April 6, 2008


We welcome you this day to our regular gathering in honor of Jesus. A controversial figure, a revolutionary, He died on the cross just over two weeks ago. Today we will celebrate His life.


The strange events surrounding this man seem to be continuing.  Jesus’ followers, praising and blessing God, have entered the temple. Indications are they will remain there until they receive something undefined, some special power they claim is to be sent to them by the missing man.

Reporters, including HWJR-FM radio (How Would Jesus Respond—First Millennium) reporter Ramsey Khalil, reported earlier that the soldiers who were guarding the tomb claim that Jesus’ body is missing.

Sources leaked to Khalil information that after the chief priests heard about Jesus’ body being missing from the tomb, they met with the elders and decided to give the tomb guards a large sum of money to tell people that Jesus’ disciples showed up at the tomb to steal Jesus’ body while the guards were sleeping.

Today’s newsbreaks follow the incredible events surrounding Jesus’ crucifixion. But first, a recap of earlier events.

HWJR-FM radio began special coverage of this story over two weeks ago. Station reporters accompanied a team of authorities as Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, led them to where Jesus and His other disciples were congregated in a garden over the Brook Kidron at Gethsemane. Khalil was on the scene.

“Jesus was rebuking the disciples for falling asleep and not keeping watch while He had been off alone, talking to His Father.

“While He rebuked the disciples, Judas arrived with a detachment of troops, chief priests, scribes, elders and Pharisees. They were armed with swords and clubs. Judas approached Jesus, and greeted Him with a kiss on the cheek.”

Jesus then asked the authorities whom they were looking for.

“They said, ‘Jesus of Nazareth.’”

“I am He,” Jesus replied.

The contingent drew back and fell to the ground. Jesus asked them again: “Whom are you seeking?” and they responded again: “Jesus of Nazareth.”

At that point, one of the disciples, Simon Peter, drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, Malchus, cutting off his right ear.

Jesus said to Peter, “Permit even this. Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink which my Father has given Me?” Jesus touched Malchus’ ear, healing it, before turning towards the contingent and saying, “I have told you that I am He. Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was with you every day in the temple, teaching, and you did not seize Me. If you are looking for Me, let these go their way.”

Suddenly, all His disciples fled. The authorities arrested Jesus, taking Him to the high priest Caiphas, where a group of scribes and elders were gathered. Caiaphas and the men sought false witness against Jesus, and finally two came forward and accused Him. Jesus remained silent, not even speaking in His own defense.

Caiaphas finally asked Jesus, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!”

Council then asked him, “Are you then the Son of God?” Jesus finally responded: “You rightly say that I am. Jesus answered: “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.””

At that point, the room was chaotic. Caiaphas shouted of “BLASPHEME!” as the men spat in His face, beat Him and struck Him. They then took Jesus to Governor Pontius Pilate, who asked what charges they were levying against Jesus.

“If He were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed Him over to you!”

Pilate told the accusers to take Jesus and judge Him by their own Jewish law.

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” the Jews objected.

Pilate interrogated Jesus about all the accusations the chief priests had against Him.

“He said nothing,” Pilate reported. “Everyone else I ever questioned was eager to defend themselves. When I asked him if he were King of the Jews, He said ‘It is as you say.’ But he told me his kingdom was not of this world. He was born to bear witness to the truth. It was puzzling. He made me think.

“You have brought this man to me as one who misleads the people. And indeed, having examined Him in your presence, I have found no basis for a (criminal) charge against him. Indeed, nothing deserving of death has been done by Him. What, then, do you want me to do with Him whom you call the ‘King of the Jews?’”

It was the custom of the day for Pilate to release to the public one prisoner at the time of the Passover.

“Do you want me to release Him?”

“Crucify Him!” yelled out one of the chief priests.

Pilate questioned the crowd again. With one voice they kept shouting, “Crucify Him!”

Pilate questioned the crowd a third time, asking,

“Why” What crime has this man committed? I have found no grounds for the death penalty!”

The crowd was out for blood. They so loudly demanded that Pilate release Barrabas and crucify Jesus that Pilate caved in to their request, fearing a riot would occur if he didn’t comply.

