HE HAS RISEN. HE IS NOT HERE.

The very first Easter started out quite, calm, and somber. A small group of women—full of grief—prepare to visit the tomb of their beloved friend named Jesus.

Their friend’s death was still raw in their hearts and minds. For he had only just died on Friday.

The last week of his life was so vivid and powerful. His death—in their minds—signified dreams lost and promises left unfulfilled. He had taught them of a coming kingdom and a new vision for life. He told them about a new path for every individual. It was a path full of profound truths that revealed deep freedom, hope, family, belonging, meaning, and power. This path would lead to a peace that passed all understanding and a joy that was so pure it was unspeakable. Yet, this new peace—this new way of living—was reliant on Jesus’ life. He was the key. He had told them this many times. And now he was dead.

For years Jesus had taught his friends and followers of this new way of life. He had turned the world on its head with his teaching. He had done many miraculous things. He had filled his friends with hope and excitement. Yet now his body lay in a tomb.

As the story is told, in the middle of the night Jesus had been taken by the authorities, accused unjustly, and put to death before anyone could object. They tortured him and flogged him mercilessly. They whipped him and mocked him. They beat him to the very edge of death. And then they killed him by hanging him on a tree.

Nails pierced his hands and feet. Thorns were driven into his head. A spear was thrust in his side. All the while, they mocked him for who he said he was....

King of the Jews. Savior of the world.

Now, as these women walked to his tomb, they lamented. They cried. Their close friend was now dead.

Yet that is not the end of the story. In many ways, it was just the beginning.

As the sun rose over the distant hills, the sorrowful women approached his tomb. As the tomb came within view, they noticed something shockingly wrong. The massive stone that was meant to cover the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away. Curious yet full of fear, they quietly entered the place where their friend had been laid just three days prior. They expected to see his body laying still, wrapped in cloth. Instead, they saw a young man dressed in white, fully alive and alert. It was not their friend Jesus. No, their friend was gone. His body was nowhere to be seen.

Overcome by fear, the women began to retreat, but the young man spoke boldly. He said, “Don’t be alarmed, you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here.”

Jesus was not just a man. As the Bible tells us, he was the Son of God—sent to bring healing and hope, peace and love. He was sent to break the bonds of death and pain.

This is what we celebrate on Easter.