Jesus is STILL Risen! It is nearly a week after we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus and I am as encouraged as ever because He is alive TODAY! There is something about spending time “remembering” His death and resurrection which carries the potential to bring joy, eagerness, and anticipation of the day we will see Jesus. Every day is a day closer to seeing Him face to face. The thought of that moment is SO much better than Easter breakfast, a fanfare of worship, guests and family, new outfits, or lilies. I hope and pray you agree!
The account of the death and timing of Jesus in the grave often causes Christians to argue and debate, trying to prove what day is actually the Sabbath, what day Jesus actually died, and which days of the week did it “actually” occur. We know He rose on the first day of the week right after the Sabbath. It is estimated He was dead approximately 36 to 40 hours as He died late in the day on the 1st day (the sixth day of the week), laid in the grave on the Sabbath, and rose at dawn on the third day (the first day of the week). This is what Scripture reveals so we should just accept it rather than trying to figure out more. It is not so important how many hours He was dead but that it was three days He was dead. Do you know the Pharisees got all caught up in debate about the Sabbath as well? There is this great story in the Word about Jesus healing a blind man on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were so upset Jesus healed on their Sabbath, they could not rejoice with the man who received his sight after spending his entire life in darkness. Ah, I see the same thing in the Church today. We get so caught up in our “arguments” we cannot rejoice with others when God moves. We miss incredible things if we waste our life arguing.
Let us look at the resurrection as recorded in Scripture and celebrate the truth Jesus is STILL risen! I often think about what it would have been like to be one of the Mary’s who went to His tomb that day. And then I think, “I can be like one of the Mary’s who went to His tomb that day!” So here we go!
Matthew 28:1-10 “Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
These Mary’s were at the crucifixion (Matthew 27:55-56), they were at the tomb when Joseph prepared Jesus’ body and placed Him in the tomb (Matthew 27:59-61) and now they were at the tomb on the first day of the week. What were they thinking? Did they come to grieve much like we go to the cemetery today? Did they remember Jesus’ words that He would rise again? If they did, what did that mean and what would it look like? When terrible things happen in our lives we hope we wake up one day and discover it was all a bad dream. Is that what these women were thinking that morning? They had witnessed the greatest tragedy of their lives only two days earlier and it must have seemed in many ways like a dream.
As they were waiting at the tomb an earthquake occurred and an angel descended from heaven. What an extraordinary, magnificent sight to behold. The angel first rolls back the stone from the door and then he sits on it. This brings a smile to my face! The Savior of the world has risen, an angel descends from heaven, and then “sits” on the stone! I can almost picture the angel crossing his arms and legs with a satisfied, triumphal grin on his face as he sat flashy as lightning with clothing as white as snow, the kind which blinds a person because of its brightness. What victory! What triumph!
What a sight! We know the guards were paralyzed with fear becoming as dead men. The women must have experienced some fear because the angel says to them “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”
Isn’t Scripture amazing? The answers to my first questions about the women are answered right here in the Word. The angel “knew” they were seeking Jesus. These Mary’s came to find Jesus, to “see” what they believed and to bring understanding to the words they remember Him speaking, “I will rise again”. And they were rewarded in their seeking. They were privileged to enter the tomb where their Lord spent parts of three days laying dead after His crucifixion. They were allowed to see the grave cloths lying empty; all of this because they were seeking Jesus. And then they had the honor to go and tell His grieving disciples “He is Risen”, the very thing the religious leaders were so afraid would happen, and did everything in their power to prevent, was going to happen. Now THIS is most certainly true!
I cannot conceive of the excitement in these women as the angel said to them, “There (in Galilee), you will see Him.” Again, remember what they had witnessed just three days earlier. They had seen the worst suffering and agony any person had ever endured, then witnessed a most chilling and brutal death, and now they could go to Galilee and “see” Him!
The Word tells us they went out “quickly”. I am sure they did! I am sure they were in a full out sprint when they heard their Lord was ALIVE! This also gives us a glimpse of the Lord’s great love. The disciples were in great distress and grief at this point and they needed comfort. These women were to go quickly and bring this great comfort to them, HE IS RISEN! He wanted them to “know” He was alive so they would grieve no more.
They went with “fear” and “great joy”. Notice it does not say “great fear” only “fear”. And it does not say “joy” but “great joy”. There was a mixture of these emotions but more joy than fear. Of course there would be fear upon entering the tomb where just days earlier you witnessed the placement of the body of your dead Lord, and now find it empty. And of course there would be great joy when an angel appeared and confirmed Jesus was alive. This combination of strong emotion would have catapulted them into bringing good news to His disciples. The fear of God brings reverence and a desire to promptly obey. The joy of the Lord causes us to be strong and determined in our obedience.
Next we witness one of the most amazing things of all in this account, giving us a “peek” at our Lord’s desire to surprise us. These women were on their way to tell the disciples to set out for Galilee (80-100 miles away) because it was there they would see Jesus. They were running with fear and great joy to bring this good news when all of a sudden, Jesus met them! Oh, God loves to surprise His children. The angel had directed them to tell the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee, so that is where they thought Jesus was already headed. The women believed the words of the angel, promptly obeyed his directives, and in their prompt obedience, Jesus met them. You see, they could have simply begun the journey to Galilee to be the first ones to see Jesus. But instead they were obedient to do what they were told; go and tell the disciples to go to Galilee! What a great lesson for us to learn today! Do what He tells us to do, and on the way, He just might show up and surprise us! What a gift Jesus gave those two women!
I love the imagery of this unexpected meeting with Jesus! They are running to tell and Jesus steps in their path, comes near to them, and says “Rejoice!” Aha! Yes! Rejoice! Experience more joy my beloved children! Have joy again and again! The women’s only response is beautiful! They went to Him, held Him by His feet and worshiped Him. No words! Just pure and undefiled love and adoration!
They went out with fear and great joy and Jesus tells them to experience more joy, and then says to them “Do not be afraid.” Again we see fear extinguished and joy escalated. Jesus says one more thing to demonstrate His heart of love; as though living, dying, rising, and showing up to bless these women was not enough. He tells them to go and tell His “brethren” to go to Galilee to see Him. He no longer refers to them as His disciples but as His brethren. This term “brethren” demonstrates the relationship He now has with those who believe. It is endearing and filled with love as the Son of God now addresses the children of His heavenly Father as brethren. Wow! What a mighty God we serve! What a mighty God we love!
And so Yes! He is still Risen! We still experience fear and great joy! We do not need another Easter service with all the fanfare to rejoice in the Lord (though it certainly is FUN isn’t it?) We have the privilege, as these women did, to run with fear and great joy, and tell others where they can meet with Jesus! Let us be filled with this same excitement every day, to “go and tell”! On our way, let us be on the lookout for Jesus! We never know when He is going to show up and surprise us! And when He does, we WILL find ourselves speechless as we go to Him, hold Him, and worship Him!
Father, let us not get entangled in arguments which prevent us from seeking You! Let us be expectant as these Mary’s were! Let us be filled with this same fear and great joy every day of our lives. Let us live in the reality that Jesus is alive! Let us not grieve as those who have no hope! You are our Hope! You are our reason to live! You are our Joy! You are our Strength! We pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen!