Luke’s Findings, Part Two
Easter Program

I have been researching to write a report to Theophilus—“the one who loves God” about the life of our Savior and Christ, but now I must elaborate for my listeners who have asked for more.
My narrative differs from Matthew and Mark’s. I write to Gentiles, so Jewish customs and practices, laws and procedures must be explained. 
Rather than re-tell what I’ve already told you in the Gospel, I’ve provided background information used to write the  Gospel.
My research led me to many people who were part of this story. 

I shared with you the beginning…Well, of Jesus’s human life since God has no beginning. He’s the promised One, foretold back in the beginning of all man.  
We all need a savior because we’ve disobeyed God’s commandments.
The Jews had been anticipating their Messiah since the beginning of time, when God promised in Eden He would send someone to “crush the head of the serpent.” 
I’ve shared how Elijah, the forerunner, came announcing His coming. John the baptizer was that forerunner. His life was snuffed out by Herod because John told Herod that he too was a sinner, needing a savior. And Herod being king did whatever he wanted. So, John was killed from Herod’s whim.

I spent much time in Ephesus listening to Mary the mother of Jesus. But she and her nephew John was such a wealth of information I must linger here for a while longer. John, after all, was one of Jesus’s disciples. 

And I again, have forgotten to properly introduce myself. I am Luke, commonly known as the Physician. And now, without any more introduction, let me begin.

I left the narrative just after His birth. Mary told of their visit to the temple. And how Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart.
Now the story continues from Mary’s perspective and John’s inserts.

Mary sighed as she continued, “Of course we went every year to fulfill the Law and celebrate Passover. Jerusalem was always crowded during this time. Everyone came. We remained with our caravan outside the city walls for the most part, but we had to present our lamb for sacrifice to the priests.
Jesus could hardly wait to go to the temple. He asked many questions about it. 
I was relieved Joseph patiently answered the questions, fore
I felt stressed—trying to keep the children with me so we wouldn’t lose them, especially as Roman officials galloped their horses through the streets, not caring who they trampled over. 
Joseph held the lamb which wasn’t cooperating either. 
Just maneuvering the crowds—all those people, bumping and jostling us,” She shook her head. “It wasn’t something I enjoyed. The crowds filled the streets. The heat heightened the smells, noise and flies.
When our turn came to present our lamb, there were rows of priests, we took our place in front of one. When the priest in front of us, received the basin from the one beside him. Joseph would slit the lamb’s neck while the priest caught the blood. He would then pass the basin to the next priest for their blood. 
During this time, the priests sang. 
I was relieved that they sang; Their singing would muffle the lamb’s last bleat.
When a basin became full, it was poured over the sin altar in the common courtyard of the people. The altar soon covered in blood, with more dripping down the sides. 
The blood was a messy business, flies were everywhere.
Once completed, Joseph swung the lamb on his shoulders to carry it back to our tent where the Passover would be completed.

You can now see, why the temple and streets were so crowded—all Jews must come to the Temple.
As we left after presenting our lamb, Jesus was not with us. I found him staring at the altar. 
I cannot describe his expression for it had a mixture of deep sadness, pain and resolution. When I called him, he joined us, reluctantly. I wondered at his expression and asked him. ‘What were you thinking?’ His response showed great foresight. ‘Do the people realize the sacrifice it must take to be acceptable to God?’
I looked back at the blood dripping on that altar and shook my head. 
Now looking back in time to what He did for me,” Mary shook her head, We can never realize what God sacrificed to make us acceptable in His sight. 

After Passover, we packed our belongings; our donkey and wagon quite loaded. The excitement of the festivities worn off. I was tired. Our caravan started for home. 
Such a relief to be getting away from all the people! I could breathe. Keeping with the caravan, especially with little ones, takes all I could do. 
I must keep the coals warm enough to start the fire for cooking at night. We constantly looked for fuel, especially with so many people traveling. Nothing was available. I sent the children to gather branches and dung as we walked, collecting enough for the evening and next morning meal. 

