It was Friday, and I was overwhelmed by grief at the horrific scene unfolding outside the city gate.
Earlier that afternoon, I could hardly bear to watch as the Roman squadron led him and two other men out of the city to the hill reserved for executions. I wept, trembling as the three condemned men cried out from the excruciating pain.
Gawkers walked by, drawing one last look of sadistic satisfaction as they taunted him to “come down from the cross if you are the Son of God.”
Then he called down to me, and in one final act of love he said to his beloved follower, John, “Here is your mother.” John assured him that he would care for me for my remaining days.
While a few followers remained at the site, I could bear to watch no more and returned to the city.
My thoughts drifted back to the treasured memories of his birth. I recalled what the shepherds reported — that angels had appeared to them proclaiming this was the Messiah, the long-awaited Savior who would establish a kingdom that would never end.
But now our hoped-for deliverer was about to die — betrayed by a confidant, abandoned by his friends and ridiculed by his enemies.
What began as a miraculous birth with a baby wrapped in clothes lying in a manger was now ending with his lifeless body being wrapped in linens and buried in a donated tomb.
What began with wise men from the East bringing gifts to the newborn king, was now ending with mockers clothing him in a purple robe, placing a staff in his right hand and adorning his head with a crown of thorns.
What began with Magi outwitting a jealous king by refusing to reveal his whereabouts, was now ending with one of his followers betraying him to envious religious leaders for 30 silver coins.
As a young teenager, he had been welcomed into the temple. But as the Messiah, he had been tormented by those charged with keeping the faithful in line.
That evening just before sunset, friends told me about how a devout leader in our religious community had courageously asked the Roman administrator for the body of Jesus.
He and another devout leader had taken the body down from the cross and placed it in a new tomb.
The next day, I and a few friends observed the Sabbath together. But it was a subdued occasion as we grieved, trying to make sense out of what was so senseless.
We learned that additional measures to secure the tomb had been taken. A Roman soldier was stationed at the tomb’s entrance. And a seal bearing the Roman insignia was placed on the stone to ensure certain death to anyone attempting to steal the body.
On Sunday, several women who believed in his message had gotten up early to return to the tomb with spices to properly prepare the body according to our customs. These women knew the tomb’s location because they had followed the two men to the site and watched as they closed the entrance with a large stone.
Suddenly our grieving was transfixed. The women returned with astonishing news. An angel had met them at the tomb with news that Jesus was no longer there. “He has risen, just as he said.”
At first we did not believe them. Their words were nonsense. Others among his most devoted friends ran to the tomb to see for themselves. They confirmed what the women had reported.
In the following days, I received numerous reports of Jesus appearing to his followers. Even skeptics, like Thomas, reported eating and talking with the risen Jesus.
What began with a band of shepherds venturing into Bethlehem to see for themselves a crib filled with a newborn baby was now ending with an angel inviting a band of women to look into the empty tomb to see for themselves the place where he once laid.
What began with an angel instructing the frightened shepherds on where to find the newborn king, was now ending with two heavenly messengers reassuring his followers as they scanned the sky for one last glimpse of the ascended Lord.
Their reassuring message resonates across the centuries to all who believe: “This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way.”
This Easter, may we join with Mary in saying, Maranatha, “Lord, come quickly.”
BOB BLAND is a resident of Denton.