SUNDAY MORNING, APRIL, 30 AD
By DANNY MINTON
It was early Sunday morning when everyone in town was awakened by a violent earthquake. It was particularly unsettling since it was the second in the past three days. Damage to the Temple from a dark storm and earthquake which had occurred on Friday during the crucifixion of Jesus had yet to be finished.
In Galilee word was beginning to trickle in that one of the sons of Mary who lived in Nazareth was on trial. Many remembered Jesus and discussed the things he had said and done. It would not be until late Sunday evening or possibly Monday morning that word would finally make its way along the 65-mile journey to the north that he had been crucified.
At the area of the tombs, there was only silence now. The stone which had covered the tomb of Jesus had been moved as well as other tombs nearby. Rumors had begun to spread that the earthquake had damaged the tombs and that people who were dead had come to life and were seen around the city. In other areas, people had begun to gather after the Sabbath to discuss the events of the weekend. In one place many of the followers of Jesus were together. Two women, both named Mary, were making their way with spices and fragrant herbs to finish properly preparing the body of Jesus for burial.
The chief priests were busy in the Temple assessing the damage to the curtain that divided the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place when they heard a commotion outside in the Gentile courtyard. Going out they saw the guards who they had convinced Pilate to place at the tomb of Jesus to keep the disciples from stealing his body during the night. They explained about the earthquake having caused the tomb coverstone to move. Then they told them how the angel was sitting on the stone in dazzling white clothes. When they were finally able to move, they quickly came to the priests to tell them what had happened. To keep them quiet the priests paid a large bribe and told them to tell Pilate and everyone else that the disciples had stolen the body.
At the tomb, the women approached the open tomb but instead of seeing Jesus were met by angels who announced to them that Jesus was not there but had arisen from the dead. They quickly ran in both joy and fear to tell the Apostles. Peter and John raced to the cemetery and observed the empty tomb. The message the women heard: “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?” He had risen!
There are events in each of our lives that stick in our memory. The things our parents and grandparents remembered fade with their passing. Our memories will do the same. History will record some things, but even those fade in the minds as each generation comes and goes. November 22, 1963, was a day that I have remembered all my life. September 11, 2001, is another day fixed in my mind. Most people who were teenagers or older during those times will remember them well. However, ask someone younger, and those dates will have less meaning to them than to those who were around at the time. Our children and grandchildren will learn about them in history class, but the vast majority of those outside the U.S. will have no idea of their meaning and as time moves on the importance of each will become more and more just a memory.
However, what occurred that Sunday almost 2,000 years ago remains fresh in the minds of millions of people around the world. It’s a time that even those who don’t believe can tell you what happened on the day we call Easter. It is just as fresh in our minds as the day it happened, even though we were not there to witness the miracle.
The events of that weekend are the most important and influential events in the history of mankind. That Sunday changed the future of man. It was on that day that the thing that men most fear was defeated, Death. That day brought hope to a dying world. It would be hope not only for that time but for generations to come. It was a day of promises fulfilled, a day of freedom from the fear of death and a victory for everlasting life.
This week will be filled with Easter Bunnies, colored eggs, pageants, hunts and fun times for the kids. Families will flock to the stores looking for that perfect outfit to wear on Sunday. For many, this will be the only day of the year they even attend worship somewhere. Families will flock to restaurants or have family gatherings to enjoy each other’s company.
There will be those who criticize the commercialization of the time. There will be those who criticize the fact that this is the only time some people ever take the time to come to worship. There will be those who criticize the churches that have Easter Egg hunts and even have an Easter Bunny around. There will be those who criticize.
However, on Sunday, for one day of the year, more people will be thinking about a man named Jesus than any other time of the year. Around the world for one brief moment “The Story” will live in all corners of the world. It will live for more people than any other day. November 22, 1963, will fade as time goes on and few will be able to tell you what happened on that day. September 11, 2001, will become a distant memory in history books. However, the events that happened that weekend in April, 30 AD will be remembered and celebrated in various ways, and for one shining moment on Sunday it will not be about eggs or the Easter Bunny. People around the world will gather together in honor and praise of the one who defeated death for us all, The Son of God.
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in Victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:54-57
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