We traveled a day before Joseph and I realized Jesus was not with us!
I was frantic. How could I have been so busy with things not to notice him missing?
Joseph comforted me, but he, too, felt responsible.
We pulled out of the caravan and returned to the city.

Where in the big city of Jerusalem would a twelve year old boy go?
We had gone to the city markets for supplies. But now searching the streets and markets left me more in a frenzy. 
Where could he be?
Joseph suggested the temple. 
Then I remembered all his questions and how he stayed at the altar. 
We ran to the temple.

I stumbled up the stairs, not so crowded now.
Joseph grabbed and held me briefly. He whispered, ‘God knows where he is. We’ll find him.’ His calmness making me slow down.
At least on the outside. My mind still raced over what an awful parent I was!

Several rulers stood in the courtyard. 
Joseph approached one and asked if he’d seen a child of 12. Not your normal question to bother a ruler about.
He smiled and led us down a long hallway. 
We followed. 
I felt hope for the first time.

Our feet echoed on the granite hallway. 
My breathing slowed.
He paused before a huge door, pushed it open and gestured for us to enter before him.
Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, all sat around a long table.
My eye followed the table to the end, where Jesus stood. 
He was asking a question.
Joseph told me later, for I was too distraught to notice, all those important men were listening intently to his question.
In spite of the formality, I ran and crushed him in a hug. ‘Son, why have you treated us so? We’ve been searching for you!’
His answer frustrated me, but later as I considered it, it amazed me, ‘Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know I must be in my Father’s house?’

Luke interjected, “I wonder if any rulers remembered this when He started His ministry?” 
John agreed, “He left no doubt by what He said.”
Luke nodded, “An interesting lead. Sorry, go on.” 
Mary drank briefly then continued, “As we left the room, those rulers stood! 
I was too frazzled to realize it then, but later Joseph pointed it out. 
When we asked Jesus, ‘What did you talk about?’ 
Jesus shrugged, ‘How can sin only be outward, when our thoughts control what we do?’ and ‘How can God be only our God, when He created everyone? and ‘Why must the sacrifice for sin be blood?’
Questions similar  to what he had been asking Joseph and the scribe who taught the boys the Law in our small village of Nazareth. Joseph had asked, ‘So how did the rulers answer?’
Jesus shrugged. ‘They said something about the Law must be for outward actions so people can be controlled. But they didn’t really answer my other questions.’”
Luke laughed, “No wonder they stood when he left.”
Mary joined me in laughing. “Relieved Joseph. He had been trying to answer those kind of questions all Jesus’s life.”

She told of other childhood incidents that only a mother would remember. How he learned carpentry. How comforting he was when Joseph died. How he led his brothers in the business. 
Then she told how he was baptized by John the baptizer.
Mary described, “When John brought Jesus out of the water, I heard God speak from the sky, ‘This is my beloved Son, obey Him.’ Others heard only  rumbling—in a sky so bright without clouds. That alone should have caused them to wonder!”

“After such a magnificent statement from God, He went into the wilderness.
As a mother, it’s hard to let go of our sons. But God instructed from the beginning a son must leave his mother when he marries. Though Jesus never married, he still had to leave me. Of course it wasn’t all at once. But a process. Like the wedding of my cousin in Cana. I tried to instruct him when they ran out of wine. But he firmly told me, ‘his time wasn’t ready.’
So after he was baptized, when he went off by himself into the wilderness, I had to let him go. He didn’t explain himself, though I wanted to know. 

Jesus returned to Nazareth. He read the Scriptures in the synagogue and told how they were fulfilled that day.
Most did not believe. 
A reaction I had experienced many times, especially with Jesus’s Father—It should have prepared me for what was coming. But I was looking for deliverance from this world’s problems, not a companion through them.
Our people, especially the rulers, did not believe. They saw him as only Joseph’s son. 
Jesus responded to the rulers opposition, recounting how Elisha healed Naaman, the Syrian, from his leprosy—not the countless Israelites who were lepers.  And when famine came to our land, Elijah was sent to a widow in Sidon, not to his own. Nor would any prophet be accepted by his own people.
This made them furious. 
I feared for his life.” 

