Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 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.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.
On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:1-31
I wake in the same spot where last night I sat and watched Joseph of Arimathea lay Jesus’ body in the grave, and where I wept and prayed and wept some more. The sun has not yet risen and the air has a slight chill, though I wonder if the chill I feel is more from grief than the morning darkness.
I look across at the grave of my Savior expecting to see the Roman guard still standing watch over the tomb. And yet…
Is it the darkness? The sleep in my eyes? The longing of my soul?
The Roman guard is gone and the stone is moved, the mouth of the tomb a gaping wound once more in the face of the rocks. What happened while I dozed? What have the Pharisees done now? Wasn’t His pain, His suffering, His death enough for them?
I take shaky breaths and make my way through dew-covered grass and across roughened gravel paths hoping to take a closer look. I want to make sure my eyes aren’t playing tricks on me and when I near the heavy stone I see they are not – the stone that yesterday was sealed and guarded by the Roman soldiers indeed has been rolled away. I can feel my heart, each beat pumping anxious uncertainty through me. My hands shake.
I want to examine the tomb, but do I dare? It is eerie quiet and I’m afraid what I will see if I duck my head inside, into the darkness inside.
There is movement closer to the tomb and I stop and watch Mary and the other women as they discover the rolled away stone. Leaving the others behind, Mary runs out of the garden and is swallowed by the morning mist as the sun rises, setting the garden aglow with its red and orange hues.
These women, these strong, fiercely loyal followers of Jesus who have not fled or hidden or betrayed or abandoned, engage in whispered conversations. Though I do not hear their words, I hear their passion for this King they seek to anoint.
Behind me I hear the sound of running feet, pounding along the road to the garden tomb. John and Peter break through the trees draped in the colors of dawn only to stop short at the open mouth of the tomb.
Mary joins the other women and the group embraces, a tangle of arms and hair and tears, hands clutching spices for the Savior. Tears spill from my eyes and my own breath is ragged as I inch to the entrance of the grave. My eyes rest upon the abandoned burial linens that look as if the body of Jesus simply evaporated, not like someone came and took His body away.
Where are you? I ask the empty darkness, because this isn’t how this is supposed to work. Where have you gone?
Peter and John leave, offering no words to any of us. The women watch them go but turn their eyes back to the grave. Like they did at the cross, they stay. Mary stays. She mourns and she weeps, and I can see her heart breaking into pieces. Like my own. Broken shards of my heart pierce each breath. The weight of His death made ever greater by His absence – He is gone; the tomb is empty.
But when I look again, it is not empty.
Instead there are two men sitting where Jesus was lain by Joseph. I hear them speak, their voices deep and thunder-loud. They don’t understand our tears; clearly they know something we do not. My head aches as much as my heart as I sift my thoughts and these circumstances for possible explanations.
Beside me, I sense movement. I see a figure out of the corner of my eye moving toward her. Toward me.
And, then, there He is, standing there. I can barely breathe and I cannot take my eyes take off of Him. I want to throw myself into His arms, but something in His eyes discourages me from doing so. It’s a look unfamiliar to me and I tremble.
In the face of my confusion and Mary’s grief, His eyes overflow with tenderness and love, His face more familiar now. He speaks her name; He speaks my name. His voice a whisper that brushes each of my senses, and I know. I see Him as He truly is. I see Him in Truth and in Light.
If ever a moment were worthy of a hallelujah, this is it. Jesus stands here, raised from the dead. Two days ago, I saw Him crucified on the cross. Today, He stands beside me talking to me like He did only days ago. As if we are not standing outside the tomb where He was buried.
His eyes lock with mine and joy wracks my soul as much as my sobs did yesterday. “It’s really you,” I whisper. “You’re really here.”
“It is, because I AM.”
He is everything He said He was and I marvel at it all. I wonder about it all.
Who is this resurrected Jesus? When He shows up in that locked room with the disciples, does He look like the man with whom they traveled for three years? Does He sound the same? Does He look at them the same?
Who is this resurrected Jesus? Surely, He is no longer both man and God. Surely now, He is only God. He is the risen Lord, the resurrected Savior, the one true and eternal Son of God. Soon He will breathe out the Holy Spirit on them and instruct them; He will send them out and meet them back in Galilee.
But I am still wondering at this miracle of God. This miracle that is God, that is the man Jesus raised from the dead, who is now raised and walking among those He loves.
There is so much more to learn as the disciples go forth from this place to preach the Good News and I look forward to all there is to learn from those moments. But right now, today, on this first Easter morning, I am content to sit with the disciples and stare up at this risen Jesus. I am content to sit and bask in this amazing miracle. I am content to let the joy that comes from being in His resurrected presence flow over me and through me, to sit dazzled by the sight of Him, to watch Him in wonder and to wonder.
To wonder, who is this God we serve?
To wonder, who is this God who endured all hell and humiliation and death and now is risen?
To wonder, who is this God who loves me like this?
To wonder, who is this God who is so amazing He took my place and He holds in His hands my every breath, my heart, my life.
Just like the grave could not contain Him and death could not defeat Him, words cannot describe Him.
To know Him even a little on this side of heaven requires a heart to which He can speak. A heart that He can fill with His truth and His love and himself. Only then can one begin to understand who this God is. Only then can these events come to be more than just a story, but to be life itself. New life. Redeemed life. Resurrected life. Only when we sit at His dusty feet and seek His face do we find His heart.
And like Jesus, I am resurrected today. The death and decay of this world’s worries and despair and hopelessness cannot contain me nor defeat me. I live in hope. I live in faith. I live in love. I live in Jesus.
And because of that, I cannot help but shout out, Hallelujah. He lives. Hallelujah.