As Pilate released Barabas and turned Jesus over for crucifixion, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, stating, “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he stated. “It is your responsibility.” To which the people responded: “Let his blood be on us and on our children.”

Khalil and the other reporters hustled to keep up with the events that followed. Pilate had Jesus flogged before releasing him to the Jews. An entire company of the governor’s soldiers stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him.

“Hail! King of the Jews!”

They spit on him and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. When they were finished they removed His robe and dressed Him in His own clothes again. Then they led Him and two other criminals away to be crucified at Golgotha.

Jesus carried His own crucifixion cross. When it appeared He could no longer continue, a man named Simon from Cyrene was pulled out of the crowd to carry it for Him.

At Golgotha, the soldiers placed the sign on His head announcing the charges against Him: “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” It was the third hour when they crucified Him.

During the crucifixion, the soldiers took His clothing and cast lots for them. People passed by Jesus, hurling insults at him, shaking their heads and saying: “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!”

The chief priests also called out: “He can save others, but He can’t save Himself!”

One of the two criminals being crucified with him joined in the mockery. “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” The other criminal yelled at his compatriot in crime: “Don’t you fear God? We are being punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But Jesus has done nothing wrong!”

He turned to Jesus and said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom!” Jesus assured him that they would be together that day in paradise. Then He called out from the cross: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!”

Jesus spotted His mother and one of His disciples. “Mother, behold thy son! and son, behold thy Mother!” Eyewitnesses later saw Mary leaving the scene with the disciple.

In the sixth hour a strange darkness came over the land. The sun stopped shining. It lasted until the ninth hour, when Jesus could be heard calling out: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Then He asked for a drink. A man in the crowd filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick and offered it to Jesus.

People, saying He was calling to Elijah, yelled out for Jesus to be left alone. They wanted to see if Elijah would come to save Him. But shortly, Jesus cried out in a loud voice: “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!” Thus, Jesus gave up the ghost.

At that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, the earth shook, rocks split, and tombs broke open, releasing the bodies of many holy people who had died, raising them to life.

The centurion and others who were with him, guarding Jesus, began to yell praises to God and shouted: “Truly, this was the Son of God.”

Soon the crowd had dispersed. Khalil remained to continue coverage of the story.

Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the council who had disagreed with his colleague’s decision against Jesus, went boldly to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body. Pilate consented, and Joseph removed Jesus from the cross, wrapped his body in a clean linen cloth, and placed Him in his new tomb cut from rock. The women who had been with Jesus followed Joseph and watched him lay Jesus body in the tomb. Just as the Sabbath day began, Joseph rolled a big stone in front of the tomb and left.

Khalil later re-interviewed Pilate.

“The day after Jesus was crucified and I gave permission to Joseph to take His body, the chief priests and the Pharisees approached me,” he said. “They reminded me that the deceiver Jesus said he would rise again in three days. They asked me to secure the tomb until then so the disciples couldn’t steal the body and claim Jesus had risen from the dead. I provided them with the guards who would secure the tomb.

“But something strange happened,” continued Pilate. “Jesus’ body still came up missing.”

The day following the Sabbath, Khalil interviewed Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James the younger and Jesus. After watching Joseph tenderly place Jesus’ body in the tomb, they had gone home for the Sabbath. Early on the day after, they went out to buy the spices they needed to anoint Jesus’ body.

On the way to the tomb, they wondered who would roll the stone away from the entrance. But when they arrived, the stone was already moved aside. In spite of their fear, the women stepped boldly and gingerly into the tomb. Moments later, they came running out, visibly shaken, shouting and yelling, and looking confused and perplexed.

“What happened?” Khalil asked them.

As he and the others who had gathered pressed them with questions, the women, who appeared frightened, reluctantly answered.

“Jesus is gone!” they fearfully called out. “The tomb is empty! Our hearts are filled with joy!! We were startled when we entered the tomb and saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting inside. His appearance was like lightening, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards had been so afraid they shook and became as dead men. And the man spoke to us!

“He said, ‘Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus? He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him? Remember, Jesus told you the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day He would rise. This has been fulfilled.’

