I T seemed at the end as if the King's life had been a failure. Where was His throne? Where was His crown?
Cruel men had seized Him and dragged Him before the judge. The people who had once cried, "Hosanna to the King of Israel!" now shouted, "Crucify Him! crucify Him!" His only crown was a wreath of thorns which the mocking soldiers placed upon His head. His throne was a wooden cross to which they nailed Him, driving the nails through those kind hands which had brought comfort and healing and blessing to so many, and through the tired feet which had trod so faithfully the path of suffering.
Jesus on the Cross
To His friends, even perhaps to His dear mother, everything looked black and full of despair. All their hopes were as dead as the quiet body which they laid in the tomb of the silent garden.
That was upon Good Friday; but Easter morning was close at hand.
Very early on the third day, before there was any sign of light, while the stars still looked down on the quiet, sleeping world, a strange thing happened to the soldiers who were keeping guard over the tomb. The wicked men who had put the King to death had been afraid that His friends might steal His body and pretend He was alive, so they had set these soldiers there to watch. All had been quiet until the early morning, and then suddenly the earth shook, and the terrified soldiers saw that Heaven's gates had opened and an angel had come down and rolled away the stone which guarded the opening of the tomb. They were too frightened to stay there any longer, and they fled away from the garden and back to the city.
Though it was so early and still dark, a little company of women were on their way to the silent garden that Easter morning. There was a scent of flowers in the soft air, and as the light dawned in the east the birds began to wake and sing their morning songs. Spring had come. The trees which had looked so gray and dead were bursting into tender green leaves, and seeds which had lain buried in the earth were pushing up living shoots and tiny buds. But the women did not notice flowers or birds or budding trees. It was a dead world to them, because He, their King, was dead, and their own hearts, too, seemed dead with grief.
They reached the garden, and came to the tomb cut out of the rock. Surely some one had been there before them. In the dim light it seemed as if the stone had been rolled away. Trembling and frightened, they went closer, and, stooping down, looked into the tomb. It was empty. The body of the King was not there.
Could some one have stolen that precious body? The women looked at one another in bewildered terror. What should they do? One of them, Mary Magdalene, started at once to go back and tell His disciples; but the others waited there, too full of grief to do anything but just stand and gaze at the empty tomb. Presently they looked carefully in again to make sure; and suddenly, to their amazement, they saw the tomb was empty no longer. An angel sat there, clothed in shining white robes, whose face shone with a heavenly light.
"Be not afraid," they heard him say, as they knelt before him in their terror. "Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: He is risen: He is not here."
"He is not here: for He is risen."
God's angels had carried many a message of joy from Heaven to earth, but never a more joyful one than this. The King was alive. He had conquered death, and was alive for evermore. It was the Resurrection morning, and just as spring was waking into life those seeds which had been buried under ground, so the bodies which slept in their graves would one day rise again through the power of the King of Heaven, who had Himself risen from the dead.
Presently two of the Master's disciples came hurrying into the garden, followed by the woman who had gone to call them. They saw the empty tomb and heard about the shining angel, and they were bewildered, and scarcely knew what to believe. They should have remembered how Jesus had told them He would rise again; but it seemed too good to be true.
It was the poor, sorrowful woman, Mary Magdalene, who first saw the risen King. She was kneeling by the empty tomb and weeping bitterly, for she had not seen the angel, and she still thought some one had stolen His body away. Then through her tears she saw a man standing near her, whom she took to be the gardener, and she begged Him to tell her if He knew where the body of Jesus was. Her eyes were so dim with weeping that she could not see clearly, but her ears could never mistake her Lord's voice, the voice that now called her by name, "Mary."
It was the King Himself who stood there: her Lord and Master at whose feet she knelt.
One by one He showed Himself to His friends and followers, sometimes when they were in little groups of two or three, sometimes when there were many of them gathered together. Each one of them saw and believed, and the one who still doubted was shown in His Master's hands and feet the print of the cruel nails, and the mark of the sword-thrust in His side. There was no room for doubt. It was indeed Jesus, their Lord and Master.
For some little time yet the King remained on earth to help and teach His followers, and to show them that He was indeed alive.
Summer had now come, the fields of golden grain were almost ready for the harvest sickle, and the time drew near when God's Son must return to His Father's kingdom once more.
On the grassy hill top of Mount Olivet the disciples were gathered together with Jesus in their midst; and as He blessed them He was parted from them, and ascended into Heaven, leaving them gazing upwards as a cloud hid Him from their sight.
Once more they were left alone, once more their King was taken from them, but this time it was no hopeless parting. At the side of the little group of men who still stood gazing upwards two angels now appeared, who told them that they ought not to be sorrowful, but, rather, full of triumphant joy. The King was only parted from them for a time. They would see Him again, for He would return in glory, even as they had seen Him ascend into Heaven, a King for evermore.