Much more than a story
The world has become so familiar with the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection that we often fail to appreciate how disturbing, challenging and frightening these supernatural events must have been to those witnessing them in first century Israel.
For me, however, the Easter story is the most important of all the stories that flow out of the pages of the Bible. In simple terms, nothing compares.
Jesus agonised on the cross for six, long hours. During the first three-hour period darkness fell over the entire land before an earthquake shattered what little peace there was; tombs filled with corpses were broke open by the tremors; and the curtain wall of the great Temple was torn from top to bottom.
When he had died, Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin and a secret follower, went to Pontius Pilate and requested Jesus’ body.
The Roman governor sought confirmation from a Centurion about Jesus’ fate. He was told a soldier had pierced the body of Jesus with a spear. The soldier also informed Pilate that Jesus was dead.
Joseph proceeded to take Jesus’ body, wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and placed it in a tomb, using a large rock to seal the entrance. As a precaution, Roman guards were placed outside the tomb to ensure it was protected from Jesus’ followers, or robbers.
Changed our world
Despite these precautions, Jesus escaped from his hole in the ground the following Sunday, revealing himself to Mary Magdelene. And as the disciple Matthew writes: ‘He is not here; he has risen, just as he said…’
Scholars say there may be a very practical reason for the Resurrection to have happened in three days.
First-century tradition held that only after three days could you be sure someone was dead. After four days, the spirit was presumed to leave the body.
How interesting that Jesus chose to show himself to Mary, when culturally women were viewed as second-class citizens; how extraordinary that Christ chose to return to the disciples just after Thomas had infamously case his doubts; and how wonderful it is that he chose to show himself to two hitherto unknown disciples on the Emmaus Road.
That first Easter changed the world forever – and it’s little wonder, for this really is the greatest thing to ever happen in our world.
Two thousand years later, we are still trying to comprehend its meaning and relevance. All I can say to that is: ‘He's alive and He has risen. Hallelujah.’