I clung to Mary Magdalene as a tremor of fear rippled through us both. The earth shook beneath our feet again, and the eerie silence of the early hour intensified our fearful response. Our hearts ached with Jesus’ death, robbing us of sleep over the past two nights, so we had agreed to visit the tomb together even as the sun was just peeking over the hillside.
The last time the earth shook like this, Jesus had taken his final breath, and unbelievable events had occurred. The temple curtain had ripped in half, and many of our dead had risen from their graves! Even as we mourned our teacher’s passing, we rejoiced to see dear friends who had followed him, whom we had buried, now walking and talking as if they’d never died. Why had God valued their lives more than that of his own son?
As the tremors ended, I focused my eyes on the entrance area of the tomb, where several Roman guards stood next to the large stone. Would they roll it aside for us to tend to the body? Neither of them looked approachable or amenable to acting on such a request from two ragged women. We should have waited until it was fully day.
As I approached the man closest to us, the tomb suddenly lit up with a brilliant light. We shielded our eyes with our hands at the blinding radiance.
Mary gave a little cry beside me as I realized the light shone out of a man-like figure standing between the guards and us. He was dressed in white from head to toe, and his face glowed like a suspended flash of lightning.
My jaw dropped as we both stood paralyzed with fear and watched him roll away the massive stone as if it were nothing. He then nimbly hopped up to sit on it.
My heart pounded against my chest as we watched the guards fall to the ground, one by one. Had they died? Would we be next? I gripped Mary’s arm so hard that I knew she’d have bruises there if we survived this. I could feel her trembling, but I couldn’t look away from the mystical creature that sat before us.
“Don’t be afraid,” he said.
The heavenly sound of his voice flowed into my soul, and I instantly felt lighter. Despite the shaking earth, the possibly-dead guards, and the appearance of this supernatural man sitting before us, my spirit obeyed, and I was no longer afraid. This was about Jesus. In my heart, I had known this couldn’t be the end. I leaned in to hear his words even though his voice was loud and strong.
“I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified.”
We both nodded mutely.
The angelic creature gestured to the open doorway to the tomb. “Your Messiah isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen.”
Mary and I looked at each other then. She mirrored my wide eyes and open mouth. Jesus was alive?
The angel moved to the doorway of the tomb. “Come, see where his body was lying.”
I forced my feet into action and pulled Mary with me to the entrance to cautiously peek in. Empty—it was empty! There was no smell of death, no body wrapped in cloth. But we had watched Joseph lay him there! Where was he? How could this be?
Too scared to ask the glowing creature standing behind us, his grin stretching from ear to shining ear, I looked at my companion. “Where is he?” I hissed.
Mary’s eyes were still big and round. She lifted a shoulder in response and turned toward the stranger, taking me with her since our arms were tightly linked.
He spoke again with authority, “Now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there.”
As the edges of his body seemed to shimmer and become transparent, he said, “Remember what I have told you.” And then he was gone.
Mary’s fingernails were now boring into my arm as she tried to order words into a sentence, but they came tumbling out in a heap. Words like: Jesus. Gone. Empty. The tomb. Questions including What? How? Where?
“We have to tell the others!” I cried. “They will never believe it, but we have to tell them—Jesus is alive!”
We joined hands and danced, leaping in the air with energy we shouldn’t have had after two sleepless nights.
“Come on!” Mary laughed, “Let’s tell everyone!”
Then her face grew serious as she looked to the rock where God’s messenger had sat and pointed beyond it to the guards as they rose slowly with fear and anger written on their faces.
“Trouble is not finished here. We must not delay sharing this amazing news!”
We hurried off to the shouts of the guards, demanding we return with an explanation. Our hearts pounded as we pushed our legs to run as fast as we could.
When we had put some distance between us and the tomb, we stopped to catch our breath. The guards had not pursued us.
Bent over as I was, the first thing I saw was his feet. They still bore the wounds from the nails that had secured him to the cross. My increased heartbeat was no longer due to exertion. I stood up so suddenly that I swayed.
Mary’s head snapped up.
“Don’t be afraid!” he said, his warm, familiar smile in place.
We both fell at his feet and worshiped him. The Messiah was alive, and he was there! There in front of us!
After a few minutes of fellowship, Jesus repeated the angel’s message to us: “Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.”
“We will, Lord!” we both said at once, then looked at each other and laughed. But when we looked around, Jesus was gone.
We ran giggling and crying with joy toward town. God chose us! We saw Jesus first, and he chose US to be his messengers! Praise be to God; Jesus has risen! He is risen, indeed.
As we read the accounts of Jesus’s death and resurrection in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we read different details in each one. This retelling is based on the story told in Matthew 28. Were there more women present? Was Mary Magdalene actually alone? If we get hung up on these questions, we miss the main point of the story:
God’s plan of salvation was complete. Jesus died as a punishment for our sins, and then He rose again to give us life. When we ask Him to become the Lord of our lives, repenting of our wrongdoings and selfish behavior, we become children of God—part of His family.
The Easter story is the pinnacle of our faith. We now have meaning and purpose in our lives because Jesus became a man and died for us. Because of the events in this story, we can have a personal relationship with a God who loves us and cares about everything we care about. We have hope for our future—eternal life with Him!
I thank You, Father, that Jesus’ resurrection brings us life. Move into my heart and resurrect it with a new awakening of Your love! Thank You for being the Way, the Truth, and the Life! Praise be to God; Jesus has risen! He is risen, indeed.
If you haven’t yet given your heart to Jesus, what better time than on Easter! He is ready to welcome you into the family.
Happy Easter, friends!