The Risen Christ and the Empty Tomb
by Jesse Lyman Hurlbut
IT WAS FRIDAY evening at sunset, only three hours after Jesus had died upon his cross, when the stone at the door of the tomb was rolled against the door, and the body of Jesus was left alone in its resting place.
All day on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, and through that night, the body lay in the tomb, watched by Roman soldiers.
But early on Sunday morning, before the sun rose, something wonderful took place such as had never been seen from the beginning of the world and never has been seen since that day.
There was a great earthquake, shaking the ground around the tomb, as an angel from heaven came down. His face and his form shone with dazzling brightness like lightning, and his clothing was white as snow glittering in the sun.
The soldiers on guard trembled as they saw the angel, and fell down on the ground as if they were dead; and after a little while rising up, crept away in their fear, and left the garden.
The bright angel laid his hand on the stone at the door of the tomb, paying no attention to the seal upon it, and rolled the stone away.
As he stood at the open door of the tomb, the Lord Jesus Christ walked out from it, no longer dead but living, and living never to die again.
The grave clothes were not now wrapped around his body, and the napkin had been taken from his face.
If the Roman soldiers were still there, they could not see Jesus, for a change had come over him, and he was now seen only by those whom he wished to see him and by no others. And he could suddenly appear and disappear as he chose.
He could be seen suddenly in one place, and then a moment after could be seen just as suddenly in another place miles and miles away.
He could pass through closed doors just as if they were wide open; and after being seen by his friends could vanish out of their sight.
A few moments after the earthquake, and after the risen Christ had come from his tomb, a few women came from the city to the tomb, bringing some more spices and perfumes to place around his body.
Those women were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the wife of Clopas, and Salome, and a woman named Joanna, and perhaps others. They may have felt the earthquake shock, but they did not know the wonderful things that had taken place, and supposed that the body of Jesus was in the tomb.
As they came near, they said to each other:
"Who will roll away for us the great stone at the door of the tomb?"
But when they came to the tomb, they found the stone already rolled away, and the tomb open.
Mary Magdalene came a little before the others, and was the first to see that the tomb was open, and looking inside she saw that it was empty. She took but one glance, and then, without waiting for the others, ran away to tell some of the disciples of Jesus that the tomb had been opened and the body of Jesus taken away, for she did not know that Jesus had risen and was living.
A moment after Mary Magdalene had gone away, the other women came to the tomb. They, too, saw that the stone had been rolled away, the tomb was open and the body of Jesus was not there.
But these women saw what Mary Magdalene had not seen, a young man with shining face and long white robe, seated on the right side of the place where the body of Jesus had been laid.
They were frightened as they looked upon him, for this young man was the angel who had rolled away the stone. But he calmed their fears, saying to them:
"Do not be afraid, you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified.
He has risen; he is not here! Look! this is the place where his body was laid; and you can see it is empty! But go, find his disciples, and Peter, and tell them that he will go before you into Galilee, to the mountains. There they will see him, as he said to them before he died."
So these women, like Mary Magdalene only a few minutes before, went away from the tomb to find some of the disciples. They found Peter and John, and told them the news that the angel had given to them.
Peter and John at once hurried to the tomb. John was younger than Peter, and came to the tomb first.
He saw the stone rolled away and the tomb open, and stood at the door, hesitating, uncertain whether to go into the tomb or not. But Peter, who came a moment afterward, did not hesitate. He rushed past John into the tomb, and saw that it was empty.
It was like John, the thoughtful one, to wait at the door of the tomb; and it was like Peter, the quick and hasty one, to rush straight into the tomb.
After Peter walked into the tomb, John followed him inside. They saw that the grave-place was empty; but they saw no angel. John noticed that the grave-clothes were lying in a heap on the floor, just as if Jesus had slipped out of them, without unrolling the long bands; and that the napkin which he had seen bound about his face had been carefully folded and was lying by itself. All these things showed that the body had not been taken away suddenly or in haste.
Peter, the excitable, was not a thinker, and just looked at these things and wondered. But John, the thoughtful disciple, looked at these things--the stone rolled away with its seal broken, the empty tomb, the grave clothes in an orderly pile, and the napkin folded carefully.
Then it flashed upon his mind for the first time that his Lord had risen alive from the tomb!
And at that moment came to him the words of Jesus spoken more than once, that he must die, and on the third day would rise again from death to life.
Of all the eleven disciples of Jesus--for now that Judas was dead, they were no longer twelve, but eleven--John, the disciple whom Jesus loved the most, was the first one to believe that Jesus had risen, and he believed it before he had seen his living Lord.
As yet no one had seen Jesus living. Two disciples had looked into the empty tomb, and the women, except Mary Magdalene, had seen the angel, but none of them had seen Jesus; and all of them, save Mary Magdalene, went away, wondering and scarcely knowing what to think.