ike the other kids at camp, 9-year-old Veronica made a bug box, and then went hunting. However, the critter she corralled and put in her box was not a butterfly nor a cricket, but a bullfrog.
Veronica named the frog and proudly showed it off. Two days later, though, the frog died . . . and Veronica cried inconsolably.
We knew it was not just the frog she was grieving over, but also the other losses in her life. Due to neglect and abuse, the parental rights of her mom and dad had been terminated, so she was living in a group home.
Dead frog . . . with no hope of hopping again. Lost family . . . with no possibility of reunion.
The followers of Jesus knew what it was like to have their hope destroyed and sealed in a “box.”
Crucified Messiah in a tomb . . . with no chance of living again—so they thought.
“Early Sunday morning in the inky blackness before dawn, soldiers stood guard over Christ’s tomb,” wrote Anne Graham Lotz. “Knowing that going to sleep on duty was an offense punishable by death, the highly trained unit remained alert. Their lives depended on it.”
Suddenly an earthquake rocked the earth, and an angel whose “appearance was like lightning” and whose “clothes were white as snow” appeared (Matt. 28:3 NIV), moved the stone from the tomb’s entrance, and sat on it. “The guards… shook and became like dead men” (v. 4 NIV).
The apostles, who had experienced the eerie three hours of blackness that fell upon Jerusalem during Christ’s crucifixion on Friday afternoon, were asleep when the angel lit up the predawn dark- ness around the tomb.
The Dawn of Hope
The angel stayed at the tomb because he knew visitors were coming. As Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her friends walked to the tomb to complete the embalming process, they wondered who would move the stone for them . . . but not for long. As the sun rose, they saw the tomb was opened, with someone dressed in brilliant white sitting beside it.
“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him” (Mark 16:6 NIV).
Suddenly, the spices—especially selected by the women and carefully carried to Christ’s tomb—were worthless to them. They had a new mission, given to them by “a young man clothed in a long white robe” (v. 5 NKJV): “Go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you’” (v. 7 NASB).
Trembling, afraid, and amazed, the women rushed out of the cave tomb to find Jesus’ disciples.
The astonishing encounter at the tomb was dwarfed by the stunning appearance of the resurrected Jesus himself, who stopped the women in their tracks. They fell down and grasped His feet—it really was Jesus in the flesh, not a spirit.
The women “worshipped him” (Matt. 28:9), which they had done many times before. However, this time they worshiped Jesus in a new way—not just as the Savior who taught, healed, and forgave people, but also as the Lord over death. These women were with Jesus when He shed His last drop of blood;
they heard Him cry out, “It is finished!” and then saw Him take His last excruciating breath. They went with Joseph and Nicodemus to the burial site where they saw Jesus’ lifeless body placed in the tomb. Now they were holding onto His nail-pierced feet, praising Him as the Lord Jesus Christ.
Marcus J. Borg writes, “The story of the empty tomb means that death could not hold Jesus, could not stop what He had begun. The powers killed Him, sealed Him in a tomb. But that was not the end—He continued to be known, and known as Lord” (Speaking Christian).
Two Kinds of Witnesses
When the women reached the apostles with the incredible news of Jesus’ resurrection, “their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them” (Luke 24:11 NKJV). In Jewish society, women were considered unreliable witnesses, and that’s how Mary and her companions were treated.
Meanwhile, when the awestruck guards reported to the chief priests what they had experienced at the tomb, they were bribed to spread this lie: “His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept” (Matt. 28:13 NKJV). The religious leaders added, “‘If this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and make you secure.’ So they took the money and did as they were instructed” (vv. 14-15 NKJV).
It was a ridiculous lie—first, that the guards would have dared fall asleep; second, that they could have remained asleep while Jesus’ followers came, struggled to roll away the huge stone, and then stole Jesus’ body—yet it became the guards’ tale.
It was a story of miracles—the open tomb, the angelic appearance, the encounter with a Man who had been murdered two days earlier—yet that was the women’s testimony, and it was true, even if the Eleven refused to accept it.
The apostles were together when two men jaunted seven miles to tell them the risen Lord had appeared to them, just as He came to the women (Luke 24:13-35). As the pair spilled out their news, Jesus Christ appeared to them all . . . startling and frightening the apostles, who thought they were seeing a spirit (v. 37).
Sensing they were deeply troubled and still having doubts about His resurrection, Jesus showed them His hands and His feet, and invited them to touch Him. They reacted with “joy and amazement,” but still had questions (v. 41 NASB). Jesus then asked for some food, and ate a piece of broiled fish—not because He was hungry, but to show them He was no ghost.
The Lord Jesus reminded them how He had repeatedly said the Messiah would suffer and die, but then rise again on the third day. James Stalker wrote:
The risen Christ lingered long enough fully to satisfy His adherents of the truth of His resurrection. They were not easily convinced. The apostles treated the reports of the holy women with scornful incredulity. Thomas doubted the testimony of the other apostles, and some of the 500 to whom He appeared on a Galilean mountain doubted their own eyesight, and only believed when they heard His voice. The loving patience with which He treated these doubters showed that, though His bodily appearance was somewhat changed, He was still the same in heart as ever.
I started this article with the story of Veronica. The second summer that she and her little sister, Jessie, came to our Royal Family Kids’ Camp, they had a spark in their eyes. A Christian couple in Pennsylvania, who had been unable to have children, was adopting the girls. Veronica was nervous about moving from Tennessee, but excited—the hope of living in a family with people she could call “Mom” and “Dad” had been resurrected.
For the first followers of Jesus, hope was resurrected when He marched out of His burial place and showed them He was alive forevermore. Before He ascended to heaven, “He lifted up His hands and blessed them. . . . And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God” (Luke 24:50, 52-53 NASB).