Easter Sunday: He Has Risen Indeed!
This week as we celebrate Easter Sunday: He Has Risen Indeed, we first remember the death of Jesus; the three days when Jesus was not alive on this earth. Remember not only the brutal physical sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf, but we also remember how Jesus was separated from his Father so that we could have an unshakable relationship with our Father in Heaven. Consider the deep sorrow that Jesus’ disciples and followers felt as they watched him suffer and die. Try to identify with their deep loss and despair as they face life without their beloved.
And, we rejoice with the women at the tomb that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and he lives even today, seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven.
Think through Matthew 28:1-15 with me. Let’s insert ourselves into the three days that are the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Let’s imagine ourselves standing with the women who loved and served Jesus so desperately. Together, we’ll picture the scenes described in the four gospels, personalizing His sacrifice and the experiences and emotions of His followers.
Jesus’ Body is Buried
As we read in last week’s blog, Jesus has died and his body has been placed in the borrowed tomb of a man
named Joseph from Arimathea who had become a disciple of Jesus’. Joseph wrapped Jesus’ body in a linen cloth and placed it in a tomb that he had cut in rock – one that had never been used before. After carefully placing Jesus’ body in the tomb, Joseph rolled a large stone in front of the entrance. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph sat watching across from the tomb.
The chief priests and the Pharisees convinced Pilate to send a guard to make the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and then stand guard outside to keep watch. They were worried that Jesus’ disciples would sneak the body away and then claim he had risen from the dead.
That was Friday at sundown signifying the beginning of the Sabbath which would last through Saturday at sundown. No work could happen during the Sabbath according to Jewish custom. Imagine the disciples, Mary Magdalene and the other followers of Jesus during those 24 hours. They would have been beside themselves with grief. I imagine the women wanting so badly to attend to Jesus’ body, even though Joseph and Nicodemus had already wrapped it in strips of linen and 75 pounds of spices (an amount traditionally reserved for only royal burials). They just had to do something.
Although we don’t read it in the scriptures, the commentaries tell us that at sundown on Saturday, the women were free to shop and went to the market to purchase more spices for Jesus.
The Women Return to the Tomb
On the first day of the week, early Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Salome (Mark 16:1) and Joanna (Luke 24:10) take their prepared spices and go to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body further (Mark 16:1). Matthew 28:1 says that they go “to look at the tomb.” Regardless if the women went to the tomb to further treat Jesus’ body or to just be near it or maybe both, the sentiment is the same.
Can’t you relate? Visiting a loved one’s gravesite is a way to remember the person you love and miss so much. It’s a gesture of respect when there’s nothing else to be done.
The women feel they just have to do something to show him their love and devotion one more time, even though he is dead. It’s their one last expression of devotion to their savior whom they love so much. They have cared for his physical needs for months now as he traveled around preaching the gospel. They love him and are devastated that they can no longer be together. Surely, there is something they can do. So they go to Jesus’ tomb early Sunday morning.
The Tomb is Empty
Early Sunday morning, there’s an earthquake. At the moment of Jesus’ death two days before, the earth shook as he took his last breath. Now, the earth shakes as if announcing that Jesus is again alive.
This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and what is desired by all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord Almighty. Haggai 2:6, 7
When the women arrive at Jesus’ tomb, they are shocked to see that it is open. The seal has been broken and the stone has been rolled away by an angel who now sits on top of the stone. He is bright like lightning and his clothes are as white as snow. Throughout Jesus’ life on earth, we see him attended by angels. At his birth (Luke 2:9-13), in his temptation (Matthew 4:11), and in his agony, as he prayed in the garden (Luke 22:43). There were no angels attending Jesus as he hung on the cross dying, as the Father had turned his face from the Son. But now that he has resumed his glory, the angels are again attending to Jesus, testifying to his resurrection.
The Angel Appears
At the sight of the angel, the guards were so afraid that they “shook and became like dead men.” (Matthew 28:4) I think they passed out! These Roman soldiers; these hardened men of war passed out from fear of an angel from heaven! (That should tell you something about what a heavenly angel looks like. Certainly, nothing like the baby faced, child-like, feminine version we often portray here on earth.) They couldn’t believe their eyes. The angel’s appearance was like nothing you would ever see on earth. Clearly, he was not from around here. Then they saw the seal broken with the stone rolled away and Jesus not anywhere to be found. It was more than they could take.
Jesus is Alive!
