A Quiet Sunday Evening In Jerusalem
A warm gentle breeze is blowing in from the sea; spring has arrived once more. Dusk, too, has come, and while darkness takes its grip on the city, the birds roost for the night. All is quiet.
It’s been a very different week here in Jerusalem, even for Passover week. Strange events have taken place, and the city is buzzing. Strange events, indeed! Three hours of total darkness in the middle of the day? Unheard of! Word has spread like wildfire that, in the midst of that darkness, the veil of the Temple had been rent in two, from top to bottom. The earth itself trembled with us. Yes, strange phenomena indeed, and somehow they seemed tied to the death of that Galilean, Jesus. But He is dead and buried now, and Jerusalem won’t hear from Him anymore. The Romans not only sealed the tomb after His crucifixion, but also assigned soldiers to guard it, lest some of His followers should steal His body and proclaim that He is alive again, seeking to make Him Messiah.
His disciples are gone. Word has it they’ve gone into hiding — in any case, the streets are empty of them now. They are discredited and dejected, to be certain. In a few short days they will be scattered and return to their homes and former occupations. After all, they were only fishermen, tax collectors and the like, and nothing much has ever come out of Galilee. Others have come before Him claiming too to be the Messiah. They’ve come and gone and their followers with them. Why should we worry? The same will happen this time ~ but still, all these very strange events surrounding this Man’s death. Never before has this happened.
One Section of the City
The city seems so quiet tonight. With the warm breezes off the Mediterranean, it would be a good evening to take a long stroll. How pleasant it is in the late twilight.
Look! There goes one of His followers into that building. There is another one! See how stealthily they move along this evening. Isn’t this the upper room where that Galilean, Jesus, met with His disciples prior to His crucifixion? They celebrated Passover together here. It is hard to believe, but His band of disciples is gathering for a meeting. They must be up to something!
They really are abuzz this evening. Their voices are high with excitement. Listen! It seems they can hardly speak quickly enough. What has happened to cause so great a change? Yesterday, they were so solemn, gloomy. Some of the women wept, the men trying vainly to comfort them. Nothing to cling to — surely they would scatter in the wind! But something has happened. Why the sudden change?
Listen! They are talking about that man, Jesus. They are talking of His . . . resurrection? Those women who were close to Him say they arose early this morning and with the Sabbath over went to anoint His body with spices. The burial was so very hasty the other afternoon, and they had nothing to prepare Him. This was the last act of endearment, I suppose. They say they made their way to the grave, discussing how to get the guard to let them break the seal, and how they might roll that huge stone away.
When they arrived at the tomb, they found the stone had been rolled away from the sepulcher, and entering the grave they realized the body of Jesus was not there. Not there? They say He was gone! Perplexed and terrified they were, and little wonder! They claimed that an angel appeared and said to them, . . . Fear not; for I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay (Mt. 28:5-6).
These women must be dazed with grief hallucinations to be sure!
Peter and John
Peter was astounded when the women came to him with the story of a resurrection. This could not be! To Peter and the others their words seemed like foolishness. After all, hadn’t the spokeswoman for this group, Mary Magdalene, once been demon possessed? However, curiosity got the best of them, and they decided to have a look for themselves. Excitedly, they ran to the tomb. John says he arrived first and looked in at the way the grave clothes lay. Peter reports how he went in and saw the linen. John “saw and believed”, as he puts it. He was immediately convinced his Saviour had been raised from the dead. Peter was not so quick to jump to conclusions, mind you. After studying the gravesite for some time and not knowing what else to do, they both returned to their own homes to contemplate the events of the morning.
Could it really be? Was there a resurrection as the women said? Did this Galilean actually have the power to raise Himself from the dead? If so, could He really be the long awaited Messiah of Israel? Is He . . . God?
Ssshhh . . . again they are telling of what happened. Later this afternoon several of the disciples met, concerned about their safety. They had evidence to believe the soldiers who guarded the tomb had come back into the city and showed the chief priests all the things that were done. They say the religious leaders bribed the soldiers to report that Jesus disciples had come and stolen His body while they slept! There is no telling what these religious leaders might do now.
That is why they decided to meet tonight in secret to discuss the situation.
