My name is John. I am a fisherman…well, I was. My brother James and I were planning to take over our Father’s boat and keep the business going; the same way he had from his Father. That is until we met the man, Jesus. We were working on patching our nets one day when he walked up with our friends Peter and Andrew, and he said something like “Come with me, and you can catch men instead of fish.”
I knew right away there was something very different about Jesus; he was not like anyone I had ever seen. There was a warmth, and a joy that was completely magnetic. He would talk about God, and call him Father as if he really was his actual Father. And when he would laugh, I could feel this incredible kind of joy swelling up in my heart that I could not contain, nor did I try to.
The three years we spent following him all around the countryside were amazing beyond words. He would talk to us about the Father’s great love for us as we walked from one town to another, and great crowds would come to hear him teach. And if anyone was sick he would touch them, and they would be healed, instantly! Blind people, deaf people, those who couldn’t walk, even folks with leprosy…he healed them all.
All the people were excited to see him coming to their towns. All except the religious leaders, that is. At first the Pharisees pretended to go along with the crowd and asked him questions hoping to trap him in his answers. But they couldn’t do it; he outwitted them every time. As Jesus’ popularity grew so did their frustration with him. We should have known that it was only a matter of time until they could no longer tolerate his challenge to their positions of religious authority in our tiny nation.
One special evening, after about three years of his teaching and preaching, there was a passover meal that we celebrated together, at which Jesus did something he had never done before. He got up from the table, and picked up a bowl of water, and just like the lowest servant would do, he came to each of us and washed the dirt off our feet. This wonderful man that we knew was God’s son, came to me, took off my sandals, and with his own hands washed the dirt and grime of the entire day from my feet. I was completely overwhelmed by the love that he expressed in that simple act. Though I think I may have tried to say something to him, I could not speak because of my tears. But I do remember the thought that was in my mind at that moment, that this must be the greatest expression of love possible for one person to show to another. But I was wrong. There was a greater way, and I would witness it soon.
As we walked away from that place on our way to a garden to pray, Jesus talked to us with a special intensity about his going away. He said that we should not be troubled, because he would come again, and that he would send a helper to us. None of this made much sense at the time, but later we would be reminded of these words, and we would finally understand.
When we got to the garden, Jesus took a few of us away from the others and told us to pray there. But when he went on further to pray I felt overwhelmed with exhaustion and fell sound asleep. The next thing I remember is Jesus waking us up and we were immediately surrounded by a mob with torches and weapons. The soldiers in the group arrested Jesus, and they forcibly took him with them back into the city. The crowd was so focused on capturing Jesus that they allowed all of his followers to get away. After a little while I followed the mob back into town from a safe distance.
There have been many accounts written of the so called trials, the mocking, the terrible beating, the torturous crown made of long thorns that they pressed down on Jesus’s head. He was so weakened by all of this that they conscripted a bystander to carry the cross that he was to be placed on. They marched him through the streets of Jerusalem until they came to a place called Golgotha, the place of crucifixion. In the crowd I saw his mother, Mary, standing and weeping, along with some of the other women who had been following Jesus; and I went to be with her.
We stood there and helplessly watched as they drove long spikes through the hands that had held and blessed little children and healed thousands–and through the feet that had walked so many miles to take the message of Love and Life to the world. As they raised that cross high into the air and it dropped into the hole they dug for it, Jesus cried out in pain. It seemed that I could hear all of heaven weeping. There are no words to convey the depth of agony of those hours, his pain and suffering, our despair and hopelessness.
It is impossible for my mind to conceive of any greater demonstration of cruelty and evil by his accusers and executioners, to be met by an even greater demonstration of love and forgiveness when he looked down on them and said “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing”.
Time stood still as we wept and waited for the end to come. It did come finally as Jesus cried out ”It is finished”! And as he did so a darkness and a chill suddenly fell over the whole area, as though God could no longer bear to let anyone see his son suffer.
After they took his body down they put him in a tomb that belonged to a man named Joseph of Arimathea, who was a secret disciple at the time. They sealed the tomb with a large stone, and even put guards there. As far as I am concerned, there has never been a darker, more hopeless or bleak moment in all of time. The one that we had believed was the promised Messiah, the hope of life for all of mankind, was gone. And with him all of our hopes and dreams.
The following day was the Sabbath, and one by one we found our way back to a gathering place together. We could hardly even speak or look at one another, there was simply no where else to go. The only sounds were a few muted conversations, and the occasional sobs of grieving brothers and sisters. Peter greeted no one and sat all alone in his guilt over vehemently denying that he even knew Jesus.
Early the next morning we were startled by one of the women, Mary Magdalene, as she burst through the door shouting that Jesus’ body had been stolen from the tomb. I’m not sure about the others, but I did not believe a word she said. Peter stood and just stared at her for a moment, and without saying a word he turned and walked out the door. I knew that he was going to see for himself, and without a conscious decision I found myself going after him. When I got outside I could see Peter running toward the tomb as fast as he could. So I started running, reluctantly at first, thinking, “what’s the use, Mary is mistaken and we’re just wasting our strength.”
As I ran, some of the words of Jesus began to come to my mind: “A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”; and “you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” Could he have been telling us that he was going to come back from the dead? Did he mean that this terrible sorrow we were feeling would actually turn to joy?
The more those thoughts resonated in my mind the faster I ran. Peter had always been stronger than me, but I am a faster runner, so I got to the tomb well ahead of him. But when I got there I was frozen by what I saw. The huge stone that had covered the opening had been moved away! As I stood in stunned amazement catching my breath, Peter plunged past me and practically stumbled right into the tomb. We stood there for several moments just trying to comprehend what we were seeing. The body was gone, and all that remained was the shroud that had covered his body, and the cloth that was over his face had been folded and laid off to one side. We stood there for a long while, but with nothing else happening we turned around and went back home, talking about what this could possibly mean.
A while later Mary came back with such excitement that she was was barely able to get the words out: “I have seen the Lord! He is Alive!” Some of believed her, and others remained skeptical of her report. A few hours later we had locked the doors and were still talking about all that had transpired over these last few days, when it happened: Jesus appeared in the room! He was there, his body was there! He was breathing, he was talking, HE WAS ALIVE!!
I’m not sure how much time passed as we shouted, and laughed, and cried, and hugged the Lord, and hugged each other. It didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that Jesus was alive. He had indeed risen from the dead, and nothing would ever be the same again. Ever.