A journey to the cross is a journey to repentance. It’s a journey to deep personal change. Will you take this journey with me?
Date: Nine in the morning, Sunday, April 9, 30 A.D.
Marcus Longinus, the Roman centurion, investigates his soldiers’ report that Jesus had risen from the dead.
It was as they said. The stone was rolled away. But it was not merely rolled to the side as I had expected. It had been pushed right up and out of its stone track, and it had toppled over a good distance from the tomb entrance.
I edged my way toward it. About two paces from the end of the stone track, there was gouge in the shallow soil, where the round cover stone had landed and then rolled. This was a real headshaker. How had this happened? It must have been rolled back with such force that when it reached the end of the track, it bounced up and out. No wonder the men were scared! This was awesome. Forty men could not do this!
Suddenly I felt very small, small and afraid.
And this was the very stone we had sealed just a day earlier. A close examination showed that in a few spots there were still fragments of broken plaster on it. I exhaled a huge puff of air. This discovery in itself was beyond all expectation. The force of the quake could not have done this. A quake of such magnitude would have collapsed the tomb itself, and not a building in the city would be standing. No, a direct force had hurled this boulder away from the tomb’s entrance.
An almighty warrior from heaven’s realm?
I rejoined my two men. Suddenly they gained a new level of respect in my eyes. Their fears had become my own. I found I was rolling my head from side to side just as I had seen Claudius do.
“You saw this happen?” I gestured to the fallen round rock and then put a finger to my lips. I was astounded.
“Actually,” Philip admitted, “I didn’t see him roll the stone. We all fell like dead men when the earthquake hit. But after, when I opened my eyes, the angel was sitting on it, and . . . and Jesus was walking out of the tomb.” He fell to his knees and began to beat the ground as he said this last part. He was gripped afresh by the memory.
“Where were you when this happened?” He raised his head and pointed to a spot a few paces away. “Right there.”
“And you?” I looked at Claudius. He pointed to another spot. “Just over here,” he said. “That’s my cloak. I left it when I ran.”
There was, in fact, a good bit of flotsam scattered about: a few cloaks, a water jug, Philip’s precious dice, even a helmet. Here were all the signs of panicked flight. They had left all and fled for their lives.
For me only one question remained. Was the open tomb truly empty?
“Get to your feet, Philip,” I said. “You two stay here and watch while I go take a look inside.”
I took three deep breaths and set out on my little journey. It was only about twenty paces to the tomb entrance. A distance made much longer by my fear. But the whole scene was bathed in the warmth of morning sunlight. I started slowly. About halfway to the entrance, a songbird broke forth in glorious melody. The sun’s rays streamed into the rock tomb, lighting my way.
It was empty! The stone slab lay empty. Actually, it was not entirely so. The death shroud had been rolled up, and the face covering was neatly folded and lay off to one side. It appeared as though the awakened corpse took a moment to make his bed after getting up.
The Galilean prophet, the true king, had arisen and gone forth!
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