’ve guaranteed them safety. What I heard was:
Matthew 28:11 Now while they were on their way, behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, 13 and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ 14 “And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.” 15 And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day. (NASB)
Daniel finally takes a sip of his drink. After a long moment, he looks at you. "I thought it was all over, but now? I haven't even told you the best part. A couple of the disciples were escaping the city, heading to Emmaus, when a stranger joined them:
Luke 24:13 And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they were conversing with each other about all these things which had taken place. 15 And it came about that while they were conversing and discussing, Jesus Himself approached, and began traveling with them. 16 But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. 17 And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 And one of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” 19 And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him up to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. 21 “But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. 22 “But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive. 24 “And some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.” 25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 “Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. 28 And they approached the village where they were going, and He acted as though He would go farther. 29 And they urged Him, saying, “Stay with us, for it is getting toward evening, and the day is now nearly over.” And He went in to stay with them. 30 And it came about that when He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. 32 And they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” 33 And they arose that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found gathered together the eleven and those who were with them, 34 saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon.” 35 And they began to relate their experiences on the road and how He was recognized by them in the breaking of the bread. (NASB) – See also Mark 16:12-13
You sit astonished. How could you not have seen that the Messiah was going to suffer for His people? And what must it have been like for them to have seen Him, to have talked to Him, and to again have Him explain the Scripture. You look at Daniel, who now only sits and smiles.
“Okay, what else has happened?”
Luke 24:36 And while they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst. 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. 38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 [And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.] 41 And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 And they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; 43 and He took it and ate it before them. (NASB) – See also John 20:19-25
“Then He’s really alive. Not just a spirit, but a body.”
“Yes. Thomas wasn't there, and has his doubts. At least what I heard was:
John 20:24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (NASB)
“But you know His love for Jesus, it won’t take Him long.”
So you rejoin the disciples. Then,
John 20:26 And after eight days again His disciples were inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst, and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (NASB)
Later, you will learn that Jesus also appeared to restore Peter (John 21:1-25
) and to commission the disciples (Matthew 28:16-20
; Mark 16:14-18
; and Luke 24:44-49
). And you will be there when He appears before ascending to His Father (Mark 16:19-20
; Luke 24:50-53
; and Acts 1: 4-11
How amazing the plan of God! When you stood there in the dark as Jesus died, you could not have imagined this outcome. Now you know it was your sin being punished on that cross. And your justification has been confirmed by Jesus' resurrection.
"My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought;
My sin, not in part but the whole;
Is been nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more.
Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! O my soul." (Horatio G. Spafford)