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Triumph over the grave

The account of the first Easter morning as recorded in the scriptures comprises some of the most powerful words and images ever written.

The crucified Jesus lies in the tomb, His disciples and followers scattered and in hiding, His enemies smug in their beliefs that they have crushed whatever following the Preacher from Galilee had. But this morning does not mark the end of Christianity, but the triumph of man over the grave.Christ's birth was announced by Heavenly messengers to shepherds and others. Now an angel descends from heaven and rolls the stone from the door. The keepers shake and become as dead men. The angel tells Jesus' followers: "Fear not ye . . . I know that ye seek Jesus . . . He is not here: for he is risen, as he said . . . . Go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead." (Matt. 28:5-7)

Simon Peter and John the Beloved race to the sepulcher. They see the burial linens lying empty in the tomb. What must they have thought at that moment? Could the Roman sentries have removed the body? Or were they reminded of the words the Master spoke to them about His divine mission? Did they know at that moment that Christ was whom He professed to be? Simon Peter had borne powerful testimony before, declaring, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." What was he thinking as he stood in the tomb?

After the two apostles depart, Mary Magdalene remain at the tomb weeping. "Why weepest thou," the angel asks her. "Because they have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid him."

Then another voice from behind her asks, "Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou?" And she supposing him the gardener, says, "Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away." (John 20:11-15.)

Then Jesus utters a single word, "Mary" and she knows immediately who addresses her. She, at that moment, is full of wonder at the miracle before her. "Touch me not," He commands her. "I have 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." (John 20:17)

During the transcendent event in human history, Jesus has time to comfort a dear friend; to remind her of His own mission, and to teach a powerful lesson - He is now different from His disciples and His fellow human beings. He has triumphed over death. He has done His Father's bidding. He has fulfilled His earthly mission.

The pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary have been wiped away and Jesus Christ stands triumphant. The salvation of mankind has been secured. The Fall of Adam has been reclaimed, and men and women can once again come into God's presence because of the free and willing sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

President Joseph F. Smith, commenting on the Resurrection, declared: "That is the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints. That is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and as He is the first fruits of the resurrection from the dead, as He was raised up, so will He raise up all the children of His Father upon whom the curse of Adam came. For as by one man came temporal death upon all men, so by the righteousness of Christ all shall come to life. . . . Whether they be good or evil, whether they be black or white, bond or free, learned or unlearned, or whether they be young or old it matters not." (Gospel Doctrine, p. 469.)

Our own individual testimonies are strengthened as was Mary Magdalene's and Simon Peter's. We testify along with them that Jesus is the Risen Lord. That He lives today, and that two great events are still ahead: That He will come again - not as a lowly babe in a manger this time, but in glory and majesty to usher in a millennium of peace. And then He will judge us all, as He takes His rightful place on the right hand of the Father.

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