By Timothy Kretzmann
Jesus was dead. By Friday night all of the disciples were together again in a secret room in Jerusalem. They were shattered men. Their world had come crashing down around them. Their master was dead. Their dreams of His triumph and of His kingdom were in ashes. His death had left a void that it seemed nothing could ever fill.
All day Saturday- the Sabbath– they stayed locked away in their secret room in Jerusalem. The shutters were pulled shut over the windows, and the door closed tight and locked. A heavy gloom filled the room. Over and over the scenes from their Last Supper with Him played in their minds. His words and eyes full of a sadness that they could feel now, but then they were only dimly aware of. Then he had washed their feet. He had washed their feet! Like a servant! And later they had walked through the dark and quiet streets of Jerusalem, out of the city gates, and down to the Garden of Gethsemane. That’s where the soldiers had come to take Him and they ran. They ran and left Him behind, alone to be dragged off by the soldiers. Oh for the chance to live that moment over again; to at least stay and be taken with Him, or to fight as best they could and to die in the garden trying to protect Him. Anything-Anything– would be better than sitting in this dark room knowing that the last thing they had done was run, leaving Him alone to die a cruel, heartless death.
For the women there it was perhaps a little easier. Of course they were very sad as well, but at least they had meals to prepare and serve and other household tasks to while the sad hours away. And all of them, as devout Jews, had the duties of the Sabbath to perform. But the women were conscious of another task that fell upon them.
After Jesus had been taken from the cross on Friday there had not been time to properly prepare his body for burial because sundown marked the beginning of the Sabbath, and such tasks could not be done on the Sabbath. So during the day Saturday they made plans to return to the tomb at first light on Sunday.
And so it was that at dawn on Sunday morning, a small group of women tiptoed out of the house, wrapped in their cloaks and crept into the streets of Jerusalem. Whispering occasionally among themselves, they made their way through the streets of the city, just as the light from the rising sun was beginning to touch the domes and pinnacles of the tallest buildings. Then, just as they were going through the gates of the city toward the garden that held the tomb where Jesus was laid, they remembered the stone. There was a stone that was so big that it took four Roman soldiers to roll it into place to seal the tomb. How were they going to roll it away? But since they were almost there, they continued on.
Soon they entered the garden with the first rays of the morning sun. The dew glistened like jewels on the branches of the trees in the stillness of dawn. Everything, even the birds, was perfectly still. It was almost as if the whole world was holding its’ breath. The women moved forward, their hearts beating faster, around a corner and up a little hill, and then they could see the tomb. The stone was rolled away, and the rays of the early morning sun streamed into the open tomb. The women fearfully clung together as they came to the tomb, and entered the outer chamber. From here they could look into the inner chamber where Jesus’ body had been laid. It was empty! Startled, they spun around, for they felt a presence behind them. And there were two dazzling angels, so bright they could barely even see their faces. One of them spoke saying, “Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen: remember how he told you in Galilee, saying that He must be delivered up into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
Fear and awe moved the women to panic. As one, they fled from the tomb, their long garments flying about them. They rushed out of the garden, into the city gates, through the streets. Breathless and terrified they burst into the room where the disciples were gathered. They stammered out their astonishing tale: The stone was rolled away, the tomb was empty; they had seen angels! But they had not seen Jesus for He was not there. The angels said He has risen!
Most of the disciples didn’t believe a word of it. But there was a glimmer of light in the eyes of Peter at the tidings the women had brought. He thought, “Could it be…? Could it possibly be…?”
He slowly stood up, and John stood with him. A sign passed between them. They ran from the house into the street, through the streets and out the city gate, down the hill toward the garden. At a distance, Mary Magdalene followed.
John easily outran the older and heavier Peter, so was first to arrive at the tomb. Sure enough, the stone was rolled back. The tomb was open. He stopped and looked in, but some fear of the unknown kept him from going in. Behind him he heard Peter coming. He turned and gave him a vague gesture of astonishment. Peter knew no such hesitation, and rushed right into the tomb, and on into the inner chamber. There he saw that the stone slab where Jesus had been laid was empty, and that His burial linens were neatly folded and lying on the slab. Without a word, they turned and ran to tell the others.
At the entrance to the garden they passed Mary Magdalene. She watched them run by, their eyes staring and their mouths agape, and walked slowly to the empty tomb. She stepped inside the outer chamber, and there, leaning against the wall, the tears that she’d been holding back poured out. After a time she looked up, and there on the slab where Jesus’ body had been laid were two angels. One of them spoke very gently, “Woman, why do you weep?”
“Because,” she sobbed, “they have taken away my Lord and I don’t know where they have laid Him.”
Then she turned and stumbled from the tomb into the sunlight. There was another figure there; but because of her tears and the sun behind him she couldn’t see, nor did she greatly care who it was, but took him to be the gardener of this place. He spoke to her. “Woman, why do you weep? Who are looking for?”
“Sir,” she replied, “if you have taken him somewhere, tell me where you have laid him and I will take him away.”
There was a long pause. Then He said, “Mary.”
“Master!” she breathed, for she knew instantly that it was Jesus; she fell on her knees and reached out to Him.
“Touch me not,” he said, “For I have not yet ascended to my Father. But go, and tell the others that I will come to them.”
Later He did appear to them and said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to observe all things I have told you and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. ”
And the disciples began to see that the emptiness they had felt would be filled with that part of Jesus that did not die, and could never die. That light which he came to give the world began to grow ever brighter in them until they became more and more like Him, giving that light to all who would receive it. And in this they were filled.
For further inspiration:
Go on musical pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and into your own soul: “Christ Lives.”
The World Brotherhood Choir has won numerous musical awards including the Adelaide Ristori Award, the Presidential Cup, and First Prize in the National Festival of World Peace. In 1989 they sang for Pope John-Paul II at the Vatican.
In the tradition of Handel’s Messiah, Christ Lives is a contemporary Oratorio that vividly brings to life the deep meaning of Christ’s life. Composed after Swami Kriyananda visited the Holy Land in 1983, Christ Lives brilliantly captures the profoundly inspiring and uplifting experience that Kriyananda felt as he traveled in the footsteps of Jesus. Moved to share that inspiration with the world, Kriyananda composed this Oratorio, already considered by many to be a contemporary masterpiece.
What Others Are Saying:
“I was touched by the music and felt a great sense of wonder. I think the program is beautifully put together.”
—Bishop Patrick Ahern, Blessed Sacrament, New York
“It would be almost impossible to describe how moved I was by the experience of Christ Lives. The music was tremendously compelling.”
—Reverend Judy Sherman, Unity Church Seattle