At the end of the day on Friday – the world had fallen apart for the friends of Jesus. He was dead. They all had seen it. They’d watched his terrible death, had seen him taken from the cross, watched as the stone was rolled in front of the tomb. Their hopes and expectations were dashed, and their beloved friend was dead. It couldn’t have been a worse day.
Then was the day of rest – the Sabbath. And early the next day, on Sunday Morning, some of the women – among them Mary Magdalene – go to the place of burial with the plan to finish the embalming of his body. No sense of hope or expectation. But, they are greeted with something unexpected and Sunday marks a day of joy beyond all their most fantastic dreams!
Picture the scene – a gray early light begins to filter over the horizon. The small group of grieving women makes their way to the gravesite wondering how they will roll back the enormous stone. Perhaps they didn’t know, several guards had also been posted to watch over the grave. The officials were concerned about this man that they’d crucified. No further controversy… be sure no one steals his body and claims he wasn’t dead after all! Just as the women arrive, strange things begin to happen… although these things were just more strange things on a list of odd occurrences in the last few days. Another earthquake! And as the earth rolls under their feet, an angel appears to them. No question about it, this is beyond natural – he is a bright shining body made of light, with shimmering light cascading from him – and he effortlessly rolls back the heavy stone from the grave, and sits on it! Imagine the fear – the guards fall to the ground paralyzed. The unshielded glory of the angel is stunning and terrifying.
Then he speaks Don’t be afraid! Jesus, the one you are looking for and the one whom they nailed to the cross, is not here. Just as he said, he is no longer dead! He is alive – come and see where he was placed! Then, go and tell his friends.
The next scene is the women running to tell the men this astonishing news. Of course, they had to see for themselves and we know that Peter and John race to the gravesite. John arrives first and Peter boldly steps into the tomb and sees the most extraordinary thing! The cloth wrappings that were wrapped around Jesus body are all there – perfectly wrapped, but absolutely empty. Flat. The body is gone.
Understanding is just beginning. They are beginning to remember the words Jesus had said; words that made no sense at the time, but are beginning to make sense now. Words about death and life. Mary Magdalene, however, is somehow stuck in the idea that Jesus body has been taken. She remains at the grave after the others leave – still mourning and weeping. She has not been comforted or reassured. It is in this moment of her distress, that Jesus shows himself first. Ever the man of compassion, he speaks to her Why are you crying? She blurts out her fears and even begins to accuse this man of taking the body. And then, Jesus speaks her name, and in that one word, she recognizes him completely! Her sorrow is suddenly erased! Its true, he is no longer dead!
And the guards? They eventually recover themselves enough to go back to town. They fear for their lives, as they tell the officials what has happened. In a panicked meeting, the Jewish leaders devise a cover-up to quiet this unforeseen development. The soldiers are bribed, and a story of body snatching is fabricated. And yet, Jesus begins to appear to people – again and again. Many people see him! He eats with them, touches them, they touch him, and he continues to teach them … he is a real person, not a ghost – he’s completely recognizable, and yet somehow changed as well. He is no longer bound by all the physical laws of this earth.
He remains with his friends for 40 days and at the end of that time, he makes a promise to them … telling them he must leave their presence but he will send his Spirit to live within them and in doing that, he will never leave his friends until the end of time. That is a promise he continues to keep now and through all of our tomorrows! On that last day of the 40 days the friends of Jesus watch and he is taken up into the clouds, leaving them with joy and assurance and changed lives!
Easter is the Celebration of Liberation! It is the most pivotal point in all of history. Each of us, the Bible says, is caught in the web of that ancient rebellion. We are born into it and because we live in a contaminated world, we live in it. We are captive and because of that, we are part of the enemy’s camp. Jesus’ act of love on the cross bought our freedom. He paid the price for our sins himself – and when we rightly compare ourselves to God’s perfection, we see how far short we fall on our own merit. How impossible it would ever be to measure up! God cannot overlook evil, and because he is a God of Justice, payment (restitution) for wrong must be made. The Bible also tells us that the payment for sin is death itself. This is the amazing story of love – Jesus traded his life for ours in his horrible death.
Our liberation from the web of evil comes to each of us by our choice! The gift is offered freely, but we must decide to choose it or to reject it. So, today, Do you believe it?
Will you accept his payment as your ransom?
It is, without doubt, God’s greatest desire. It is the only way – as Jesus himself said – of reconciliation between God and his creation. Jesus himself is the only acceptable payment. This is the thing that sets our faith apart…. It is the only faith that is based on God’s action to save us, rather than the effort of people to make their way to God. Many people bristle at the “exclusivity” of such a statement – and yet it is all-inclusive! Jesus’ payment was for everyone who will believe! What better news could be told?
The Bible tells us clearly that God is not willing for anyone to miss his gift, but he will not force anyone to accept it. So, what must be done to accept it? Simply this – believe in your heart that Jesus has died for you! Recognize that your imperfect life cannot measure up to God’s perfection. And ask him with sincerity to be your Savior. And, the gift of true life, now and forever is yours! A simple prayer said – a lifetime of discovery unfolds – and all of eternity to be lived - beyond our dreams - within God’s great love! Easter’s miracle makes it all possible!
Do you have questions? Do you need more information? Let me know!