This is a true story about a single day two thousand years ago. Early in the morning a group of women neared a tomb, where they had observed the dead body of a loved one, being placed just a few days before. At that time of year, the sun arose just after six. Having observed the site, they were quite concern as to who would roll away the stone that guarded the entrance. Having observed the stone being moved in place, they knew that they lacked the strength. For their purposes, anointing the body, this would be essential.
The day before being the Sabbath and a day of rest, they had no way of knowing that the very religious leaders behind the death of their friend, had gone to the Power responsible and requested a Guard. This Guard (most likely a group of soldiers) were to make certain that the body would not be stolen by the man’s followers. They had recalled the man saying that he would rise after three days. Perhaps recalling one of the man’s followers pulling a sword when they had seized the man, they credited his followers with courage and bravery. Even at that moment, these men were behind locked doors after scattering at the moment of crisis.
Unaware of a guard ever having been posted, the women approached and were stunned to see that the stone had been rolled away. They were met by a young man in white (other accounts say an angel) who told them that the dead man was not there, but had risen…just as he had said. “Now, Go and tell his followers to meet him where he told you to meet him.”
What they did not know, nor could have known, was that sometime in the previous six hours…just after midnight…the earth shook just as it had a few days earlier. Earthquakes tend to do that; but this was something more. As if synchronized, an Angel rolled away the stone, at the precise time that the dead man rose from the grave. A split second after midnight was sufficient to fulfill the prophecy – three days meant any part of three days, it did not mean a literal and clocked 72 hours. Beside there was no sign of the Guard. When they saw the Angel, they were seized with fear and lay like dead men on the ground. They also had time to collect themselves of sorts, go to those who had placed them there, gather, meet and concoct a story should they be questioned. They needed every one of those six hours to recover and prepare.
The women, with no body to anoint, left to do what the angel had told them to do; tell his disciples. One woman remained behind. The group of women were met by the risen man while on their way. The woman remaining at the tomb, remained overcome with grief. She was assuming that the gardener or someone, had moved the body; for that is exactly what she asks of the someone she senses behind her. Upon hearing her name, she realizes it is the risen man! She is told by the risen man, the same thing that the angel had spoken: go tell his followers. She must have known where at least two of them were, for the next thing we know those two are having a foot race to see if what they were told was true. They see the empty tomb; they do not see the risen man…at that time.
To this point, there was only an empty tomb, where a dead body had been lying the day before. The guard that had fled could attest to that. Yet now there were eyewitnesses that had seen the risen man. However, all had been women and at that time, there testimony was not valid. Not even his followers believed the women. However, word is starting to spread among his followers.
Two men from Emmaus, a town about seven miles WNW of Jerusalem begin their journey home later that day. They are talking about the events of the past few days, when they are joined by another. As they continue to discuss, one of them turns to the man who joined them and ask, “Are you the only one that has not heard about the things of these past few days?” To which the man responds, “What things?” They continue and as they approach their home, they invite the other to have dinner with them, as it is getting late and the man appeared to be going further. As they sit down to eat, they ask the man to “say grace”. As he does so, suddenly they realize that this is the very man of whom they were speaking.
Though it is getting late and the return two-hour trip is uphill, they leave almost immediately. They go to a room where his followers have gathered. They are relating their story, when suddenly the risen man is in their midst.
A risen man. It takes time for the implications to sink in. A few people had been raised from the dead, some of them even by the risen man. But what sort of man is it that has power over death? Three hundred years later, the debate would still be raging as to whether this was a man or God or a God-man.
We know and have known. It is why we gather. Once a week we gather to remember the greatest day in history. It is more than just remembering, it is being in His Presence. We know from those followers and those who followed that this was fully God and fully man.
Like the newsboy on the corner shouts, “Read all about it.” We have the account which we read just a portion of each Sunday. We have just read in the services of this past week, numerous accounts of people preceding the aforementioned events telling how some of these events would unfold. This is possible because the God we worship and serve is the beginning and the end. The Alpha and Omega. He has always been. That risen man was God Incarnate. He took on flesh for us and for our salvation. How can we ignore (or be complacent) about so great a salvation?