BEFORE DAWN ON A SUNDAY MORNING, a mother made her way along rocky ground in the dark. Two days before, she had buried her only son, and now she was going to visit his grave. Some of his friends came with her. They brought spices and oils with which to anoint his body. It was their way.
They had wept terribly for this man over the past few days. He had suffered greatly before he died. There had been a conspiracy against him, and it was one of his own friends who betrayed him to the authorities. They took him in the middle of the night. He was stripped, spat upon, beaten, thrashed with reeds. When they finally killed him, it was by torture, with long nails driven through his body. People gathered to watch, and laughed. He died horribly, slowly, bleeding from his wounds. It took a long time. At the end, he begged for water. They gave him vinegar instead. He died crying out for his god.
But when his mother and friends arrived at the tomb, a most extraordinary thing happened. An earthquake shook the ground, and an angel descended from the sky and rolled back the stone from the door. The tomb was empty, and the angel spoke to them:
Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead.
The mother and her son's friends ran from the sepulchre, frightened and thrilled all at once. They went to find other friends to tell them the incredible news, but on their way, there appeared before them this mother's son, the very man they had seen killed, and he was alive. They fell at his feet in awe.
The dead stay dead: that was understood, until that day, in about the first third of the first century of the Common Era, when Jesus rose from the grave. From that moment, Christians were promised that when it came their time to die, all those who believed in him would rise as he had risen, and live again.