Tomb Empty Despite Sentries; Witnesses Testify Jesus Is Risen
(Editor’s Note: This is the final article in our series, “Jerusalem Dispatches.” It was originally published in April 2011 and is reprinted by request. We hope you enjoyed the intent and journalistic look at the first “Holy Week.” The author sought to remain true to scripture in reporting events leading to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the seminal event in Christians’ hope of salvation and eternal life.)
Jerusalem (April 6) – The Roman Praetorian Guard here issued conflicting reports today trying to explain how the virtually impregnable tomb of Jesus of Nazareth is empty. His followers proclaim he is risen, claiming sightings that verify his prediction of returning on the third day.
He was said to have been identified in several locations, the first as the Passover Shabat ended at sunrise. Local followers proclaimed themselves “Christians” and defied Sanhedrin discipline to share their news that Jesus “The Christ” has risen from the dead.
Guards at the scene were reportedly stunned at the sight of two men occupying the rock-hewn sepulcher in which Jesus’ body was sealed Friday before sunset. The sergeant of the guard said nothing out of the ordinary was reported to him prior to the first light of day, when two women arrived to find the body missing.
Soldiers, who had gone to report the empty tomb to the Sanhedrin high priests, were berated, according to one unidentified soldier, who said he didn’t see anyone attempt to steal the body.
“We had the perimeter sealed and would have seen someone trying to move the rock,” he said. “I know we felt some aftershocks from the earthquake, but all of a sudden the tomb was open and we saw the men, who were dressed in white and seemed to be glowing.”
Other soldiers, however, said they thought thieves might have sneaked in when they weren’t looking, but could not explain where the body may have been taken.
The Sanhedrin had no further comment and the office of Gov. Pontius Pilot again referring reporters to the Praetorium.
Reporters were able to talk with Mary Magdalene, a friend of Jesus, who was first to see the empty tomb and says Jesus actually spoke to her not far away. She verified the guards were in a trance-like state, even when known Jesus associates, including Simon Peter, came to verify the empty tomb.
“I didn’t recognize Jesus when he asked why I was weeping,” she was quoted. “I said someone has taken away my Lord; then I recognized him. What a shock!”
Mary admitted she saw the two “Angels,” as she described them, sitting at either end of the shelf on which Jesus body had been laid. The linen swaddling lay end to end with the face cloth neatly folded.
“They told me not to be afraid,” she said, “and that I shouldn’t be looking for the living among the dead.
“They said, ‘He isn’t here. He has come back to life, just as he said. Take a look and go tell the news.’”
The reference was to Jesus telling interrogators of the Sanhedrin that he would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Scholars acknowledge that Jesus’ moment of death on the cross coincided with destruction of the veil separating the “Holy of Holies” in the Temple. The connection cannot be denied, they said.
Jesus took this city by storm after arriving a week ago. He was escorted with great fanfare through the Damascus Gate in a parade through the city.
Crowds grew on an hourly basis, and reporters scrambled to take notes and interview followers. He had the biggest impact in the Temple, where he first spoke as a young man at the time of his Bar Mitzvah. This time he announced unashamedly that this was His house and it would not be used by the vendors with kiosks.
His capture in the Garden of Gethsemane came at the hands of the Sanhedrin, which was visibly upset by Jesus’ evangelical style and illustrations suggesting he was the Son of God. His message connected with the primarily Jewish populace, but was considered anathema by High Priest Caiaphas and his associates.
The public humiliation and trial was intentional, the Sanhedrin spokesman admitted. It is well within their charter from the government of Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar Augustus. He has directed the Praetorian Guard and its legions in Judea to leave local discipline to the leaders at Temple Mount.
Jesus’ journey through the main street, decumanus maximus, to Golgotha was a reprise of his earlier entry. In contrast, He nearly crawled to his public execution because of the heavy cross and His weakened condition from physical and emotional beatings.
Environmentalists and weather experts still cannot explain the ominous sky that covered the area beginning at noon, or the devastating earthquake, which occurred at the moment Jesus declared, “It is finished.”
Christians report they are vindicated in their faith in this young man, who was born in Bethlehem and reared in Nazareth.
Reports of miracles and spectacular events surrounding his ministry have been legend. Simon Peter, de facto leader of Jesus disciples, said there is no doubt that the record of this week will be written for generations to come.
“It will be one of the most remarkable historical and teaching volumes since the Ten Commandments were given to Moses.
“Any doubts about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead will be allayed in the next few hours,” Simon Peter continued. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see him at dinner this evening.”