Wrote the psalmist, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
This passage has no keener application than to those of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples who experienced the agony of beholding His crucifixion, then came to understand the triumph of His victory over the grave.
As we endeavor to deepen our love and reverence for our Lord and Savior this Easter, we can be grateful for the recorded experiences of those women and men who first encountered Him after His resurrection.
As Mary Magdalene and other women approached the sepulchre where His body had lain for three days, the ground shook, frightening away the Roman guard.An angel descended and rolled away the stone covering the tomb. “Fear not, ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified,” the angel said to them. “He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:5-6).
They were reminded that it had been written of Him that He would be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, then rise again on the third day (Luke 24:6-8).
Informed of the marvelous events the 11 apostles did not believe the women’s account (see Luke 24:9-11).
Peter and John ran to the tomb, perhaps to assure themselves that the body of their Lord had not been stolen. Peter strode into the tomb, seeing only the linen that had clothed the body.
By John’s own account, he then went in, saw the linen and believed the report, “for as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead” (John 20:10).
Mary Magdalene, apparently not comprehending the message of the angel, returned to the sepulchre and wept as she peered inside. There she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body had lain.
“Woman, why weepest thou?” they asked.
“Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him,” was her reply.
Turning, she saw Jesus standing before her but did not recognize Him.
“Woman, why weepest thou?” He asked. “Whom seekest thou?”
Still supposing Him to be someone else, she implored Him to tell her where the body had been taken.
He then called her by name and, recognizing Him at last, she said “Master.”
Jesus told her not to detain Him, as he had not yet ascended to His Father, but to go and tell his brethren of the good news (see John 20:11-18).
That day, two disciples of Jesus were journeying to the village of Emmaus. As they conversed about the events of the crucifixion of the Lord and His reported resurrection, Jesus appeared and began to walk with them, though they did not recognize Him.
They responded to His inquiry about why they were so sad, and He chided them for not comprehending and believing the words of the prophets who had foretold all the things they were discussing.
As evening drew on, they implored Him to abide with them. As He sat at dinner with them, they recognized Him, whereupon He vanished from their sight.
“Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” the disciples said to each other (see Luke 24:32).
The two disciples returned to Jerusalem, where they told their story to the apostles and other believers who, for safety, were meeting inside, behind closed doors.
As they thus met together, Jesus came and stood among them, saying “Peace be unto you.” He invited them to examine His wounds, the tokens of His death.
The resurrected Lord would manifest Himself on other occasions in coming days.
He appeared to and dined with the apostles at the Sea of Tiberias, where in allusion to Peter’s prior denial of Him during the stressful events of the trial and Crucifixion, Christ three times prompted the chief apostle to declare his love for the Master and then commanded Peter, “Feed my sheep.”
There came the grand commission to the apostles to be witnesses of Him “unto the uttermost part of the earth,” after which the risen Lord was taken up into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
The events of this 40-day period are chronicled in a new collaborative musical work by Mack Wilberg and David Warner, premiering at the Easter concert of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square, April 14 and 15.
The title, “A Cloud of Witnesses,” echoes the scriptural phrasing in Hebrews 12:1, “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
The word cloud brings to mind contemporary computer-speak that refers to resources that are available on demand for downloading from the internet. Similarly, the testimony of witnesses of the reality of the Savior’s resurrection, a veritable “cloud of witnesses,” is available to us at any time to strengthen us as we strive to build our own faith, to “lay aside” sin and to “run with patience the race that is set before us.”
There is a cloud of witnesses in latter days as in the 40-day period following the Resurrection. The Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon testified: “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!
“For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father” (Doctrine and Covenants 76:22).