“And he chose his disciples. I wondered why he chose some of them.” Mary shrugged, then smiled. “But I was learning to keep my mouth shut and watch. Hard for a mother. When does a son ever outgrow his mother’s advice, even if that Son is God?” She laughed.
We laughed with her. 

At this point, Mary gestured to John. “You’d be better at retelling how Jesus chose his disciples.”
John cleared his throat. His eyes shone with enthusiasm. “We’d been fishing all night. James and I partnered with Simon. We sat in our boats mending our nets, though we’d caught nothing during the night.
The Master came walking along the beach. When He came to Simon’s boat, he got in and asked Simon to go out from the beach. Then he spoke. People gathered to listen.
When he finished, he told Simon to put the boat into deep waters and let down his nets.
Simon told him, ‘This wasn’t the best time to fish, even last night we caught nothing. But at your word, I’ll let down the nets.’
As soon as he lowered his nets, they were filled. He called us to help. We filled both boats, more than what we could hold, for the boats started to sink! 
Peter fell at Jesus’s feet, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’
I looked at James’s face. His face, though darkened by the sun, was pale. His eyes wide. I couldn’t imagine mine being any different. Who was this man who told fishwhat to do?
But Jesus said, ‘Don’t be afraid, from now on you’ll be catching men.’
We landed our boats and followed him.”

“And we witnessed such miracles.”
Luke nodded. “I’m not sure how I will select which miracles to write about…”
John added, “There were so many.”
I tilted my head in thought.  “If my emphasis is to explain Jewish things to the Gentiles, I must show why the rulers and scribes hated him enough to kill him.”
John laughed. “There were plenty of times they questioned to test him. He often criticized what they did and who they were!”
I leaned forward, “Yes, those are the times I must hear about.”

So John continued. And I wrote furiously. Enthralled by the way their hatred for him grew.
If the reader is curious, read my account with that perspective in mind.
It will make the time he allowed himself to be taken, all the more significant. 

John settled back  against the wall. “They were always there when Jesus spoke to the crowds. If not one of them, a representative for them. It was as though He drew them, just like the crowds. And he was up for any test they gave him.”
I paused in my excitement, for I did enjoy a challenge. “What did you do, Mary, during these times?”
Mary laughed. “I followed him when I could. Sometimes he led the disciples apart from the crowds, even from me.” She smiled and shrugged. “My task was over, though hard for me not to be included.”

“How did you feel as he scolded your rulers?”
John laughed, “He did more than scold. They were long past needing it. Our people knew it. But were powerless to do anything. We must obey the law, bringing our sacrifices and money to the temple, though we knew they didn’t use it well. Many were glad to hear the rulers questioned. 
“But the Master’s miracles and words were why people came. We knew He was from God and was our Messiah. Though we could never have understood what that really meant until after His Spirit came. So much of what He said, we didn’t understand until later.” John gestured to Mary, “but I didn’t answer for you.”
Mary smiled. “Though our rulers needed the rebuke, I cringed, not wanting Jesus to be hurt by them. For they did have power. And they would use it. As we later saw.”
They continued through the day sharing Jesus’s miracles and teachings. 

When we approached the end of his life, I could feel their enthusiasm lessening and a hesitancy to share.
John sighed, “There were so many times He’d predict what was going to happen. Like the Passover. The Master told Peter and I to prepare it. When we asked, ‘Where?’ He informed, ‘Enter the city where a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.’ Isn’t that a miracle in itself? Yet we didn’t question him, for we had been with him for three years.
Luke laughed, “What did you do then?”
John smiled and shrugged, “The Master said, ‘Follow him and tell the master of the house, ‘the Teacher says to you, ‘Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a room, there make ready.
“And it happened just as he said. 

“Perhaps we’d gotten used to him telling us the future that we expected it without surprise. 
“But he told much of his coming suffering, and that we could not believe. Maybe we did not want to believe. 

