“Did not this Jesus tell you, even in Galilee,
that he would die, but that he would rise again?”
—The Urantia Papers
JERUSALEM — Words alone can never fully describe the Resurrection of Jesus. The Urantia Book’s account, which comes the closest to revealing the truth of what actually happened on the morning of April 9, 30 A.D. — for our time— is still a narration that must be heard with the ear of faith. Not because it lacks the compelling power of truth, but because it involves events beyond the scope of normal human experience. Those who chance to read this who might lack the faith necessary to put these things in their rightful perspective can, nonetheless, benefit from the experience of simply putting the narration of these events into their personal consciousness. What your Spirit is able to do with it once it’s there, is another matter, dependent upon your freewill decisions.
We pick up the story inside the Sanhedrin, where a group of chief priests gathered at the home of Caiaphas near midnight, Friday. They discussed their fears concerning Jesus’ public assertions that he would “rise from the dead on the third day.” They appointed a committee to officially request a Roman guard be stationed at the tomb, to prevent his disciples from stealing the body by night, and proclaim that Jesus had risen from the dead. Subsequently, Pilate did provide a guard of ten soldiers to accompany ten Jewish guards. And these twenty soldiers decided to roll a second stone before the tomb, and they set the seal of Pilate on and around both stones, lest they be disturbed without their knowledge. The larger of these two stones was a huge circular milled stone, which moved in a groove chiseled out of the rock; it could be rolled back and forth to open or close the tomb.
The Jewish guards and the Roman soldiers, in the dim light of the morning, saw this huge stone begin to roll away from the entrance of the tomb— apparently of its own accord— without any visible means to account for such motion. The entire contingent of soldiers panicked; the Jews fled to their homes, the Romans to the fortress of Antonia. The guards were paid bribes— and instructed to say, “While we slept during the nighttime, his disciples came upon us and took away the body.”
That’s right. A few fishermen, carpenters, and common folk who followed Jesus, armed with oh, say, a few boat oars and wood mallets, overpowered twenty soldiers of a combined Roman and Jewish guard.
At this same time, Mary Magdalene and four other women were attempting to complete the proper burial preparations on the body of Jesus. (They had agreed amongst themselves to do so, after having secreted themselves near the tomb Friday and witnessing the haphazard internment of Jesus.)
A little before three o’clock this Sunday morning as the first signs of day began to appear in the east, five women, with an abundance of embalming lotions and linen bandages, started out for the tomb of Jesus. As they passed through the Damascus gate, they encountered a number of soldiers fleeing into the city more or less panic-stricken, and this caused them to pause for a few minutes; but when nothing more developed, they continued on.
When they arrived at the tomb, they were greatly surprised to see not one, but two stones rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, inasmuch as they had been wondering on the way out, who will help us roll away the stone? They set down their supplies, and stood looking upon one another in fear and amazement.
As they stood there, trembling with fear, Mary Magdalene ventured around the smaller stone and dared to enter the open sepulchre. (The tomb is on the hillside on the eastern side of the road, and it also faces toward the east.) By this hour there was just enough of the dawn to enable her to see where the Master’s body had lain, and to discern that it was gone. She could see only the folded napkin where his head had rested, and the bandages wherewith he had been wrapped, lying intact; the covering sheet lay at the foot of the burial niche.
Standing in the doorway of the tomb for a few moments (She did not see distinctly when she first entered the tomb), and seeing that Jesus’ body was indeed gone, and seeing only the grave cloths, she cried out in anguish. The other women, having been on edge ever since meeting the panicky soldiers at the city gate, became terror-stricken and fled. And they did not stop until they had run all the way to the Damascus gate, where they realized they had deserted Mary at the tomb, and started back.
Mary was greatly afraid when she failed to find my sisters waiting when she came out of the tomb. After a long and fearful moment, I saw them approaching, and rushed up to them exclaiming: “He is not there— they have taken him away!” Going back to the tomb, all of them entered and saw that it was empty.
At first they conjectured that the body had been moved to another resting place. But they were at a loss to account for the orderly arrangement of the grave cloths; how could the body have been removed since the very bandages in which it was wrapped were left in position and apparently intact on the burial shelf?
As they puzzled over this, Mary looked to one side to see a silent and motionless stranger. Thinking he might be the caretaker of the garden, she said, “Where have you taken the Master? Where have they laid him? Tell us that we may go and get him.” But the stranger did not answer her. She began to weep.
Then spoke this stranger to them, saying, “Whom do you seek?” Mary said: “We seek for Jesus who was laid to rest in Joseph’s tomb, but he is gone. Do you know where they have taken him?”
Then he said : “Did not this Jesus tell you, even in Galilee, that he would die, but that he would rise again?” These words startled all of them, but this figure was so changed that they could not yet recognize him with his back turned to the dim light. As they pondered his words, he addressed Mary with a familiar voice, saying, “Mary.” And when she heard that word— so well-known to her, and filled with sympathy and affection, she knew instantly it was the voice of the Master, and she rushed to kneel at his feet; she said, “My Lord, and my Master!”
And then all of her sisters recognized it was the Master who stood before them— in glorified form— and they too knelt before him.
Mary sought to embrace his feet, but Jesus said: “Touch me not, Mary, for I am not as you knew me in the flesh. In this form will I tarry with you for a season before I ascend to the Father. But go, all of you, now and tell my apostles— and Peter— that I have risen, and that you have talked with me.”
After they had somewhat recovered from the shock of their amazement, they hastened back to the city and to the home of Elijah Mark, where they related to the apostles all that had happened to them; but they were not inclined to believe them. They thought they had seen a vision, but when Mary repeated the words Jesus had spoken to them, and when Peter heard his name, he rushed out, followed closely by John, to see these things for themselves.
Again Mary repeated this story to the other apostles, but they would not believe; and they would not go to find out for themselves as had Peter and John.
Mary returned to the tomb, downcast and despairing at the apostles, who would not believe her. Her heart longed to be back where she had heard the Master’s voice.
When she arrived back at the tomb, Peter was saying the body had been stolen by enemies of Jesus, but John reasoned that the grave could not have been left in so orderly a fashion— and how to explain that the bandages had been left behind, so obviously intact?
Mary lingered at the tomb after John and Peter had left. And in a moment, the Master again appeared to her, saying, “Be not doubting; have the courage to believe what you have seen and heard. Go back to my apostles and again tell them that I have risen, that I will appear to them, and that presently I will go before them into Galilee as I promised.” She immediately did as the Master instructed, but again they would not believe her; they were filled with fear.
Her sisters had gone to the home of Nicodemus and told them what had happened. Some of those gathered there felt the Jews [the priests?] must have taken the body, but Joseph [of Arimathea] hurried out to see the tomb, particularly the grave cloths; and they were the last to so view the sepulchre, for the captain of the temple guards arrived at the tomb at half past seven o’clock and removed the grave cloths.