‘On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb’. Luke 24:1
We could think about the Easter story using our five senses, it helps us think about the reality of what was going on and it helps us think about what we feel about it.
Let’s try to imagine what those women sensed as they walked to the tomb early on that first day of the week.
The sense that is linked most strongly with memory is that of smell. In later years, there will be particularly scents and smells that will bring back the moments of this Sunday morning. Rising from sleep, there would have been the warm smell of the house, the smell of the oil in the lamps, the smell of the food they shared. Then going out into the streets, there would have been the smells of the city, not all of them pleasant, the smell of animals. On reaching the garden, there would have been the perfume of the trees and plants and going to the tomb, they would have expected the smell of decay, yet there is only freshness and the scent of the spices they have brought with them. For the rest of their lives, the scent of those spices will conjure thoughts of that wonderful morning.
What would they have tasted that morning? Perhaps food hastily eaten before they begin their sad journey to the tomb to embalm the body, probably as simple as bread and a cup of water. Stepping into the chill of the early morning, perhaps the sense of the cold air on their lips and, as they approached the tomb, the taste of fear at the task ahead. But if there is a taste of fear, is there also a taste of joy? The taste of wonderful exhilaration when they realize that Jesus is alive.
The sense of touch would have been important. The day would have begun with the touch of warm garments put on to ward off the cold of the early morning air, the touch of the food eaten with a very heavy heart. The touch of the open air as they stepped out the door would have been accompanied by the feeling of the rough stones against their feet as they walked through the streets. The weight of the jars of spice would have seemed heavy to bodies that were probably tired from a lack of sleep. Reaching the garden, the ground would have felt different under their feet. The feeling of sadness would have affected their whole bodies, there would have been a feeling of sickness in the pits of their stomachs as they trod their way toward the tomb, a feeling that would be replaced by hearts pounding with excitement and joy when they realize what has happened.
The sounds that morning would have been soft ones, the women would have heard people moving in the house, the sounds of a meal being prepared, and then outside, mostly quietness. A few early risers walking down the street, the noises of animals in stables and byres, perhaps the sound of soldiers on patrol. Their footsteps probably sounded loud in the with so little to drown out their noise, their conversation would have been in whispers. In the tomb, there is a deadly silence, and then the dramatic sound of the angel’s voices, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead?’ asks the angel in Saint Luke Chapter 24 Verse 5. The sounds after that moment would have been filled with joy and excitement.
What would they see as they got up and left the house and walked to the tomb?
The house would have been in darkness when they woke from their sleep; the oil lamps would have created shadows In the darkness, they would have had to look carefully for the things they needed. Leaving the house, the streets would have been dark, they would have had to take care not to trip in the rough streets. Reaching the garden, what do they see? There is enough light now to see that the stone has been rolled away and to see that inside the tomb there is no body. Then the greyness of the early morning light is filled with brilliance as the angels appear.
It is said that seeing is believing and it’s important that we see what the women saw. If Saint Luke had wanted to make up the story of Jesus raising from the dead, he would have written it very differently. The women would have gone to the tomb and would have seen Jesus alive and there would have been no doubts and no loose ends. The women go to the apostles and tell what they have seen and Saint Luke tells us the apostles, ’did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense’.
For the Easter story to become true for us, we need a sixth sense. We need to sense it in our hearts, that’s what two of the disciples did on the evening of that first Easter day, when Jesus had walked with them on the road to Emmaus. ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?’ they ask in Luke Chapter 24 Verse 35.
No-one can argue us into faith, no-one can tell us what we believe in our hearts, we can only make that decision for ourselves, only we can decide, only we can trust. It’s in our hearts that we make the choice of whether we can sing:
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives?
He lives within my heart.