John the Baptist began to spread the new way with a fiery oratory style and a radical message that inspired the masses and threatened the establishment. So the powers-that-be chopped off his head and extinguished his fire. Or so they thought.
Little did they know that Jesus Christ was there to pick up the torch. He would not allow the flame to be extinguished. Instead his message and his style went even further, flaming up so brightly that many saw the hope of an entirely new world, one which would not see the current authorities retain their traditional power.
And so again out of fear, they took him away. They beat him, mocked him, and nailed him to a cross where he would also die. They thought that they had extinguished the flame once again. The fire was out as Jesus died and his followers, it’s final flickering embers, dispersed into the wind. Or so those same powers of this world thought.
Jesus had indeed been put to death on Friday, and his body taken away and buried in a tomb on Saturday. A massive stone had been set against the opening to the tomb, and guards set outside so that none would be able to remove it. And so night time fell, and into the early still-dark hours of Sunday morning, Jesus lifeless body lay there entombed.
Early on Sunday morning, three of Jesus’ female followers arise before dawn, gather their spices and oils, and set out for the tomb. Mary Magdalene, Salome, and another Mary intended to further and better care for Christ’s body, which had been hastily prepared for initial burial by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
They had followed Jesus in the group of his closest friends for some time. They had the fire lit inside them by his new teaching that included “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
Setting out at about the same time was a 2nd group of women, led by Joanna, who had arranged to meet Mary Magdalene’s group at the tomb. They too had the fire lit inside of them by Christ’s teachings that included “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
They knew that a large stone had been rolled in front of the tomb, but they had no idea that it had now been sealed and had guards placed at its entrance.
Before they arrived, an angel suddenly appeared at the tomb and frightened the guards with his brightness. The guards fled in awe and terror, and when they did so, the angel rolled the stone away from the tomb.
As Mary Magdalene’s group approached they immediately saw that the stone was rolled aside, and that the tomb was open. She left the other two there and immediately returned to town to let Jesus’ Apostles know that the tomb was open.
The other two women decided to enter the tomb, and there they found the angel who said to them
“Do not be afraid. I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold, I have told you.”
The two women quickly ran back to town to give the message to the Apostles.
Then Joanna’s group arrived, are met by two angels, and are given the same message. They also excitedly return to tell the message. They catch up with the first group, and all of the women are suddenly met on the road by Jesus. They immediately fall to his feet and do him homage as he gives them the message himself: “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”
Peter and John, having been given the message by Mary Magdalene, run ahead of her and arrive at the tomb. The fire of Jesus’ teachings which included “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” has fully engulfed their lives. There they see that Jesus is gone, and examine the burial cloths. They observe that in the condition the cloth is found, it appears as if Christ’s body was not removed, but instead appears to have simply disappeared from within.
For all of these men and women, these close followers of Jesus Christ, the Word burns like a flame within. It will be further inflamed as the reality of his rise from the dead and the continuation of his teaching takes place in the coming weeks. Christ had died, but now he had risen and thus had defeated darkness, sin, and death. The authorities had once again misunderstood. Just as with the snuffing out of John’s life they had not put out the fire of his message, neither had they with Jesus’ death.
Jesus spread his fiery message during his lifetime and his public ministry, and the authorities believed that fire had been put out. These earthly ‘authorities’ failed to realize that after the fire of Christ’s life had been extinguished, the fire of his message still burned.
On his return it now burned again even brighter, and would begin to spread around the world as a raging inferno of peace, hope, and love.