“At the Passover, Jesus served by washing our feet, while we argued over who would be greatest. How could we have been so clueless?” John shook his head.
“Jesus instructed, ‘I sent you out before, without money or extra cloak, but now take a cloak or even sell your cloak to buy a sword.’
Peter found two in the room and showed it to the Master. 
He said, ‘It is enough.’ Should have made us wonder why.” 
“We had so much to learn—not that we didn’t know our history, but our history all pointed to Him. Even Passover, he presented with new meaning—his blood and body…yet we didn’t understand.  Would we have done any different?” John shrugged.

“When He prayed at the Mount of Olives, He went a stone’s throw from us and fell to the ground. In agony He cried, ‘Father, if You are willing remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done.’ 
“I was alarmed. I’d never heard him pray with such intensity.
“I felt the Master’s heaviness. We all did. It brought a subdued sorrow to us.
“Coupled with the lateness of the evening, I must have dozed. For when I woke, though the night was dark, a light circled the Master. 
“A second person, an angel, ministered to him.” 
John sighed, disgustedly, “For we certainly did not. 
“Nor did we pray. 
“Instead, I slept.” 
John shook his head. “When he woke us, he asked, ‘Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray you enter not into temptation.’ 
“Soon after, soldiers came.

“Judas led them.
“Why would they be here? And why was Judas with them?
“When Judas stopped before Jesus and kissed him, Jesus said,  ‘Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’
“But I could not believe it. Not Judas. Not like this. 
“Jesus had even told us. 
“Why was I surprised?
“But the night was full of surprises—things Jesus told us would happen, but we were too busy wondering who would be the greatest in his kingdom.” Again John shook his head.

“Peter waved his sword, cutting the high priest servant’s ear off.
Jesus healed the servant and told Peter. “No more of this.” 
“He protected us—even as He was being taken.
“Peter tucked his sword away.
“At least he had tried to protect Jesus. 
“I just stood, watching. 

“Then Jesus addressed the chief priests and officers, ‘Have you come against a robber with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you didn’t lay hands on me. But this is your hour— the power of darkness.’
“I couldn’t imagine what power darkness held. But I would soon know.
“They bound and led him away like an animal!
“I followed—from a distance. 
“They took him to the high priest’s. 
“They admitted me inside his outer courtyard.
“I was known there by his servants—for bringing him his fish. 

“Peter came to the gate, but wasn’t allowed inside.
“I spoke to one of the servant girls who went to the gate, ‘Aren’t you one of this man’s disciples?’
“Peter shook his head, ‘I don’t know him.’
“I cringed. I was trying to allow him to enter, to be with the Master.
“The girl glanced at me and shrugged. 
“I nodded.
“She motioned him through the gate.
“He did not stand with me.
“The night had grown cold. 
“No moon. 
“The darkness crept over everything.
“My thoughts whirled.”

“The Master waited outside the court room, commonly used for beatings the court would demand. 
“While waiting, soldiers taunted him, blindfolding then beating him and asking, “Who hit you?” 
“Their mockery made me sick. 
“I could not watch. But heard his gasps of pain when they struck him. Each strike made me wince.

In the midst of this, another man approached Peter asking if he was one of His.
He declared, “No.”

The cousin of Malcus, the high priest’s servant whose ear had been cut off, heard and approached Peter, ‘Weren’t you in the Garden with him?’
It had been dark in the Garden, only their torches giving light. 
Peter swore his denial.
A rooster crowed. 

The Master looked at Peter. 
Peter’s shoulders slumped. He stumbled from the courtyard.
I caught a glimpse of his face as he left.
Tears already formed in his eyes.
In his fear, Peter denied him.
I understood that fear.
Most knew me for the fish I brought, not for the disciple I was. 
But I did nothing.
Yet no man could stop the evil that continued that night. 

Caiaphas, the high priest, came from his house to enter the room where court was held. They took the Master into the room. 
Soon after, Annas, the former high priest, was escorted to the court room.
What strange activity.

I had been so exhausted earlier when I’d slept in the Garden, when I could have prayed…now, I couldn’t sleep. 
What was going on here?
All those times when the rulers tried to push the Master over a cliff or stone him…surely now would be like one of those times. 
He would escape their hold.
Yet his resignation to be taken seemed to mark a different outcome. 

