Last week, we began the story of Achim. We’ve followed his path to Caiaphas’ house, Pilate and Herod, and back to Pilate. Each step of the way, we’ve learned a bit more about him and about that first Holy Week. Today, we have the final installment.
The last several days had been a blur for Achim. After the hours spent at the foot of the cross and watching as Yeshua breathed his last breath, Yochanan had escorted Achim along with Mariam and the other women back to what he called the “upper room”. From what Achim could gather it was where Yeshua had held the seder. Achim learned a woman by the name of Mary owned the home. He never could figure out how many people actually stayed there. The men used the upper room while the women stayed somewhere downstairs. Yochanan had showed Achim to a mat, and the boy had gratefully collapsed on to it. On the first day of the week, Achim awoke to shouts.
“Yochanan! Shimon!” a woman’s voice called. “Come quickly! They have taken the rabbi!”
“What?” Shimon shouted. “I’ll kill them, every one of them!”
Shimon took off running toward the tomb. Yochanan ran and grabbed his coat before heading out the door. Achim followed his new friend. Before long, they had caught up to Shimon. Yochanan ran past the older fisherman. Achim couldn’t breathe. His lungs heaved as he tried to keep up with the young man. When the boy didn’t think he could handle it another moment, he stumbled into Yochanan who was standing looking into a cave.
Achim glanced around the side of the door to look. He barely had taken everything in when Shimon pushed through and walked right in! No surprise shown on Yochanan’s face. Achim couldn’t believe Shimon’s boldness.
“What have they done?” Shimon’s voice had changed from the outrage registered in the upper room to quiet wonder.
Yochanan entered to see what had caused the modification. Achim followed. What the boy saw amazed him! He had expected to see a dark dank cave with dead bodies, like he had seen at Momma’s burial. Instead, his eyes saw clean white walls and an emptiness that almost welcomed people to relax and stay a while. None of the niches had been used yet. It was a fresh new tomb. Then Achim’s eyes landed on the spot where the men and women had placed Yeshua. Only two folded sheets lay there! One lay at the foot of the niche and one at the head. Each had been neatly and carefully set in their spot.
“It can’t be!” For the first time since their meeting in Caiaphas’ house, Yochanan’s voice held hope. “He hasn’t been taken; he’s alive!”
Achim’s mind reeled. How could Yeshua be alive? That made no sense. Yochanan turned and walked out of the cave with his head held high. Achim looked to Shimon, but the man seemed to be in his own little world of grief. Achim understood. The woman, her hair a mess, had finally caught up and came in. Hysteria showed on her face as well as a deep sorrow. Achim followed Yochanan. The boy heard the birds singing their songs. Flowers let their scent hang in the air for all to smell. The color in the early morning sky blended into even the path they walked.
“Yochanan,” Achim finally asked, “what can it mean?”
A smile broke out upon the man’s face. It made him appear even younger than he was.
“Achim, you had asked about the wonders Yeshua performed. Once we saw him raise a man who had been dead for four days! Yep,” he nodded when Achim stared in wonder. “I saw it with my own eyes. Lazarus had been wrapped up in the burial cloths just like Yeshua was. When the rabbi called Lazarus by name, he walked out of the tomb—or better yet waddled like a duck. His arms couldn’t move, they’d been pinned to his side. His face had been hidden from the sudarium. Yeshua’s first words were to unwrap Lazarus!”
Achim envisioned the moment. What joy he would have felt had Momma been in Lazarus’ place. He came back to the case of Yeshua’s tomb. This story of Lazarus did not explain how the rabbi could be alive. Yochanan seemed to sense Achim’s questions.
“Did you see the shroud and the sudarium?”
Achim nodded. “They were folded with care, almost deliberately.”
“Exactly,” Yochanan agreed. “If someone had stolen the rabbi’s body, they wouldn’t have taken the time to leave the cloths. They would have wanted to keep him wrapped up. But,” here Yochanan paused in walking and held up a finger. “But, if he had risen, he would have carefully unwrapped himself and left the pieces for evidence.”
Achim wasn’t sure he followed the man’s logic, but the hope and joy that shown from Yochanan’s eyes was refreshing. The two walked the rest of the way in silence.
Shortly after they had returned to the upper room, the woman they had followed entered. Her face radiated from a smile that stretched from ear to ear.
