89 – Appearances at the Empty Tomb
Where: Hinnon Valley, Jerusalem, Judea
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On Sunday morning, the first day of the week, at first light [around 5 am], Mary Magdalene and another woman staying in Bethany, collected the spices and other things they would need to do their duty preparing the body of Jesus. At sunrise it would have been about 36 hours since Jesus had been laid in the tomb, and at sunrise, the beginning of the third day [Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday morning].
Mary Magdalene, and the other woman who had seen the body of Jesus taken into the tomb, had agreed to meet at the western gate at sunrise. It would take Mary and her companion less than 30 minutes to walk to Jerusalem, through the city, and to the gate just north of the three towers of Herod’s palace.
Meanwhile, the women who had watched Joseph and Nicodemus roll the “door” stone into place, and who had then returned to Jerusalem to the house of the mother of Mark, knew that they could not get the stone rolled away from the “doorway”. Since they had not been able to get a message to Mary in Bethany during the Sabbath, they planned to simply “pay their respects” outside the tomb. They left in plenty of time to arrive at the west gate [model] by sunrise.
Just before sunrise [around 6 am] the two groups of women, met at the west gate. The women from Jerusalem informed Mary and the women from Bethany that after they had left on Friday, a very large stone had been rolled into place in front of the doorway to the tomb and that they had no idea how they could move it. They all agreed to continue to the tomb anyway.
As the sun broke over the hills to the east, there was another earthquake. The earthquake moved the stone door enough to allow entry [garden tomb], and a figure of a man appeared sitting on top of the stone “door” dressed in a robe as bright as the morning sun. The Roman guard passed out at the sight. Other tombs were also opened and bodies came out, and the revived persons went into Jerusalem.
When the women arrived at the tomb, they saw some Roman soldiers lying on the ground seeming to be unconscious. But they also saw that the stone “door” had been moved, and that there was now an opening in the doorway to the tomb. The man with bright clothes, sitting on the stone “door” said, ‘you seek Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified!? He is not here. He has been raised. Come and see where he was laid.’
Mary, and the women from Bethany, with more courage then the Jerusalem women, looked inside. Inside they saw another man with bright clothes, sitting on the right side of the rock shelf where Jesus’ body had been laid. The women lowered their heads. ‘Why do you look for the living here among the dead?’ the angel asked. ‘Remember how he told you this would happen? Go and tell the disciples that Jesus has been raised and will meet them in Galilee.’
Mary, and the women from Bethany, went out and briefly told the others that the body was gone and that an angel told them that The Messiah had risen, but neglected to mention that they were to go to Galilee. Then they all left the garden. Mary and the Bethany group hurried back to Bethany to tell the disciples that were there, while the Jerusalem women returned to the home of Mark.
By 6:15 am the Jerusalem women were hurrying home when Jesus appeared to them in person. He knew that Mary had not mentioned the angel’s instructions to go to Galilee and that they were so frightened that they did not intend to say anything to anyone.
Jesus greeted them. They recognized him immediately. He was just as they remembered. Jesus instructed them to tell the disciples in Jerusalem to go to Galilee and that he would meet them there. But when the women were alone again, the doubt returned and they decided to tell no one when they arrived back at the house. ‘No one would believe us anyway.’ And the disciples in Jerusalem did not receive the instruction to leave the city.
But Mary Magdalene, when she arrived in Bethany around 6:30 am, found many of the disciples were gathered. The women told what had happened and what had been said, and that they were to go to Galilee. The disciples dismissed the story as emotional nonsense. The women could not even agree with each other on the details of what “had happened”.
As the group broke up, Mary Magdalene made a special plea to Peter and John to whom she was able to speak privately. ‘I don’t understand what has happened’, she said. ‘But I do know that the body is gone, and I don’t know where it is. Please, go back with me and find out what has happened.’