The Master’s prayer, its intensity and anguish, was this what he was anticipating?
My fear grew as I warmed my hands before the fire. 
I strained my ears to hear through the walls. I could not. 
But my thoughts led me many places that night. None were as bad as the heinous acts that would actually be done to him.

Soon, I recognized rulers of the Sanhedrin hurrying through the courtyard to the judgment room. Some talking enthusiastically.
They couldn’t be holding court tonight! 
The Law forbid trial at night, and not during a Feast! 
The accused was supposed to be given counsel or someone to represent him. 
Would I be asked? I cringed. What would I say? I already found excuses for why I couldn’t.

The court room door finally opened. They poured into the courtyard, taking the Master with them. They shook their heads, their voices rising over the quietness of the courtyard. “He says he’s the Son of God!”
I wanted to say, “Because He IS the Son of God.” But my tongue stuck to my mouth and my lips wouldn’t open. 

The courtyard was now empty. And quiet.
I could do nothing here. 
Not that I could do anything anywhere. 
I felt alone, helpless. Scared and hopeless. 
What would happen to the Master?
I pushed the gate open and stumbled into the street. 

The street was empty from the crowds of the day.
All Jews would be staying in their homes, as required by the Passover. Or should be, as I thought about the Sanhedrin. 
I could not return to where we had Passover. 

The Master would not be there. 

Was it too late to go back to the Garden and pray? 
But the Garden would hold too many accusations—of how I did nothing.
I did not think. I just walked.
Questions circled my mind.
What would they do to the Master?
I seethed; He had done nothing wrong.
Yet I feared. If they did this to him, what would they do to his followers?
I was confused. Wasn’t he our Messiah?
I remembered the miracles, affirmations, prophecies—All pointing to him. How could He not be the Messiah? 
So many questions.

I saw none of the other disciples—they had vanished.
Frightened like me.
I walked all night. The sun’s light finally pierced through the dismal black night. I only registered that when I didn’t trip over the cobblestone street.

Interrupting my tumbled thoughts—I heard jeering and heckling. 
Normally I avoided this street. It supported the Romans, their justice, their authority.
But my steps took me there. Curiosity didn’t draw me, dread did. My heart felt a foreboding my mind could not grasp. 

A crowd had gathered.
The street was Via Dolorosa, the street that led to the crucifixions.
I pushed my way so I could see. 

One man led the procession struggling to carry his 300 pound cross.
Jeering and heckling followed him.
He threw it back to the crowd, inciting more. 

Another man followed. He seemed to feel his shame and remained quiet.
Though the crowd still spit and taunted him.

Roman soldiers parted the crowd for a third man.
My heart stopped. 
It could not be!
The man’s head held a crown of thorns, two inches long crammed into his skin. From each thorn piercing, a rivulet of blood had poured from brow to blind him.
His beard had been ripped from his face.
He passed me. Blood covered his body where chunks of skin had been pulled from his back and chest.
Bruising had already started.

A group of women cried loudly.
The man stopped, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem…’
That voice. 
There was no doubt.
It was....
My Master. 

I could not recognize him.
The Man who healed people—gave sight to the blind, healed the deaf, made the lame walk…My Master! 
My leaders did this to him. 
I was angry. How could they?
But then my anger turned inward.  What had I done to stop this? Nothing! Absolutely nothing. 

The Master continued, but I could not register until later all that he said.
The soldiers poked him in the back with a lancet to keep him going.
The weight of the cross tore into his back where blood that had congealed, now poured again.
I pushed my way to follow. ‘Master.’
But the crowd pushed me aside. ‘He saved others, let him save himself.’
He stumbled and fell several times, before a soldier grabbed someone from the crowd to carry his cross. Still His walked staggering. 

I was carried by the crowd as they moved to the place of the Skull, a knoll at the base of the mountain where everyone who entered or left Jerusalem must pass. 
Here they brought our Master—perfect, sinless and innocent.
They pounded the spikes in his wrists and feet, the sound echoed over the rocks.
His entire body jerked against the blows. His back wounds reopened. More blood flowed, changing the wood to crimson. 

