The day following the crucifixion of Jesus was filled with mixed emotions for the populist of Jerusalem. While some assumed that the religious leaders had discovered that Jesus was a fraud other people were dishearten as they envisaged an end to the wonderful healing which had accompanied Jesus' personal ministry.
The fear his followers were now focusing on was that the Jewish leaders would seek to purge the city of all their master's teaching and that could also include their imprisonment and potential death as his followers.
Commiserating with each other in hiding for fear of the Jews they were totally unaware of the events unfolding in and around the garden tomb.
The Jewish leaders also were afraid, their fear was that if Jesus' body was removed and hidden by his disciples, then they could pretend that he had risen and further influence the people. To safeguard against this occurrence they obtained permission from the Roman government in Jerusalem to post an armed guard over the tomb until the end of the 3rd day. They reasoned that as Jesus had indicated he would rise again from being dead within 3 days, he may have arranged for his followers to spirit his body away from the tomb to make believe he had been resurrected. They agreed that it would have to be within the allotted 3 days following the crucifixion or the people would realise that Jesus'prophecy was false. It is notable that these priests could not accept the possibility of Jesus rising for the dead because they did not believe in the resurrection of the dead being a possibility. Many of the leading priests in Jerusalem were Sadducee and therefore did not believe in angels, spirits or the dead being resurrected.
A guard was posted, which consisted of both professional Roman soldiers and members of the elite temple guard. Each understood their responsibilities and relished the opportunity to fight with anyone who would be willing to desecrate a closed tomb. It was the 3rd day and the guards had been briefed that now would be the only time left for anyone to approach the tomb so they were on full alert. That night was fully illuminated as the brightest full moon of the year hung in the night sky, the area around the tomb was silent and clearly visible.
The earthquake was sudden, it shook the stone covering the mouth of the tomb and broke the temple seal, suddenly the guards stood transfixed as they saw an angel descend and alight onto the massive tomb stone, moving it slowly to one side revealing the tombs narrow entrance. The angel shone so brightly that the night around the Tomb was turned into day. The guards who had been previously frozen in fear ran terrified and reported all they had witnessed to the leading Jewish authorities. Discussion ensued among the Jewish leaders if this was to get out to the people they may view the event as a sign from God and revolt against the occupying Romans and maybe even against the established rulers of the religious law who had participated in the death of Jesus. The decision was made to buy the guards silent and a guarantee given that should the guards superiors hear about it that they would safeguard their lives. The guarantee was to the Roman guards who were unease about the matter as it was being proposed they had fallen asleep at their post, which was punishable by death.
The woman who followed Jesus and regularly helped provide for the groups physical needs with money etc. had not been aware that the body of their master had already been prepared for burial by Joseph and Nicodemus, they had only seen where he had been entombed and had hurried home to purchase the ingredients to embalm the body as the High Sabbath was approaching. As they set out toward the tomb, wondering how they would gain access to the body, it was still dark with only the first light of dawn starting to break across the sky. As they approached the tomb, morning was already established and they saw the tomb open and empty. Two men were present and asked the women why they were seeking the dead among the living. The women did not understand and decided to say the person they assumed was the gardener where he had taken the body of Jesus.
The gardener smiled and addressed the women by name. Immediately they recognised him as their Lord and master and reached out to embrace him. Jesus prevent them from holding him explaining the he had not yet presented himself alive before God (His Father) in Heaven but once he had, he would return to them. He sent the women on ahead to tell his disciples that he was risen from the dead just as he had prophesied and departed from them.
The disciples scoffed at the women's testimony, they could not believe that the one they knew to be dead had spoken to the women. Two of the disciples when to the tomb to see for themselves, one out run the other but hesitated before entering the tomb, The second man did not delay he run straight into the tomb and stared a the undisturbed grave clothes and noted the folded face cloth carefully placed to one side, reminiscent of a person who had rose from a meal but intended to return to finish it. The first man entered the tomb and on seeing the undisturbed grave clothed still intact (the linen which had become saturated by the large quantity of spice used to embalm the body maintaining it cohesion) he realised that the women's report was true, Jesus had risen again as evidence by the body passing cleanly through and not having been forcefully removed from the grave clothes.
Two others of the disciples left Jerusalem to return to their home town after having hearing of the reports of the empty tomb and were in deep discussion as to what all of this could mean. When they were joined by a stranger who inquired what they were so engrossed in discussing. They assume that he must be a stranger as he appeared not to know anything about the event of the last 3 days, so they enlighten him and explained that it was currently the 3rd day and they were receiving reports that the tomb that Jesus had been in was now empty. The stranger queried why they were so amazed that the tomb was empty and begin to explain that the promised messiah would have had to die and be resurrected again within the prophesied time-scales. He then began to teach them from all of the scriptures relating to the death and resurrection of the Messiah. As the travelling party reached their destination the stranger appeared to be intending to travel on but the two disciples persuaded him to stay overnight at their lodging and eat a meal with them. It was as they sat at the meal and the stranger broke the bread that they recognised it was Jesus and he immediately disappeared from their view.