“He is alive!” she said barely above a whisper. Then she shouted it. “He’s alive!”
Yochanan nodded his head, encouraging her. Achim marveled at the change in the two. She had been so hysterical and mourning all weekend. Now, joy and hope seemed to pulse through her spreading to all.
“I saw him!” she exclaimed. “I saw him!”
“Where?” Yochanan asked.
“In the garden outside the tomb. After you and Shimon left, I saw two men in bright white tunics. They lit up the tomb. I asked where they had taken the rabbi. They replied he was risen, but I couldn’t comprehend it. I turned around and saw a man. I thought it was the gardener. I pleaded with him to show me where he had moved Yeshua. He only smiled, that sad smile. You know when we didn’t understand something. Then he called my name!” Her smile seemed plastered permanently in place. Gone was the sorrow. In its place shown joy and peace.
Achim wondered at it. How could this be?
Later, Shimon returned. Achim noticed immediately the change in the big fisherman. He sat quietly. His eyes shimmered with unshed tears while his smile never left his face. All he would say was, “I saw him. He’s alive.”
Achim shook his head. Was it possible? Two people had physically seen Yeshua. Other women, including Mariam had seen angels who said he was alive. Inwardly, Achim struggled. He knew the rabbi could do wonders, but this was beyond anything that Yeshua had done before.
All afternoon, Achim wrestled with the question. He sat thinking through the possibilities. Finally, toward the evening meal, he had condensed his arguments down to three. He ticked them off on his fingers. Option one, Yeshua was a liar. Achim shook his head. He had seen too many proofs against this. Option two, Yeshua was a lunatic. Again Achim shook his head. Those eyes of love, compassion, hope, and tenderness were not the eyes of a crazy man. That left only one other choice. Yeshua was God. A sigh escaped the boy. He recalled the nighttime conversation with Yochanan. Yeshua’s young friend had said the rabbi had claimed to be the great shepherd, the bread of life, the way, the light of the world, the door, and the resurrection and the life. If Yeshua claimed to be these things that only God is, and if Yeshua was telling the truth, then that meant only one thing. Achim straightened up.
“He is alive, and He is God!” the boy whispered.
“What was that, Achim?” Yochanan asked looking up from where he sat at a table with Shimon.
Achim felt the blood rush to his cheeks, but he looked Yochanan in the eyes and repeated louder. “Yeshua is alive, and He is God. This is something that will require child-like faith to accept.”
Yochanan smiled. “Yes, that is exactly what Yeshua said.”
“I know,” Achim felt a tear steal from his eye. “I heard him. I had gone searching for healing for Momma, and instead, I was used as an object lesson.”
Shimon turned around. Achim noticed the fisherman’s eyes shown with kindness and understanding.
Achim shrugged. “I never asked Yeshua to heal Momma. At the time it didn’t seem to be important. Later,” He paused and wiped a tear away. “Later, I wished I had.” Silence hung in the air. Voices drifted up from down below. “I guess, if I had, I would have never been here for this weekend.”
Yochanan smiled, but before he could respond, the door burst open and two men who had left earlier in the day came in gasping.
“We’ve seen him!” they both said stumbling over each others’ words. “He came to us on the way home.”
“He shared from the prophets how the Messiah was suppose to suffer!” the one continued allowing his companion to catch his breath. “We wondered at his teaching, but we didn’t recognize him.”
The other man picked up the story. “When we arrived at Emmaus, we invited him in for a bite to eat. There while he prayed, our eyes were able to truly see him!”
“We ran back to tell you all,” the first finished.
“He is alive!” Yochanan agreed.
“I have seen him,” Shimon said and began to relay the happenings earlier that day.
As they were talking, Achim looked up. A man stood at the head of the table! No one had been there before; Achim was sure of it! A gasp went up from someone across the room, a scream from elsewhere.
“Shalom,” Yeshua said.
Achim sat in amazement. It was one thing to say the rabbi was God and had risen; it was quite another to see the man appear out of nowhere. It took some time for the commotion to settle down. Everyone talked at once. Finally, Yeshua asked for something to eat. Yochanan handed the teacher some bread. As he ate, he went over the Scriptures, explaining how they spoke of the Messiah not just His reigning over the kingdom of heaven, but also how He would suffer, die, and come back to life.
Achim’s mind sang the phrases over and over. “He is alive; He is God. He is alive; He is God.”