Early predawn on the first day of the week. Some women are hurrying through the night.
It’s dark; a physical darkness matching the spiritual despair. Jesus, the great prophet from Nazareth, whom they had believed was God’s Chosen One, the promised Messiah who would deliver them from their enemies and bring about the reign of God on earth, was dead.
In those last shocking days, one of His twelve specially-selected Apostles had betrayed Him, handing Him over to the chief priests, who in collusion with the Roman imperial government had put Him to death on trumped-up charges. Even the crowd had turned on Him, stirred up by the chief priests who hated Jesus’ popularity and feared Him as a threat.
He’d been hastily taken down from the cross in the last rays of Friday so as not to desecrate the holy Passover Sabbath, hurriedly wrapped in grave-clothes and placed in the tomb a rich sympathiser had had dug for himself. They had seen the several-ton boulder rolled over the entrance. But maybe they hadn’t seen Pilate’s Roman seal placed over it, or heard about the stationing of guards. They have come to do what no-one had time for: to prepare Jesus’ body properly for burial with the sweet spices that were customary.
They are mostly quiet, but when they do talk, it’s questions. Chiefly, “how are we going to get into the tomb?”
They have no answer, but they press on regardless. They have to try.
They pass by a squad of Roman soldiers in an apparent catatonic state. Fear and bewilderment take hold: what was happening?
When they reach the tomb, an even more terrifying sight meets their eyes. There is the stone, rolled away from the entrance like it’s a chickpea being shunted around a plate, and a large man in white clothes sitting on it. This is in a day before Persil and its ilk, mind you; a day when true white was one of the most challenging colours to make and preserve. He’s shining; they describe him as “like lightning”.
The man’s very presence is terrifying. Almost every time an angel shows up on earth, the first thing they have to say is “fear not”.
The man speaks.
“Do not be afraid,” he says. “I know that you are seeking Jesus,” he says. “He is not here! He has risen, just as He said! Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”
Christ is risen…