As the lifeless body of Jesus is laid into the virgin tomb, those who witnessed the spectacle retreat into the city that has claimed the lives of so many prophets. All are crushed that their teacher and friend has died such a horrible death. Their hopes are dashed against the rocks of Golgotha. In the first hours of grief, Jesus’ followers huddle together in secret in the city, hoping to avoid arrests and executions. They mourn. They grieve. They remember…*
It is important to understand how people in Jesus day processed death and resurrection to appreciate the impact his death had on his followers. For the Jewish people the here and now was much more important than the hereafter.
Blessing and cursing for the individual or the nation came in this life or in the future through their descendants.
The first five books of the Old Testament (the books of Moses) most honored and used for instruction, contained little to encourage confidence in personal survival on the other side of death.
It isn’t surprising then that the people of Jesus day were divided along these these lines concerning resurrection or life after death.
1. Those who believed that resurrection from the dead and life after this was possible (Pharisees) They believed in living a pious, religious life to ensure the best possible result after death
2. Those who did not. (Sadducees) They believed in getting all you can out of life now because when this life was over its over.
Jesus presented a third view.
He spoke of a future kingdom whose inhabitants would dwell there not because of who they were in this life, qualified by works but also on how much they loved it’s King.
He said those who were willing to give up this life would inherit eternal life.
He spoke of a time when those who had died would hear his voice and rise from the grave. The good to eternal life, the evil to condemnation.
He spoke of himself as the resurrection and the life and that those who believe in him
even though they die will live forever.
He said he was going ahead to prepare to place that we could share that with him, so do not not be afraid or despair.
And now he is dead..
It is not possible to know exactly what those close to Jesus were feeling but from scripture we get a sense of what it might have been like
For Mary the death of Jesus was not like the loss of a mentor, a friend or even a brother.
For her His death was the loss of the one for whom she had given up everything to follow the one who set her free
Mary was present at the mock trial of Jesus.
Mary was present in Pilates Hall as Pontius Pilate pronounced His death sentence of crucifixion.
Mary was present as Jesus left the hall to be spat upon and ill-treated by the crowd thirsting for His blood.
Mary was present when they led him out to Calvary to be nailed to a tree.
Mary was faithful until the end her heart was broken
Simon. The one Jesus called Peter, the rock.
Peter who left the family business, his home and friends to follow the One who said “I will make you a fisher of men”.
Peter the one of who followed Jesus to the mountain-top and walked to him on the water
Peter to whom Jesus said “Simon, son of Jonah, you are blessed! No human revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven revealed it to you. Peter who defended his Lord with a sword in the garden, then ran away, abandoned Him and denied even knowing him.
Alone and afraid he wept bitterly
We know little about Thomas.
Thomas did not lack courage. When the other disciples were trying to talk Jesus out of going back to Judea John 11:8 Teacher, the last time You were there, some Jews attempted to execute You by crushing You with stones. Why would You go back?
Thomas speaks up to say “Let’s go so we can die with Him.”
Thomas who when the disciples say they have seen the risen Lord Thomas replies
“Unless I see his hands , feel the wounds of the nails, and put my hand to his side, I won’t believe what you are saying”.
Angry and disillusioned Thomas wants no part of it.
Heart-broken and sorrowful
Defeated and full of guilt
Angry and disillusioned
And so were many of us….
And then something completely unexpected happens
“Before the sun had risen on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene made a trip to the tomb where His body was laid to rest. In the darkness, she discovered the covering had been rolled away”. John 20:20
This coming Sunday will be a celebration of the meaning of this verse and what follows.
“Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Luke 24:6
The resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ.
But many will find themselves in the place Mary, Peter and Thomas were on that day so long ago.
Full of sorrow
They will attend church on Sunday because their Mom or Dad, wife or husband a friend or a neighbor asked them to go.
They will listen to music, hear the message but when the time comes to say “I will believe, I will follow” their heart will say no.
Maybe because you gave everything, trusted someone left everything behind for them and they left you, abandoned you, left you alone.
Maybe you gave it all, held nothing back and your best just wasn’t good enough and in the end when it mattered most you weren’t able to come through. You failed.
Maybe you trusted in someone or something. You believed in it and put all you had into it and it fell apart, let you down and now you trust nothing, no one.
For Mary, Peter and Thomas it must have seemed that way.
It was over, hope was gone.
Maybe it feels that way for you.
Mary would be the one to discover the empty grave.
She followed Jesus all the way to the cross and she was the first back to the tomb.
Early that morning she went where she could be close to him.
She wasn’t expecting what she found
Peter went fishing
“I’m going fishing,” Simon Peter said to them.
“We’re coming with you,” they told him. John 21:3
Possibly Thomas went with them we don’t know for sure but we do know he was not around when Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples.
Putting yourself in Jesus place after all the time he invested , the time he spent with them, it would be easy to give up on them. He didn’t.
He will meet us where we are.
Mary, he appears first to the one who stayed until the end
Peter He calls him by name. The angels instruct Mary to”Tell Peter and the disciples that He goes before you to Galilee just like he said”.
Thomas He says “Don’t doubt but believe”
Peter and the rest decide to go fishing. Returning to what they were doing when Jesus called them.
He meets them on the shore and cooks them breakfast. John 21:1-9
he resurrection story is about the defeat of death and the grave. From death to life.
It is also about hope and second chances.
It tells us God keeps his promises.
The prophet Isaiah wrote over 600 years before the birth of Jesus.
It was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
It tells us that those who are far from Him, even those who still refuse him he is extending His love and offer for forgiveness.
Some would say that because He hasn’t returned he won’t. What about that promise?
Peter writes as one who understands God’s love and willingness to restore
God isn’t late with his promise as some measure lateness. He is restraining himself on account of you, holding back the End because he doesn’t want anyone lost. He’s giving everyone a chance
2 Peter 3:9 the Message
I have to be honest I do not understand all that the Jesus resurrection means.
I know that he suffered and died for you and for me.
I know he did all he said he would do rising from the dead, appearing fully alive.
I know he keeps his promises and we can believe with confidence the words John the beloved disciple wrote:
For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
And that gives me hope. Not just now but for the future.
We come to the end of this journey that began with the trial of Jesus, His death on the cross and the resurrection.
It is a time, a season where we reflect on what all this means.
No matter where you may find yourself, an unbeliever or skeptic, a prodigal on a journey that has taken you far from the Father, or a follower like Mary or Peter or Thomas that has faced disappointment, failure or discouragement He will meet you where you are.
I can think of no better explanation than Romans 5 of all the hope we can have.
Because of what He has done.
May this season be a time of hope for you!
Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of
undeserved privilege where we now stand,
and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.
We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials
for we know that they help us develop endurance.
And endurance develops strength of character,
and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.
And this hope will not lead to disappointment.
For we know how dearly God loves us,
because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
When we were utterly helpless,
Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.
Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person,
though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.
For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son
while we were still his enemies,
we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.
So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because
our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.