When the soldiers raised that cross and dropped it into the hole, his body jolted as it slammed against the splintered wood. 
When he caught his breathe, he said, ‘Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.’

I wanted to scream, ‘They do! They do! Kill them instead.’ But I remained silent.
I could not watch. Each breath a struggle.

The crowds were not all the jeering ones. 
There was the man who was healed by the Pool. He had taken up his bed and walked. First time in 35 years. On the Sabbath.
He had walked here today to see the Master.
There was the woman who touched the hem of his garment and was healed. 
There were so many healed by his touch or word. 
They watched in silence.  

Wasn’t he the Messiah? 
I saw a familiar group—the women who followed the Master throughout his ministry.
With them, my Aunt Mary.
I walked to her.
She clung to me.
And sobbed and sobbed and sobbed.

John looked at her now, “I finally registered you were talking to me. Remember what you said?”
Mary nodded. “This is the sword that would pierce my heart.”
Luke nodded, “From Simeon’s prophesy when you went to the temple at his birth.” 
Mary explained, “Right. I thought many times it had already done so, but this was the sword.’”

John continued, “One criminal railed at him, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ 
But the other rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?
We, justly, for we deserve this for our actions, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ 
And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ The Master said, ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’”

John paused, “We watched our Messiah die before our eyes.
I cannot tell you what went through my mind—hopelessness, fear, loss, he was our Messiah—” John shook his head.
“The Master looked at me, ‘Behold your mother,’ I felt the honor of her care. This one thing I could do for my Master. I felt unworthy. But it was all that I could do.”
Mary patted his arm. “You’ve been a good son to me.”

John swallowed and resumed his narrative, “At noon day, the sky turned black, not like a rain cloud, but like the sun stopped shining. It stayed black for three hours.” 
Mary shook her head. “I could no longer watch him, but still heard him struggle for each breath. His gasps, so heart retching to hear. 
I prayed God would take him. Don’t let him suffer any more. 
It was then He spoke. ‘Father into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ 
Even in his dying, he showed compassion for me to be ready. 
Though how can any mother be ready for her son to die?” 

John added, “The centurion had watch his men gamble over his clothes. How trivial Rome made of human life! Then hearing the exchange between those on the crosses, he shook his head and looked at the Master, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ 

When the soldiers removed his body from the cross, a man stepped forward to take his body. 
I didn’t stay to follow where he put the body. I took Mary to our family’s tent.” 
Mary interjected, “You had already been up all the previous day and night and that day. You were exhausted. I know I was.”
Luke added, “Grief doesn’t allow us to think clearly.”
John nodded, “Everything felt numb. The Passover… seemed like decades ago, though it was only a day past.
Somehow we managed to celebrate the Sabbath, going through the motions. Everything reminded me of Jesus.” 

Mary took up the story, “Once Sabbath was over, in the early dawn. Some women arrived at our tent, ‘We gathered oils to care for the body.’
My anguish still raw. I hadn’t considered his body until this moment. ‘How do we know where the body is?’
One of the women, Joanna hugged me, “We followed after his death. Come with us.”
“I couldn’t think clearly. But my sister, your mother,” Mary looked at John, then me, “Salome’s her name, but she went by Mary, “encouraged me to go.”
“As we walked, Joanna spoke out loud, ‘How will we move the rock?’
Salome asked, ‘What rock?’
Joanna responded, ‘Almost as soon as the body was placed in the tomb, the soldiers sealed it. They hurried the body preparation. It seems they thought we’d steal the body!’
Salome exploded, ‘So the Romans would take even our freedom to prepare the body from us!’
Joanna added, ‘That was probably under our own leaders’ insistence. They instigated all this. I knew about it from my husband.’” 

At this point Luke interrupted, “Who was her husband?”
Mary explained, “He was the chief steward in Herod’s palace. Joanna had been healed of evil spirits by the Master and had followed him most of his ministry—supporting him.”

