The news now quickly spread; the two stories, that of the soldiers, that of the disciples. Folks listened to the one they preferred. Everybody was discussing this new startling appendix to the crucifixion. A bit later in the day two others were walking along one of the country roads leading out of the city, toward a village a few miles away. They jog along slowly as men who are heavy footed with disappointment. They are intently absorbed in conversation, eagerly discussing and questioning about something that clearly puzzled them.
A Stranger, unrecognized, overtakes them and joins in their conversation. He asks, |What is this that you are so concerned about?| So absorbed are they with their thoughts, that at His question they stand still, looking sad and unable for a moment to answer. Where would they begin where there was so much? Then one of them says, |Do you lodge by yourself in the city, and even then do not know the things that have been going on there?| The Stranger draws them out. |What things?| He says. Thus encouraged, they find relief in unburdening their hearts. It was all about Jesus, a man of great power in word and deed, before God and all the people; the great cruelty with which the rulers had secured a sentence of death for Him -- and -- crucified -- Him.
|We were, however, hoping,| they said, |that He was the One who was about to redeem the nation. And now it is the third day since these things occurred. And most surprising word was brought by certain women that has greatly stirred us. They went early to the tomb, and did not find His body, but saw a vision of angels who positively said that He was alive. And some of our party went there and found it true as the women said. But -- they did not see Him.|
Then the Stranger began speaking in a quiet, earnest way that caught them at once. |O foolish men, so slow you are in heart to believe the messages of the old prophets! Was it not needful that the Christ should suffer these very things and to enter into His glory?| Then He began freely to quote passages from all through their sacred writings. As they walk along listening to this wonderful explanation, which now sounds so simple from this Man's lips, they come up to their home in the village. The Stranger seemed inclined to go on. But they earnestly urge Him to come in and get some refreshment and stay over night. He may talk more. They have heard no such winsome talk since Jesus was with them.
He yields. And, as they gather over the simple evening meal, the Stranger picks up the loaf, and looking up repeats the simple grace, and breaking the loaf reaches the pieces over. But as their hands go out for the bread, their eyes turn toward the Stranger's face. Instantly they are spell-bound -- that face -- why -- it is the Master!! Then He is not there. And they said to each other, |Did you ever hear such talking?| |My heart was burning all the time He was talking.| |And mine, too.| Then they hasten back to the city. Those miles are so much shorter now! They go straight to the house where they have been meeting.
|Even So Send I You.|
Here were gathered most of the apostles and several others. Eagerly they were discussing the exciting news of the day. Some know that Jesus has risen. Mary Magdalene, with eyes dancing, says, |I saw Him.| But some are full of doubt and questionings. How could it be? The door is guarded, for if the frenzy of the national leaders should spread, they come next. There's a knock at the door. Cautiously it is opened. Two dusty but radiant faces appear. |The Lord is risen indeed,| they exclaim. And then they tell the story of the afternoon and His wondrous explanation and of that meal.
As they are talking, all at once -- who's that? -- right in their midst. It looks like Jesus. There is that face with those unmistakable marks. And you can see their eyes quickly searching between the sandal straps. Yes, it looks like Him. But it can't be. Their eyes befool them. It's been a hard day for them. It must be a spirit. As they start back, there comes in that voice they can never forget, the old quiet |Good evening.| -- |Peace unto you.| Then He holds out His hands and feet, saying, |Do not be troubled -- it is I Myself -- handle Me, and make sure. A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.| Then He said, |Have you something to eat?| and He ate a bit of broiled fish.
Reassured by such simple practical evidence, a glad peace fills their hearts and faces. They talk together a bit. Then Jesus rising, said again, |Peace unto you -- as the Father hath sent Me, even so send I you.| Then He breathed strongly upon them, saying in very quiet, solemn tones, |Receive ye the Holy Spirit -- Whosesoever sins ye forgive they are forgiven. Whosesoever ye retain they are retained.| And again, as they look, He is not there.
But one man was absent that new Sabbath evening hour. Thomas simply could not believe, and would not, without the most sane, common-sense evidence. He missed much by not being at that meeting. The next Sabbath evening he is present with the others. Again the Master comes as before, unexpectedly standing in their midst, as they talk together about Him. And now Thomas is fully satisfied after his week of doubting. Some of us folks will always be grateful for Thomas.
Some time later, there occurs that second wondrous draught of fishes, at the command of the unrecognized Stranger, one morning at the breaking of the day, and the talk with Peter and the others as they walk along the old shore of the sea. And to James, who seems to have been a leader by dint of a strong personality, He appears.
And one day when there was an unusually large meeting of His followers, as many as five hundred, He came as before and was recognized. And then at the last upon Olives' top came the goodbye meeting and message.
It is surely worthy of remark that the Bethany home is not represented at either cross or tomb. Many of His dear friends are named in connection with both, but not these. Here are some of those dearest to Him, and to whom He is most dear. Here is one, a woman, who had discerned more keenly ahead than any other that He was to die and why. She had understood the minor strains of the old Hebrew oratorio as none other. She had learned at His feet. And here, too, was one who knew death, and the life beyond, and then a return again to this life. It was not indifference that kept them away. They loved tenderly, and were tenderly loved. Their absence is surely most significant. Mary's ointment had already been used. This morning in glad ecstasy of spirit she and her brother and sister wait. They know.