We will all have coronavirus stories to share for years to come. Recently my daughter said, “This will be an event that I’ll be telling my kids and grandkids about.” And she is right. There will be so many stories. The courageous health care workers working to heal those who contracted the virus, many of whom passed away, but thankfully many more who survived. We will talk about schools and churches going all online. About businesses shutting down, about workers struggling from lack of finances, but about communities coming together to help those in need. We’ll talk about empty roads and pollution clearing. Those are the general stories.
There will also be personal ones. I’ll talk about the 9 year old girl in my church family, with lots more free time, sewing her own dress for her Grammy’s burial service. I’ll talk about the wedding under a blossoming willow tree in the church back yard, as the small group of attendees practiced social distancing, standing spread out on the lawn. I’ll talk about how the shutdown made it possible for our son and daughter-in-law to have time to purchase and train a puppy, a super playful German Shepherd named Kash. I’ll talk about how they brought their two-month old puppy to our house to meet our dog Bentley, and how strong 65 pound five year old Bentley playfully tried to wrestle tiny two month old maybe 15 pound Kash, and Kash got up limping…and I thought “oh no…” Thankfully Kash was ok!
I want to share with you that I have certainly had my moments of frustration during this time, but I have also tried really hard to start each morning by listing out 5 things that I am thankful for. It has been a good practice and one that might be helpful to you during this time too. Today I am thankful for the amazing story that we’re going to study this week. Actually, what we’re going to learn is that there are two Easter stories. Two very different Easter stories.
Turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew 28.
The context leading up to chapter 28, as Matthew writes it, is the events of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. Look at chapter 27 verse 50. Jesus cries out in a loud voice, and dies. At this point it is almost like Matthew gives us rapid-fire snapshots of what took place next, showing quick video segments all around the city of Jerusalem.
- Immediately after Jesus cries out and dies, there is an earthquake and rocks split open.
- The scene quickly flashes to the temple, where the curtain separating the holy place from the most holy place, is ripped in two from top to bottom.
- Then scene shifts again, this time to a cemetery where tombs open up and holy people from the past are raised to life!
- Now in verse 54 he cuts back to the foot of the cross, where we see Jesus dead, hanging there limp, and the soldiers nearby are terrified because of the earthquake and exclaim that Jesus must have been the Son of God.
- Then the camera pans out to show that some women followers of Jesus are watching at the cross too.
- Another scene change, and this time it is to Roman governor’s palace, as a wealthy disciple of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea, asks permission of the Roman governor Pilate to bury Jesus’ body. Pilate agrees.
- Now the scene shifts again to Joseph getting Jesus’ body, preparing it with a clean linen cloth.
- The next scene is Joseph placing Jesus’ body in a tomb cut out of rock, and then rolling a big stone in front of the entrance.
- Still at the tomb, now the camera pans out to show Mary Magdalene and the other Mary (of Mary, Martha & Lazarus?) sitting there watching Joseph work. We see Joseph leave, but the Marys stay there, sitting, watching.
- Now verses 62-66 take us to the next day, Saturday, and the scene is once again at the Roman Governor’s palace. This time, though, the Jewish religious leaders ask Pilate for permission to place security around the tomb. They remember Jesus’ teaching that he would rise after three days, and are afraid his disciples would come steal the body and claim that Jesus rose. Pilate agrees.
- So the scene cuts back to the tomb where the religious leaders seal the stone and post a detachment of soldiers to guard the tomb.
Finally the camera fades to black, bringing us to Matthew 28. The story is just beginning. In the next post we’ll see how the first Easter story unfolds!