Mary resumed the dialogue. “Joanna told, ‘Our rulers came with Jesus when he was tried by Herod during that night. Herod questioned him for a long time, trying to make him perform a sign for him. All the while, our scribes and leaders accused him, telling how he claimed to be a king and wouldn’t pay tribute. 
‘So Herod and his soldiers mocked him, put a purple robe and that crown of thorns on him. Seemed to put Herod in a good mood. Anytime Herod’s in a good mood, watch out, someone will soon be dead. That’s how I knew to come to see what was happening.’

Salome interrupted, ‘But how will we move the stone?’
Everyone remained silent.

As we approached the grave, someone asked, ‘Whose grave is this?’ for it had to be from someone wealthy. 
Joanna answered again, ‘Joseph from Arimathea. He was a member of the council. He seemed good and righteous, not consenting to any of their actions. He asked Pilate for the Master’s body. He hurried, for he knew the Sabbath was beginning.’”
Luke interrupted again, “Why would that matter?”
Mary answered, “He’d be unclean and unable to celebrate Sabbath if he touched a dead person.”
Luke nodded.

She resumed her account. “I think it was Salome who said, ‘It was wonderful for him to give his own grave and ask for the body.’ 
No one said anything. 
But everyone thought, they hadn’t claimed His body. By association, the leaders would know us as his disciples.”

I again interrupted. “What happened to Joseph, as part of the council?”
John inserted, “He’d be ex-communicated. Not only would he lose his position. He’d no longer be permitted in the temple. Nor would Jews do business with him.”
I nodded. A heavy price to pay for claiming a dead person. “Sorry, Mary, go on.”

She continued, “As we arrived, I think Joanna noticed first, ‘Someone has moved the stone!’ 
Another suggested, ‘I hope they haven’t stolen his body!’
By the time we reached the cave opening, I was breathless. I paused to catch my breath, not sure I was ready to see his lifeless form. 
Others burst inside wanting to make sure things were as they should be.

“Where’s the body?”

Anger boiled within me. Not only would the religious leaders kill my son, but they would take his body too! Angry tears coursed down my face.
But Joanna pointed. ‘No one stole the body. Look! The form of his body still lies in the grave clothes.’
I hadn’t seen the grave clothes, but I was still angry, and took it out on her, “He is dead. Didn’t you see him on the cross? No man could live through that.”
Joanna responded, “I don’t deny his death, Mary. I just say, this isn’t his body.”
I breathed deeply, wiped my face with my hood, and looked carefully.
Salome interrupted, “Even the face cloth is folded nicely. What can this mean?”
I took the face cloth, held it against my heart. My tears starting again.
My confusion, hurt, all very raw.
No one said any more.

As we pondered, two men appeared. 
Their appearance filled the dark cave with light.
We dropped to our knees and bowed to the ground.

One of the men spoke, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here. But has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise?’

Before we could process what they said, they vanished. 
The cave grew dark again.

Once my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, I remember standing on shaky legs and staring at the grave clothes.
They lay flat, with no body.
My mind was slow to comprehend their words. 
All the women were quiet.
Joanna was the first to find her voice. She whispered, with great awe. “Great is our LORD and greatly to be praised! Evil could not keep him down. He is alive!”
I wasn’t so quick to grasp. My heart so broken over watching my Son slowly die before my eyes. Could my Son and Savior be alive? It seemed too great to think.
I touched the graveclothes. There was no life here. Nothing inside.
No body.
The other women took up Joanna’s praise.
Joanna hugged me. “He IS alive.”

How can a heart go from utterly stabbed into a million pieces, to wonder and great praise in one thought?
Only God can do that.
Yet I was hesitant to believe. Like a dream I would waken to find was all wrong. I didn’t want to believe because of the pain that it might bring when I found it really wasn’t so.
But the women’s praise was contagious.
And this was no dream.
I smiled and danced, giddy with laughter and praise. 
Salome asked, ‘What should we do?’
Joanna again was the first to speak. ‘Tell his disciples.’
And we did.”

