This story is a reproduction of Max Lucado’s Resurrection Morning,
“He is not here. He has risen from the dead as he said he would.” Matthew 28:6
“When I first saw Him being led up the hill, I noticed He was different. He didn’t demand we let Him go. He didn’t shout or resist. And we hammered the spike into His hand —“
Claudius paused, wondering if he should have mentioned this. An encouraging nod from one of the women told him to continue.” –when we placed the spike in His hand, He held His hand still. He didn’t fight.”
“Sounds like something He would do,” a man in the back stated. Several nodded in agreement.
“He never seemed angry.” Claudius’s voice grew softer as he continued. “He never blamed anyone. People were cursing and laughing at Him, but not once did I see His eyes lose their calm.”
No one moved as Claudius spoke. When he shared these events with his superiors earlier in the day, they had scoffed. It didn’t matter to the Romans how Jesus had acted. But it mattered to these people. They wanted to know every detail. For the first time Claudius felt a camaraderie with his listeners – a camaraderie based on a fascination with one Man.
He continued, “Forgive them, ‘I heard Him say. And when He spoke, I looked up, He was looking at me. His face was a mask of blood and spit. But He was praying for me.”
The only movement in the room was the nodding of heads.
“After the crucifixion I helped lower His body and lay it on the ground. I waited as these women–“He motioned to several near the front. “I waited as they prepared the body, and then I saw that it was placed in the tomb.
“I thought my day was over. It took four men to close the grave’s opening with a huge stone. When we turned to leave, word came that Pilot and the Temple leaders were nervous that someone would still the body. We were told to seal the tomb and stand guard all night.”
There were several of us, so we built a fire and took turns. I was the first to sleep. When they woke me for my turn, it was an hour before dawn. The night was black – as black as any night I can remember. The moon was small, and the stars were hidden by the clouds.”
“I stood on one side. Another soldier stood on the other. He laughed about how easy it was to guard a tomb. Not often does a soldier get guard duty in a cemetery. Maybe we dozed off, because at first I thought I was dreaming. The guard began to shake – violently. It shook so hard I fell to the ground. Rocks fell from the walls behind us. Sparks flew from the fire. The soldiers asleep on the ground jumped up. I know they were standing because when the light hit them, I could see their faces like it was broad daylight.”
“What light?’ someone asked.
“You tell me!” Claudius demanded. “Where did that light come from? The rock rolled back and light roared out. A burst of fire with no heat. A gust of wind blew from the tomb, put out the fire, knocked us back, and the next thing I knew, the tomb was empty. I looked at the soldiers. They were stunned. About that time these two women appeared.”
“That’s when we saw the angel!” Mary blurted. “He was sitting on the rock! He told us that Jesus was not here. He told us that…”
“He told us that Jesus is no longer dead!”
He words rang in the room like the peal of a bell. No one dared speak. Finally one did. A clean shaven younger man said softly, but firmly, “Just like He said He would.”
“You mean, He said He would do this?” Claudius asked.
“More than once. But we didn’t understand. We didn’t believe. Until today.”
“John,” one of the women asked the man speaking, “you were there. You went to the tomb. Is that what you saw?”
“Peter and I saw the tomb. We saw it open and empty. But we didn’t see Jesus.”
Once again the room was quiet. Then Claudius broke the silence. “I have a question. I’ve told you what you wanted to know. Now you tell me what I want to know. This has been on my mind all weekend. It’s been on my heart ever since I struck the nail into Jesus’ hand. Who is this man? Who is Jesus?”
If any head hung before, it lifted at this moment. If any thoughts had wandered, they wandered no more.
“Is there any doubt?” Mary said. Her eyes were bright. She jumped to her feet as she spoke. “I saw Him! I saw Him risen from the dead. He is who He said He was. He is the Son of God!”
With that statement the room broke into chaos.
“No, she is right. Let her speak!”
Why did He let them kill Him if He is the Son of God?”
“It doesn’t make sense.”
“What doesn’t make sense is why you can’t believe!”
Claudius was silent. What he was hearing, he could not handle. But what he had seen at the grave, he could not deny. He leaned over and put his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands. Thoughts rumbled in his head. He was so intent that he didn’t notice the sudden silence. Stillness reigned for several seconds before he raised his head. A light filled the room. He looked at the door and the window; they were still closed.
Faces that had been cast in shadows now beamed. All eyes stared in his direction – not at him, but behind him. But before he could turn to see what they were seeing, a hand was on his shoulder. When Claudius turned to look at the hand, he found the answer for his heart.
The hand was pierced.
If we’re honest, we’ll realize that Claudius’s story is our won. Each of us, through our own sin, played a figurative role in nailing Jesus to the cross. The glory of Easter is that the same hands that were pierced by our rebellion now reach out to us in compassion and forgiveness. Truly, we can say with the prophet Isaiah, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
To those of you who are overwhelmed by the cares of life and burdened by the weight of the world during this Easter season, I urge you, look to the risen Christ. May His grace, peace and presence surround you and your loved ones not only on Easter Sunday, but every day.