by Fr Duncan McVicar on 24/04/2011 -
In the cool predawn darkness, three battle-hardened Roman soldiers in full armour are guarding Joseph’s tomb where Jesus was buried three days earlier. Despite strict army regulations, they are talking softly, almost at a whisper, between themselves.
“All men die the same,” one mutters.
This apathetic tone ignites a spark of anger from another. “Not like he did!” was the intense whispering reply. “We nailed him to the cross-bar and hoisted it onto the upright, but I’ll never forget the words that he said during his execution.” Turning his head and looking at the others with fire in his eyes and a narrowed brow, he said with slower more precise diction, “I was responsible for killing him, and he forgave me!” A third insensitive voice quickly responds, “Haven’t you been a soldier too long to be troubled by a guilty conscience?”
The troubled guard continues to blurt out what he can no longer hold within himself. “The thief next to him asked this Jesus from Nazareth to remember him. Oh, his voice while in this nightmare of sure death and torture! He said, “Today you will be with me in paradise,” and in that instant the sky grew dark. Everyone felt the cold chill in the air then, like all the evil forces in the world were gloating when he cried. He sounded like the loneliest man in the world hanging there. The earthquake knocked me to the ground for a moment, and then the darkness began to lift. That was no mere man I crucified I tell you. He was more than just a mere man! Rarely a tomb is sealed as this one is, let alone guarded.”
In the dull light of the dawn, suddenly appears an angel enveloped within a fiercely bright pure light painful to the eyes as if looking directly into the high noon sun. The air reverberated like a crack of vicious thunder lifting the three Roman soldiers off their feet and throwing them to the ground , rendering them dumbfounded and motionless.
Turning toward the six foot stone covering the opening of the grave, this immensely strong angel rolls the stone away from the entry of the tomb. The battle-hardened Roman soldiers sit there trembling, each gazing in unbelief yet knowing they have all seen the same thing.
“Sir! It’s gone! The body is gone!” “Shut your mouth soldier!” the other shouted, scrambli-ng to his feet. “I tell you, he’s alive! What are we going to tell the Centurion?” “You didn’t see anything! We fell asleep or something! You don’t know anything! Got it?” demand-ed the third. “But I do know, and I did see, Captain! Jesus is out there alive I tell you! More than alive!”
The other two begin shoving, slapping, and shouting at the believing soldier with panic stricken voices, “Forget this ever happened, Marcus!”
A shaky voice on the verge of tears replies, “Forget it if you can sir, but with all due respect, Jesus is alive, and that changes everything!”
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