John nodded, “After hearing the women’s message, and verifying the empty tomb, we didn’t know where to go. We gathered in the upper room where we had the Passover. As we assembled, no one spoke. Peter more subdued than I’d ever seen him. He would not even look me in the eye.

But we all felt the shame. All kept our heads down and fidgeted.
I had not slept much since the Passover. I doubt any others did either.
Judas was noticeably absent. One asked about him.
I could feel anger boil within me. He did not deserve to be with us. If it hadn’t been for him…
Andrew coughed. ‘It seems after the night,’ He coughed, for we all knew what night he referred to, ‘after the night, Judas,’ he said it with anger, ‘ hung himself.’
There were grunts of assent. His end tragic, did not seem enough.
Silence came again.
No one wanted to voice their thoughts.
We huddled in quietness. 
Such uncertainty, fear, lostness…
What should we do now?
We kept the door locked. 

Then the Master appeared!
No door opened; he was just there.
“A Spirit!!”
The Master spoke, “Peace to you. Why are you troubled, and why do you doubt? 
‘See my hands and my feet. It is I. Touch me and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as I have.”
Of course, Peter approached and touched the Master first, timidly but then with assurance. 
I came next, his eyes held mine and he smiled. I did not touch his wounded hands, but grabbed ahold of him and hugged him and sobbed. Sobbed like a baby. My Master was alive and back. 
He laughed and held me tight.

When the others finished greeting him, he sat, ‘Have you anything to eat?’ 
We searched. 
Andrew found a broiled fish. 
The Master chewed and swallowed it.” John laughed. “We all watched as if to make sure he still wasn’t a spirit!”

“Then he said, ‘These are my words I spoke to you while I was still with you, everything written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled. Then he explained the Scriptures, Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead. Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in My name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. Behold, I’m sending the promise of My Father upon you, but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’

We listened during those days, like we never heard before as He told how the Scriptures pointed to Him. It was like His resurrection brought his instruction to life.
He led us as far from the city as Bethany. 
While instructing and blessing us, he was taken into heaven. 


We watched him leave. 
This time, we rejoiced and worshipped. 
Returning to Jerusalem, we stayed in the temple and blessed God. 
We gathered, perhaps with a little fear, but waiting for that power He promised. What would it be like? Would we know it when it came?
Such wasted questions. 

When does God ever tell you to do something, without equipping you? When the Spirit came upon us at Pentecost, we did not have any doubt nor wonder, just power to proclaim Jesus, our Master and Savior, had conquered sin, death and evil and was alive!”

Luke sat back and sighed. “What a testimony of our wonderful Savior. Of His love and compassion.  Of the truthfulness and integrity of His Word to fulfill all those prophesies. Of changed lives. Of our great God. What more can we say, but Praise God.”
Mary nodded. “When I think of the lamb, the sin sacrifice,  we presented every year at Passover—all pointed to His blood poured out for us, for our sin. He became our substitute. 
“There was no other way. Yet God did it for us.”
John added, “Because of His great love for us.”
Luke smiled. “though still sinners and in great need.”
A quiet silence allowed us to reflect on His great sacrifice. 
It was beyond our understanding.

Luke massaged his hand from writing. “I must talk with Joseph of Arimathea. If he was with the counsel, he’d have information about Jesus’s trial before the high priest and Pilate. That would answer some of my questions.”
John nodded. “He went into hiding, being ex-communicated by our leaders. He lost his home and belongings too. Not sure where you might find him, if he’s still alive.”

Luke added, “I’d like to speak to Joanna too.” 
Mary shook her head. “She’s gone. She was one of the first martyred. She was more outspoken then others.”

Luke sighed. “And the persecution continues.”
Mary leaned back, “It seems like nothing when I remember what He did for me.”
Luke concluded, “Soon those, who are His, shall live with Him Who conquered sin and death and stands at the right hand of the throne of God. All glory will be given to Him Who brought man salvation.”
Mary sighed, “All glory to God.”
John smiled, “All praise be given to Jesus.”

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I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

Author of Biblical fiction, married to my best friend, and challenged by eight sons’ growing pains as I write about what matters.

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