The angel addresses the women. First, he tells them to not be afraid. The whole scene would have been startling and completely not what they expected to find; the bright, white appearance of the angel, the broken seal, and the stone rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, and Jesus’ body missing. It would be a lot to take in. So, the angel reassures them, there was nothing to fear. (Matthew 28:5)
He then answers their immediate question, which I am sure was “Where is Jesus’ body?” He tells them that Jesus is gone because he as risen from the dead. There were rumors swirling that others might try and steal Jesus’ body. Perhaps these women were afraid that may have happened. The angel reassures them that Jesus’ body has not been stolen, that he is in fact alive.
Not only is Jesus alive, but the angel reminds the women that Jesus has risen from the dead, “just like he said.” (Matthew 28:6) They shouldn’t have been completely surprised that Jesus wasn’t in the tomb when they arrived. He prophesied about his death and resurrection several times before.
And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Luke 9:22
Even the prophets in the old testament foretold of this event centuries before:
After two days he will revive us; on the third day, he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Hosea 6:2
The angel confirms the women’s faith. They were right to follow Jesus. He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25). He is the Way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). He is the light of the world (John 9:5). If there was any question, the empty grave has proven that Jesus is who he says he is, the savior of the world
And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 1John 4:14
Then the angel tells the women to go and tell the disciples that Jesus is alive (Matthew 28:7). I love that throughout Jesus’ ministry, there were times when he did miracles and because the time wasn’t right, he told the people to keep it to themselves. In Mark 1:43-44 Jesus heals a leper and then ‘Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone.”’ In Matthew 9:29-30 Jesus heals two blind men and ‘Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.”
Not this time. “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (John 12:23) Jesus is the hope and salvation of the world and he wants everyone to know about it. The angel sends the women off to go and spread the good news to the disciples. They can not keep this news to themselves.
Talk about a whirlwind of emotions! They have just gone from the deepest sadness they have ever imagined, to fear and confusion about where is Jesus’ body and now unexplainable joy. I think I would need a minute to try and make sense of it all. For them, there’s no time to waste. The angel wants them to go immediately and tell others about it.
Jesus Meets Them Personally
As they are leaving, as if the day hasn’t been the most wonderful already, Jesus personally appears to the women. The account in John 20:11-17 says that Mary Magdalene didn’t immediately recognize Jesus until he said her name, “Mary.” Think of it! Jesus saying your name. Softly. Tenderly. Personally. In a way that she had heard him say it a thousand times before while he was still alive on earth.
She recognized his voice immediately. He called her by name and there was no mistaking the call of her Lord.
Immediately the women fell at his feet and began worshiping him. They have seen him! They have proof that he is alive! Then the angel’s message is confirmed, ‘Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”’ (Matthew 28:10)
Jesus personally commissions these women to go and spread the good news. They begin with the eleven disciples, but you can bet they didn’t stop there. It would be impossible to keep something like this to yourself for long. We can relate, can’t we? When we have something good happen to us, something that means so much to us, we want to spread the good news to everyone we come in contact with. We want others to share in our joy.
The Best Day Ever!
We’ve just remembered the saddest day in all of history, and yet it is also the best day. Easter is the celebration of the death and RESURRECTION of our personal Savior, Jesus. Our debt of sin is paid because Jesus suffered and died on the cross. He endured separation from the Father, so we can have a relationship with God forever. We have eternal life with God in heaven because he was resurrected from the dead on the third day.
That news is too good to keep to ourselves. We must share the good news of our salvation through Jesus with everyone we know so that others can experience the same joy we have.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. John 3:16-17
Jackson, my 15-year-old son wrote the following. I include it not only because I am insanely proud of him, but because I think this message for right now, in 2020, is something we all need to hear. I hope it blesses you as it did me.
Jesus really is alive in us and all around us through all that we are and do. Even though these are troubling and difficult times, it is important to remember that God is still in control and that all we need to do is put our trust in him to remember that He is holding us and the world in His hands. By desiring and working to have more of Jesus in our lives and less of ourselves, we will be overwhelmed with a sense of peace that only He can bring to us. Although it may seem like we are in the middle of a storm at the moment, Jesus is still watching over us like He always does.
The disciples thought they were in their darkest moment when Jesus had seemingly died and had been buried. They despaired and feared for their lives, but three days later Jesus arose and showed them that they had nothing to worry about the whole time. We may be in the same situation, everything seems to be out of control and the world falling apart, but just around the corner, Jesus is waiting for us to come out of this and make us stronger on the other side.
This post is the seventh in the Easter Series “A JOURNEY TO THE CROSS: 40 DAYS IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS”.
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