Meanwhile, after the women had departed from the tomb, the guards regained consciousness. They found the stone “door” had been moved and that there was no body inside the tomb. They decided to report what they knew to their employers. So they went to the home of Caiphas and told him that they had seen the body, sealed the stone “door”, and kept watch. Then an angel had struck them down, and now the stone “door” was moved and the body gone.
Caiphas assembled his “advisors” to discuss what to do. They decided that the best thing they could do was to maintain peace, and that allowing the true story of the guards to “get out”, would cause confusion and arguments. So they paid each soldier a sizable amount of money to say that they had all fallen asleep. The “advisors” also agreed to pay off Pilate when he heard the story, because the guards knew that the penalty for sleeping on the job was death, and no amount of money was of any use if Pilate had them killed.
So Peter, John, and Mary set off from Bethany, to return to the tomb. They had to be careful. If they were recognized, the religious leaders might have them arrested. So they traveled to Bethphage, up onto the Mount of Olives, then down to the city, and through the gate, always keeping their faces down.
Once through the west gate they walked faster, past Golgotha and toward the garden and the tomb. Mary pointed out the tomb on the face of the western hill, and the men started to run. John outran Peter and around 7 am arrived first at the tomb. He bent down and looked in. He saw the ledge where the body was supposed to be, but saw only the linens.
Peter arrived, panting, and without hesitation, boldly entered. He noticed that the linens that had wrapped the body looked as though the body had just vanished and the clothes had collapsed. However the scarf that had covered the face of Jesus, lay in the correct place but, it lay rolled up off by itself. The whole thing made no sense to Peter. ‘If grave robbers had taken the body’, he said aloud to himself, ‘why not take the linens? Why would they leave the wrappings?’
Then John entered behind Peter. He saw the same things. He heard Peter ask his questions out loud. But at that moment John put together what Mary had told them, the things he had now seen, and some of the things that Jesus had said, and BEGAN to perceive that this was some sort of really significant event. He still did not understand the details, but he began to believe that Jesus had been raised.
Peter and John turned around and went back outside. When they met Mary, Peter said, ‘you were right, the body is gone’. Then Peter and John walked away from the entrance of the tomb. Seeing Mary was weeping, they told her that they would wait for her out of sight. Then they continued walking away while deep in conversation. Mary remained by the entrance of the tomb.
Mary felt troubled. She had noticed the expressions on the faces of Peter and John. Not the anger that she had expected, but instead there was confusion and concentration. What had they noticed? Mary dried her eyes and remained outside of the tomb. She was allowing herself time to grieve. She had loved Jesus as a teacher and friend, and her memories brought forth her tears again. Jesus was dead and gone.
Still weeping, Mary went to the entrance of the tomb and looked in. This time she saw two men in bright white robes. She rubbed her eyes. One sat beside where the head had been, and one sat where the feet had been on the preparation table.
‘Why are you so sad?’ asked one. To this messenger from God, she could organize only a simple response. ‘They have taken my lord and I do not know where they have put the body.’
Receiving only silence from the messenger, she turned her back to the tomb and her face toward the risen sun. In front of her she saw the form of a man surrounded by the light of the sun. He also asked why she was so sad. Thinking that maybe this was the caretaker of the tombs, she repeated her request to find the body of Jesus.
But his response electrified her to the core. Her throat constricted when she heard the man say her name. Every fiber of her being responded to his voice, and the way he spoke her name. ‘JESUS’, her mind screamed. From her throat was ripped the title she had always used. ‘Teacher,’ she gasped. He was back! He was alive! Things would be as they were before [But she was wrong. Things had changed.].
Mary reached out to touch the “Teacher” who had so changed her life that it was as though she had died and been born a new woman. But Jesus looked her straight in the eyes. ‘Mary. Do not cling to what I was. Things are not as they were, and they never will be again. Mary, tell my new brothers that I am going to be with our true Father.’ When she hesitated to leave he gently said, ‘go’. And she left and met Peter, and John, and then returned to Bethany, arriving before 8 am, and told those disciples everything.
No questions have been asked yet.