Before me is a copy of the Jerusalem Daily News. The edition is labeled “Extra,” and the date is Sunday, April 9, A.D. 30. The startling big-type headline reads, “NAZARENE’S TOMB FOUND EMPTY.” One of the column captions catches the eye with “ ‘Death Now Vanquished!,’ Cry Converts.” Another draws attention with “ ‘Body Stolen’—Pilate.”
The paper, it scarcely needs pointing out, is not from the archives of Israel. It can claim no kinship with the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is a fabrication of recent date. It is intended, not to fool anyone, but to convey, in the manner of contemporary journalism, something of the excitement—the quality of “breathlessness,” as one writer has put it—with which the story of the risen Jesus races through the New Testament.
The excitement survives, though less in both range and rapture than the numbers of today’s self-confessed Christians entitle us to expect. After World War II, during Martin Niemoeller’s first visit to America, a jaundiced newspaper reporter edged his assessment of Niemoeller with mild disgust: “Think of it, here is a man who spent three years in solitary confinement. When he comes out, all he can talk about is Jesus Christ.” Remove the huffiness of the speaker and the words stand as an exciting truth. The first disciples suffered through three anguished days when all the joy and hope they had known in Jesus were drained away. Then they came out of their prison. They came out of theirs because he came out of his. “Then … came Jesus and stood in the midst,” as we have it in John 20:19. Or, as John Masefield fashions it on the lips of a Roman soldier, in answer to the question of Pilate’s panic-stricken wife about the “escaped” Jesus, “Where is he now?”: “Let loose in the world, lady, ...1
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