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Stories of the Cross and Empty Tomb (Part 3)



Fragment of a recently discovered ancient diary …

(Andrew's story)


Friday


Here I sit – numb. I don’t know what to do, where to go.


I’m holed up here in a room that just last night was the scene of feasting, prayer, remembrance. But now appetite is gone, no prayer is left, and every remembrance is tainted by the horror of this day.


Jesus is dead. Crucified. Every waking moment of the last three years was alive with hope because of him. Not now.


At first meeting I figured he was Messiah. That’s what I said to my brother, Simon, right from the start. He healed the sick. He cast out demons. He preached the Kingdom of God. He raised the dead. I saw it – there’s no denying.


But there’s no denying a bloody corpse, either.


I, Andrew, saw him hoisted on the gibbet of the cross. My heart died. The sky turned black. I heard his cry. I saw his head slump forward. The soldier’s spear thrust in his side streamed blood and water. He’s dead.

We all made it back to this Upper Room, but we’re not talking – what’s there to say? My brother’s over there in the corner but we’ve hardly even acknowledged each other. What do I say to him? “Simon, I guess I was wrong – he wasn’t Messiah after all”?


It’s over.


Sabbath


It’s Sabbath, day of rest. Some rest. We’re talking, debriefing, comparing notes. It’s like scavenging in a graveyard.


The women plan to go to the grave first thing tomorrow to put further spices on the body.


But it’s too painful. I’ve seen too much already. The time may come, but it’s not now. The world outside is in turmoil – Jesus’ enemies haven’t spent all their venom yet. The women can’t be dissuaded, but I’ll stay put.


Early Sunday


Women! They’re completely hyped up. What nonsense! As if their stories could make any difference at all. Why can’t they leave well enough alone? It only increases the pain.


It’s still early – we’ve only just opened the shutters. But they’ve been out to the tomb and back already.


They say they found the tomb open, the weighty stone rolled back – the body gone. How could that be? They say they saw two men. “He’s not here,” they said, their white clothes gleaming in the early morning gloom. The women think them angels. Confused perceptions of distraught women! It’s nonsense – they’re not thinking straight.


But it was all too intriguing for Simon. He’s gone to see for himself – just up and went. Took John with him. I don’t know why they bother – they’ll find nothing.


Mid-Morning Sunday


Gloom hangs heavy in this Upper Room, undiminished.


Simon came back, slumping down in the corner, looking forward, seeing nothing, turning something over and over in his mind. His silence was taut, wound tight.


“What is it?” I said.


“I saw it,” he said, “just like the women told us – the tomb empty. Except – except there were strips of linen burial cloth lying on the stone shelf, the cloth headpiece wrapped up by itself at the top. So strange. What to make of it?” He continued to look ahead, puzzling, troubled by some meaning that eluded him.


He up and left five minutes ago. He paused in the doorway as if reconsidering, light silhouetting his form. Then he was gone, leaving the rest of us in gloom.


Early, Early Monday


I could not sit still now if I tried! All of us here have talked and talked and talked into the early hours of this Monday morning. Who knows what time it is out there! It’s pitch black – but the light has dawned for us and nothing will ever put it out.


Simon was gone for hours. But when he returned, his countenance was transformed, puzzlement gone – there was light in his eyes, strength in his voice. “I’ve seen him!” he said. What? “I‘ve seen the Lord with my own eyes!”


There was a knocking at the door.Two other friends, having returned from Emmaus, burst in, saying they, too, had seen Jesus.


The hubbub of voices rose, chasing silence from the room. Questions and words overlapped, giving voice to wonder. Once mournful friends came alive, pulling one another aside, engaging in hope-filled speculation. Excitement mounted. Surprise was tangible.


And then all was suddenly silent and still. There, in the middle of the room, stood one for whom no door had opened, no invitation been issued, from whom no greeting was expected, but who commanded every heart. There, in our midst, unannounced, stood Jesus. “Peace be with you,” he said.


Excitement turned to startled fear as we confronted the reality – we thought him a ghost.


He said, “Why are you troubled? Why do you doubt? See my hands, my feet. It’s me! Reach out your hand – you can’t touch a ghost!”


And when he saw that we still didn’t believe, for joy and amazement, he said, “Have you got anything to eat?”


And I, Andrew, gladly put into his hands again a piece of fish, like once before. He took it, gave thanks, broke it, ate it. And laughed with joy!


Gloom’s gone. Light has come. He is risen!

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Let surprise jump off history’s page. Catch your breath. Embrace his presence in wonder.

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(Recently published in The Light Magazine - March 2024)

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Photo by Pisit Heng on Unsplash

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