VANCOUVER, Wash., March 31, 2013 — Thousands of modern pilgrims delight in walking where Jesus walked. On Easter week that walk begins with the Via Dolorosa (way of sorrows). It traces the journey of Jesus from the place of his trial to Golgotha, the place of the skull. It is here where the greatest human tragedy became humanity’s greatest victory—the reconciliation between a Holy God and sinful man.
That Sunday morning more that 2000 years ago began like all previous Sundays. The roosters announced the beginning of a new day. Men and women throughout the land arose from bed to prepare for another day. But for some, the day was not like all other days. Hopes and dreams of a new order had been shattered. Promises had been broken. God had let them down.
At the foot of the cross the pagan Roman soldiers, unaware of the eternal consequences taking place before their eyes, had gambled on Friday to see who would win the dying man’s clothes, and especially the seamless tunic. Abandoned by most of his disciples, and apparently for a moment about to be abandoned by his Father, he awaited an agonizing death. An innocent willingly hanging on perhaps the cruelest execution device ever imagined, paying the price of the most heinous crimes, sins, and impurities for now and for evermore.
On the cross, Jesus was flanked by two criminals about to face the ultimate price for their crimes - capital punishment. Unexpectedly, awaiting the end of their earthly existence, one thief jeered at him while the other confessed to him - two men facing eternity with two opposite reactions to Jesus.
Not unexpected at the foot of the cross knelt his mother. The woman who gave birth to him and nourished him his whole life now awaited his tortured end. Joined by Mary wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and the lone brave disciple, John, Jesus spoke seven immortal works from the cross.
To the believing thief he offered a pardon; to John, he charged him with the care of his mother, Mary; for himself he asked only for water; for his executioners he offered forgiveness; and for the eternal records, he simply uttered his most penetrating words, “It is finished.”
The Sabbath behind them, Mary Magdalene, Salome, and Joanna, quickly moved through the dark, predawn streets of Jerusalem as they headed toward the cemetery where Jesus lay in a fresh tomb donated by Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin.
The women expected access to the tomb to anoint the body. Apparently unaware of the standing guards Herod had placed on the tomb, they quietly with heavy hearts inquired in a near whisper, “Who will move the stone from the doorway?”
To their surprise the stone had been rolled away. While the women were standing in a state of shock, weeping and perplexed about what they were witnessing, two men dressed in white, dazzling clothing appeared to them. One of them was direct: “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” (Matthew 28:5-6)
The life of Jesus ends on the saddest possible note. He, who had promised the kingdom, stirred hopes and imaginations of a nation, was dead. The sorrow of his followers, the uncontrollable wailing of a distraught mother, and the disappointment of the disciples leaves the story the shame for all generations.
All of this would be a terrible nightmare for all humankind had it not been for those immortal words spoken by an angel from the tomb on Sunday morning, “HE HAS RISEN!” The eternal God became man, died, was buried, and rose again to satisfy God’s justice for the reconciliation of man to Himself.
Men and women have scrutinized and discussed what happen that night ever since. It has been doubted, disregarded, ridiculed, treated as fantasy, believed, and fanatically proclaimed. The resurrection is the greatest triumph in human history. No matter what the critics say, the Gospel narratives are clear: “Once he was dead now he lives.” The human, frail cadaver became a glorious resurrected body.
Donald L. Brake, Sr. is author of A Visual History of the Life of Jesus, due to be released by Zondervan Publishing in 2014. The book is marked by outstanding imagery that will leave readers with a greater and lasting appreciation for Jesus as he was in his own time and place.
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