The two disciples rushed back to Jerusalem to share their encounter with the other disciples. While they spoke Jesus appeared among the disciples and they became terrified. He calmed them down and proved he was real and not a deceiving spirit by eating food (boiled fish and bread) with them and encouraging them to touch his flesh. One of the disciples (Thomas) was not present and when he arrived the rest of disciples told him that Jesus had risen but he could not believe it. He said that he would need not only to touch Jesus but also to place his fingers into the nail holes which had been created by the crucifixion and also to put his hand into the gapping wound which had been made in his side by the Roman spear. Some days later Jesus reappeared to the disciples and Thomas was also present. Jesus invited him to place his fingers into the nail imprints and to put his hand into his side which had been ripped open when the spear was driven into him on the cross. Thomas believed proclaiming 'my Lord and my God' Jesus replied that those who believe without seeing are more blessed that those who need to see proof for themselves. He also chastised the disciples for not believing the women he had first sent to them.
Today Jesus is in heaven until the Father authorises his return. No one has seen the Lord Jesus in the flesh since he ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives 40 days after his resurrection. Some were allowed to experience visions of him, Paul for example, but on the whole no one has see the risen Jesus in the flesh apart for the 500 witnesses he revealed himself to over that 40 days period. All of those witnesses are dead and resting in their graves awaiting the promised resurrection which Jesus pioneered as First Fruit of the harvest unto God for off this earth. At Jesus' return (at the end of this age) the rest of the dead in Jesus (Christians) will resurrect as he did and experience eternal life as he promised.
The rest of the dead (Non Christian) are not to resurrect until a future date and they are to be judged by how they lived their lives. This is called the great white throne judgement.
The two disciples who met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, were astounded by his teaching as he shared the scriptures with them about the Messiah's suffering, death and resurrection. The exact scriptures used are not reveal in the narrative but we know that the early first century church continued to use God's inspired and commanded signpost as a means to marry the older scriptures with the Holy Spirit's inspired teaching as seen in the New Testament. The first of these signposts was the Passover, The angel of death was send to Egypt as a punishment against the hardness of the Pharaohs heart with regard to all of the proof God presented to him over the period of the 10 plagues. The Israelites were told to kill a 'perfect' lamb and smear it's blood on the door posts and lentil of their homes in order to avoid having the angel of death enter their home and killing their first born children. The early church taught that the 'perfect' lamb was Jesus and that through his sacrifice the wages of eternal death are paid to him instead of us so that we will be are able to resurrect and enjoy an eternal life on this earth with him.
Another signpost was that God commended the Israelites not to eat or harvest any of their spring grain crops until a first sheaf was cut and waved before God. The early church explained that this was to represent Jesus having to present himself before the Father in Heaven before he could be touched, (by the women at the tomb).
Fifty day following the resurrection was the fulfilment of the third signpost. As 120 of the disciples were gathered together in an upper room the Holy Spirit fell upon them and they were baptised by the Spirit and received spiritual gifts from God. This occurred on the day of Pentecost (which means 50) also called the Feast of Weeks by the Israelites. The Feast of Week was to be determined by counting 7 Sabbaths a total of 49 days staring from the first weekly Sabbath following the Passover. This feast was to be commemorated on the 50th day which always fell on the first day of the week. So is the only feast commanded by God that falls on a fixed day of the week every year. Traditionally the Israelites had to offer a special bread offering unique in that it was to be made up of the grain from the wave sheaf offering but was mixed with leaven (yeast). The earlier church taught that this was a representation of the Church which was both the earthly body of Jesus but also God elected ambassadors to this earth.
As you can see the early church recognised and taught the significant of the old testament with the understand available with the new. As Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven was like a merchant taking from his shop old and new items and presenting them together for sale.
Of the known signposts the early church used to explained the gospel the next in succession was the Feast of Trumpets. While the previous signposts all occurred in the spring of the year, the latter ones are all bunched together in the autumn. The Feast of Trumpets has not occurred yet it was the teaching of the early church that this represented the return of Jesus to claim his bride (the church) and to establish His Kingdom on the earth. The early church waited expectantly for the return of Jesus, both so that they would experience the resurrection and to see the establishment of the Kingdom they were to inherit. We who are of the Church today continue to await the return of Jesus and the establishment of his Kingdom and the removal of Satan the current ruler of this wicked world in which we live.
The next feast is really a 'fast' normally called the Day of Atonement it is called in Hebrew Yom Kippur and while we have no direct correlation within scripture as to it's New Testament meaning it is suggested to represent God's willingness to continue to work with the people on the earth during the millennium reign of Jesus.
The next feast is the Feast of Tabernacles which is significant as it is a time when the people are commended to rejoice before God and eat and drink a tenth of their complete annual income over an eight days period. This was explained by the early church to represent our ruling as kings and priests in the new kingdom.
The final feast commended by God was to occur on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles or eighth day and was simple called the Last Great Day. It was on the Last Great Day that Jesus shouted out to the people 'If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, "Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water' The early church taught it was representative of the final judgement and the completion of God's plan for creation.
There are many other signposts throughout the scriptures which Jesus used to pointed to himself as the Messiah I have chosen to only look at the commanded feast days given to Israel in the wilderness over the forty years before the Israelites entered the promised Land. We as Christian are also travelling through a wilderness as strangers and sojourners in this world awaiting our own promised land. Be of good cheer it is our Heavenly Father's intention to give us the inheritance. (SOON) Him.
William Andrews is a regular Christian preacher/speaker within churches across Northern Ireland. He lives in one of the very few dry villages in Ireland called Seskinore, has been married to Caroline for 39 blissful years and has two daughters Charlene (38) and Rachel (25). The year 2008 proved to be an exciting year for the family as Charlene got married to Dominic in September 08 and they had their first child Phoebe Rose on 30th November 2009. A second grandchild, Ruby Caroline was born on 23rd April 2013.