Jesus had given up His life for the sins of the world and was buried in tomb cut out of a great rock in a garden. On the third day after His death, a Sunday, three women walked quietly in the early morning hours as the sun began to rise. Mary Magdalene, Salome, and another Mary, who was the mother of Jesus’ disciple, James, brought some perfume to put on Jesus’ body
As they walked, they began to wonder how they might actually get inside the tomb. “Who will roll the heavy stone away from the entrance for us?” they asked each other. “Even the three of us together are not strong enough and the guards will not be willing to do it for us.”
But just as they reached the tomb, the ground began to shake. The three women looked at each other in fear. It was an earthquake. An angel, His clothes shining like lightning, came down from heaven and rolled the stone away. He sat on the stone as the terrified guards shook with fear and fainted.
“Don’t be afraid,” the angel told Salome and the two Marys. “Why do you look in a tomb for someone who is alive? Jesus rose up again, just like He said He would.”
The angel pointed into the tomb so they could see inside. “Look! That’s the spot where His body was lying. Now hurry up and tell His disciples the good news. I came to tell you that Jesus is on His way to Galilee. Go there quickly so you can see Him.”
Deliriously happy, yet still frightened and shocked, the women tripped and stammered as they turned around and ran to tell Jesus’ disciples what had happened.
When they arrived at the house where the disciples were staying, Mary Magdalene stumbled forward. She could barely speak as she tried to wrap her thoughts around what they had just seen and heard. Still confused about it all, she told Peter and John, “They have taken Jesus…He’s not in the tomb…I don’t…I don’t know where they put Him.”
Peter and John leapt to their feet and started running toward the tomb. They were neck and neck until they had almost reached the entrance, then John sped ahead of Peter. Collapsing against the rock as he caught his breath, John looked through the entrance at the strips of cloth that were left there.
Peter came in behind him and dashed right into the tomb. He picked up the cloths and turned to John in confusion. John followed Peter inside and he believed. They both returned to the other disciples, still not understanding that it had always been Jesus’ plan to rise from the dead.
Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene remained outside the tomb after they left. So many confusing things had happened that day that all she could do was stand there and cry. Through her tears, she peered through the tomb’s entrance again. Now she saw two angels sitting in the place where Jesus had been.
“Why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“They have taken away my Lord’s body,” was all she could explain, feeling like the world was spinning around her that morning. “I don’t know where they put Him.”
Mary turned around and saw a man standing near her. Through her tear-filled eyes, she assumed he must be the gardener.
“Why are you crying?” He asked. “Who are you looking for?”
“Please, sir,” she sobbed. “Do you know where they have taken Him?”
“Mary!” He called to her.
At that moment, the fog lifted from Mary’s mind. She could finally understand what she had been told that morning, for the man standing in front of her was not the gardener, but Jesus, Himself.
“Rabbi!” she exclaimed with delight.
“Now go back to My disciples,” Jesus told her. “Tell them you have seen Me this time.”
But as Jesus’ followers ran back and forth across Jerusalem that first Easter Sunday, trying to describe the indescribable, the Roman soldiers who had recovered from their faint wasted no time in going directly to the leaders of the temple.
The chief priests paid the soldiers to spread a rumor that Jesus’ disciples came during the night and stole His body while they were asleep. Falling asleep on the job meant death for a Roman soldier, but the priests said they would explain to the governor that this was just a rumor. The soldiers would have nothing to worry about and many people would believe the story.