Joseph of Arimathea, after talking with Nicodemus, the Elder who had challenged Caiaphas about the authenticity of Jesus, asked Pilate to release the body to him for burial. As Jesus' limp body was lowered from the Cross, he and several women on hand, including Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of James and John, cleaned and prepared the body before wrapping it in fine linen provided by Joseph. The body was taken to a grave carved out of the lime rock hillside and placed inside the tomb. A stone was rolled in front of the doorway to seal it and they left.
Meanwhile, the Elders, who after the earthquake which shook Jerusalem violently at the time of death were fearful of the dead Jesus, asked Pilate to station guards at the tomb. Pilate refused and told them to use their own guards, which they did. They were sure that otherwise Jesus' followers would steal the body and claim that since the tomb was empty it proved that He was alive. Or was it something more? Did they fear He would call on them in resurrected form?
The next day, the Sabbath, a day of rest, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary joined with other women to prepare spices to bring to the tomb of the Savior the next morning. The new day dawned bright and clear and as they women approached the tomb, a great earthquake erupted and an Angel from heaven appeared and rolled the stone away from the doorway. The guards on duties trembled and acted as if they were dead, not responding at all and the Angel told the women not to be afraid, that Jesus was not there, He was risen from the dead.
They entered the tomb and found the linen, still with the body lines of the Body of Christ still present but empty. Before departing in a flash of Glory, the Angel told them to tell the Disciples and to do it quickly, because Jesus would soon be back in Galilee to show Himself to them. They left the tomb in great joy, knowing that Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead and was alive once more.
I can think of no more fitting closure to this story than the refrain from a wonderful hymn:
Because he lives, I can face tomorrow; because he lives, all fear is gone; because I know he holds the future, and life is worth the living just because he lives.
- Refrain from Because He Lives, words by Gloria and William Gaither, music by William Gaither, 1971
Rejoice, Christians, and be joyful on this day, because He truly Lives. And He will be returning soon. Are you ready to welcome Him?