“We remembered the words of Jesus when the Man reminded us. He told us to go as fast as possible to tell Jesus’ disciples and Peter. And he said Jesus would be on the road to Galilee, ahead of us, and we would run into Him. Then suddenly the man disappeared from the tomb! We don’t understand, but we must get going!”

Khalil and the other reporters followed the women as they ran off to find the apostles. They watched from a distance as the women ran into a man who had the appearance of Jesus.

“All Hail!” they could hear the man saying, as the Marys ran to the man and held Him by the feet, worshipping Him. “Don’t be afraid. Go! Tell my brothers to go to Galilee and they will see Me there!”

The reporters boldly tried to interview the man but He would not talk to them. So they continued following the women, who soon found the disciples sitting with other unidentified persons. The women excitedly told them what had happened.

“Quit telling us idle tales,” one man shouted.

“I don’t believe a word these women are saying,” an unidentified witness told Khalil. “No one could remove Jesus’ body! It was sealed in the tomb with armed guards standing watch! Their grief must be making the women hysterical!”

Even Jesus’ apostles considered the women’s words to be idle tales. “I don’t believe a thing these women are saying!” one of them told Khalil. But Peter, the man who denied Jesus three times when he was questioned by the authorities, jumped up and ran to the tomb. Khalil followed him.

Peter stooped down in the cave and saw Jesus’ linen clothes lying neatly in a pile. Khalil heard him muttering, “Could it be true?”

Khalil then left the tomb to follow two men, Simon and Cleopas, who were walking down the road to a village named Emmaus, about sixty furlongs from Jerusalem. They were deep in discussion about the events of the past weeks, trying to make some sense out of the occurrences. Suddenly, a stranger approached them. It was the same stranger who had met the Marys earlier. He must have noticed their sad demeanor and intense conversation, because he joined them and asked them, “What has happened to create such sadness in you?”

Cleopas responded: “Are you a stranger in Jerusalem? Don’t you know what events occurred in these past weeks?

“What things?” the stranger asked, and as they walked along the road together, the two men told the stranger the events surrounding Jesus. As they finished their story, the men bemoaned the fact that they had trusted Jesus to redeem Israel, and that this was the third day since the crucifixion.

The strange rebuked Cleopas and Simon. “You fools! You’re slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”

Khalil listened as the stranger explained and interpreted all the things concerning the events, according to Scripture. He was still with them as they entered the village. The stranger was ready to continue on, but Cleopas and Simon had reached their destination. They begged the stranger and Khalil to remain with them, since it was evening. The stranger agreed.

Khalil reported: “I watched as the stranger, sitting at the table with the men, took bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. The disciples suddenly started. Their eyes had a look of recognition as they realized who this man was.

“While they were questioning themselves about their ‘hearts burning’ during the strangers’ teaching on the Scriptures, Jesus disappeared from their sight. The men immediately rose from the table and returned to Jerusalem, looking awe-filled and surrounded with an aura of wonder.”

Khalil remained with them as they reached Jerusalem, where they found the eleven disciples and their friends. They excitedly shouted, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” In the midst of Simon’s sharing their experience with the other disciples, the same stranger appeared in their midst.

“Peace be with you,” He said. The men looked frightened. “I thought I was seeing a ghost,” several told me later.

“Why are you scared?” Khalil heard the man ask. “Why do doubts rise in your mind? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I, Myself! Me, Jesus! Touch me and see: a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

He told Khalil, “They still doubt who I am. They are too surprised and shocked.”

Jesus asked the disciples for something to eat and was given some broiled fish. He spoke to them as he ate: “This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise again from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised but stay in Jerusalem until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

Jesus rose and left. Khalil remained with the group while they followed Jesus as far as Bethany, where He lifted His hands and blessed them. During the Blessing He was suddenly parted from them and carried up to heaven.

The disciples worshiped him as they returned to Jerusalem. Today, they are still together, waiting for the promise Jesus made to them to be fulfilled.

Khalil will remain on the scene to keep you abreast of continuing developments. For now, we will continue with our planned service in honor of Jesus.

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