The meeting would be held here in the upper room, and they saw to it that the doors were bolted for everyone’s safety. No wonder we saw them slip into the upper room so secretively.
The Experience of Mary
Things are really stirred up now. Look! Who is that at the door? I believe it is Mary Magdalene. She is explaining how she returned to the tomb, weeping openly over the loss of His body. She even claimed to see two angels in the tomb. Mary says when she had turned away, a gardener spoke to her, asking, “. . . why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?” (Jn. 20:15).
He called her name. Then she recognized the voice. It was her Master, Jesus! Mary Magdalene has come to tell the disciples she has seen her Lord and that He had spoken to her. Mary is certain her Lord has risen from the dead!
What will they do now? Where will they go? The women have further instructed them that the risen Jesus told them to go to Galilee where they would see Him. But won’t they be accosted if they attempt this mission? Is it safe for them to travel? There is another knock at the door. Hush! Fear has frozen the words in their throats. Who could it be — soldiers come to arrest them?
The Eimmaus Road Disciples
It is only Cleopas and his disciple friend. They surely have an unusual story to tell. As they were despondently trudging to Emmaus this afternoon, they were exchanging views about the traumatic events in Jerusalem of the past week. A stranger joined them, asking what they were talking about and why they were so sad. They retorted and asked Him if He was new in Jerusalem. Hadn’t He heard of all the unusual events that had taken place? Apparently not! They told Him what had happened in full detail, giving even the latest information from the women, that Jesus’ body was not in the sepulcher. Then the Stranger said to them, … O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them, in all the scriptures, the things concerning himself (Lk. 24:25-27).
Who is this stranger who speaks from the Scripture so?
Upon arriving at their destination, even though it appeared He wanted to continue His journey, they presumed on Him to stop and eat with them. They claim at this their eyes were opened, and they knew who the Stranger was. It was Jesus! He was alive! How could they not have known it was Him? But, as they questioned Him further He disappeared from sight. What should they do? So they came here to tell His disciples.
Listen to that clamor. Aren’t they afraid the authorities will hear? Listen to the way they shout and sing! They really do believe. Perhaps He really is alive. The evidence is piling up. More and more they sound convinced of His resurrection. But IF He is alive, where is He?
What is this? There He is! We did not see Him come to the door — how could He be there? It is Jesus! He is there! Suddenly, there He stands.
Quiet! I can hardly hear. He speaks so softly. “Peace be unto you” (Lk. 24:36), He says. How terrified and afraid they are. They suppose they have seen a spirit. Is it really Jesus? The voice is familiar, and it does look like Him. Could it really be? Even the disciples are quite unsure of themselves.
“. . . Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? (Lk. 24:38) He asks. Composure slowly is returning to the group. They listen intently as He speaks:
Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet (Lk. 24:39-40).
This IS truly Jesus, the One they had followed for three years, the One who only days before died on a Roman cross — and now He IS alive — truly alive!
“. . . Have ye here anything to eat? (Lk. 24:41) He says. Searching the room, someone finds a piece of broiled fish and a honeycomb. They can’t believe what they see — neither can I, my friend. He’s taking it and eating it. This is not an apparition — not a mirage. This is their Saviour in a real body, enjoying a meal in their presence. It IS true! He IS, risen! Despair is changed to hope! Sadness has become joy!
Now that they are convinced, Jesus is beginning to teach them a lesson from the Scriptures:
. . . These are the words which I spoke unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures. And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Lk. 24:44-47).
Oh how their hearts burn in them as He carefully opens the Scriptures. Unfolded before their very eyes, the Word of God has clearly painted a portrait of Jesus, the crucified, buried and resurrected Messiah.
He had taught them earlier, but they had missed it. Now they understand. It all fits together. They now have a mission — a message to be taken to the world. They must go!
The sun is setting, but a new day is upon us. This quiet evening in Jerusalem is turned into a night of rejoicing. The Galilean IS the long-sought Messiah of Israel. He IS the Son of God. He IS all He claimed to be. He HAS fulfilled the prophecies of which He spoke.
Discouraged, disillusioned lives have been changed by His resurrection. Jerusalem, Judaea, Samaria, Israel, the world will never be the same. The resurrection makes the difference.
There will be many more quiet Sunday nights in Jerusalem, but never another quite like this one.