Saturday, April 25, 2009
The Trouble with the Empty Tomb
You didn't hear it from me. Got that? Deal is, we did not fall asleep on our watch. Yeah, that's what you heard, but I'm telling you it didn't, and never would, happen. They made us say that. Who? The Jews; the high priests from the Sanhedrin to be more specific. No, they didn't tell us, but Pilate did after they came cryin' to him. I'll tell you what it was...come closer...yeah, it was a cover-up. See, had we really fallen asleep, we would have all lost our heads. We kinda made a deal to keep it quiet if they were able to say what they did.
What was the big deal? The guy was stone cold dead and there was no arguin' that. I was comin' up the hill when one of our men put a spear in his side to make sure it was final. When I see blood and water come out I know it's a done deal. Still, they, the Jews again, demanded that Pilate put a guard by that tomb. Seems they were afraid that if they stole his body away...Who? His followers. Oh, you mean who's body; that Jesus who they crucified a couple days back. They were afraid that if they stole his body they could claim he did rise from the dead after all, like he said he would. I don't think anyone's ever said they'd rise from the dead, then go ahead and do it too. No, I'm sure of that. Just as sure as I know he was dead when they put him in there. Just as sure as we all rolled that stone in front of the tomb, then placed the Roman seal on it. They'd have to get past the twelve of us, then that scrawny bunch of his followers would have to move that stone too. Trouble is, those followers of his all pretty much scattered once he was in our possession.
So, where's the body now? Good question. All I know is this; we were all around the fire, it was late and there was nothing going on. The dawn was close and the air was quiet till that earthquake, or whatever it was, hit us. We were all knocked flat about the same time as a flash of light. A flash like the brightest lightning. Except there was no thunder, and the night sky was cool and clear. First thing we notice is that stone; it's moved. The tomb is wide open and none of us wanted to, but we had to look inside. Nothin'. Nothin' except those white grave clothes he was wrapped in before. They were still there. They were right there, but not torn up or nothin'. They just looked like whatever was in them, well he just wasn't in 'em anymore. They were layin' there just as nice as my mother's own linens.
Well, none of wanted to stay there after that, and we all figured there was no reason to; what we were supposed to be guardin' was no longer in need of our protection. We headed back to the city, each of us quiet; wondering in our heads what we were going to say when we got there.
The morning sky was starting to lighten. Coming our way I could see three dark figures, each one small, heads covered. I knew by their walk they were women and as the first one came closer a glint of light told me the jars they were carrying were traditional spices; stuff they anoint bodies with for burial. They gave us a wide berth, but it wasn't necessary; we weren't concerned. Each one passed without a word. I was at the back of my regiment. The last one slowed her pace and glanced up, catching my eye. Her own eyes were red and swollen, like she'd been crying a long time. A sadness I could not try to describe, but it touched my heart. Without thinking I stopped and said softly; "He's not there." In the quiet of the dawn I could hear a tiny gasp of breath, and at the same time a happiness spread across her face that almost made me smile in return. She barely touched my hand and then began running to catch the others. As I returned to my march I could hear over my shoulder cries of joy and a laughter that warmed my cold heart.
Even now, as I tell you this I wonder; could I ever know that joy?