[Illustration: The descent from the Cross]
We do not know that any of the eleven disciples helped to bury Jesus, but, while John took the mother of Jesus to a place of rest and safety, his own mother, Salome, and Mary, the mother of James, and Mary Magdalene stood looking on afar off. There were other women also, who helped to guard the body of the crucified Lord when it seemed to be forsaken of all men. They marked the place where He lay and went away, for the hours of "preparation" and the Sabbath were before them. On the eve of Friday they prepared spices and ointments, and rested the Sabbath day (seventh day) according to the commandment. But Roman soldiers came and set a seal upon the tomb, and watched it night and day. On the first day of the week (now the Christian Sabbath) very early in the morning, while the streets were still, and there lay only a faint streak of rose in the purple east, Mary Magdalene hastened out of the city to the tomb in the garden, bearing her spices. When she reached the place she saw no guards there, and the heavy stone was rolled away from the door of the tomb. A great fear fell upon the woman who "loved much," and she ran to find Peter and John. "They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre," she said, "and we know not where they have laid Him."
Then Peter and John ran, and John the loving ran faster than Peter the believing, and was the first to reach the tomb. The other women also had gone to the tomb early bearing their spices for the embalming, wondering on the way who should roll away for them the great stone that stood at the door of the tomb. But they found the stone rolled past the door, and entering the low vestibule they saw a vision of an angel, in a long white garment, and were afraid.
[Illustration: The angel of the Resurrection]
"Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth which was crucified," he said; "He is risen; He is not here: behold the place where they laid Him. But go your way, tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you."
The Lord had left a special message for Peter who had denied Him so cruelly and had repented so thoroughly! As they looked to "behold the place where they laid Him," they saw another angel shining white through the gloom, "one at the head, and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain." They also ran, glad, yet half afraid, to tell the disciples what they had seen and heard.
Peter and John found the linen that had wrapped the Lord's body laid carefully aside. They did not yet remember the prophecy concerning His resurrection from the dead, but they believed He had risen, and they went away, hoping perhaps, that He was seeking them.
Mary Magdalene could not leave the empty tomb until she had learned something more about the Lord. Weeping and desolate she stood at the low door of the cave-tomb, and stooping to look in again she saw the vision of angels that the other women had seen, "one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain."
"Why weepest thou?" they asked, and she answered,
"Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him." As she turned to go out into the garden she saw one standing there who said,
"Woman why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?"
She thought as she looked through her tears that it must be the man who kept the garden, so she said,
"Sir, if thou have borne Him hence tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away."
It was the voice of Jesus -- the same that once said to her, "Thy sins are forgiven," and she spread her arms to clasp His feet, crying.
"Rabboni! -- my Master!"
"Touch me not," He said, "for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren and say unto them, 'I ascend unto my Father and your Father: and to my God and your God.'"
It was while Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James, were still in the garden, perhaps, that Jesus met them and said,
"All hail!" and they fell at His feet and worshipped Him.
"Be not afraid," He said, "go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee and there shall they see me."
When the women told all these things to the apostles who had come together to mourn for their dead Master, they could not believe. But the first Easter had risen upon the world, and though the joy of it filled all heaven, only a few women knew the blessed secret on earth, and were saying over and over, "The Lord is risen! the Lord is risen indeed!"