It’s All About the Resurrection

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A lot of people aren’t sure what to do with Easter.  It’s not like Christmas.  There aren’t “Easter carols” and there isn’t the exchanging of gifts or the wild decorations associated with Christmas.  Christmas occurs at the end of the year—a fixed date.  Who knows when Easter is from year to year?   Christmas has a jolly fat man who is able to inexplicably slide down everybody’s chimney, but Easter has a bunny that, as far as we can tell, does nothing.  Christians and even people from other belief systems or of no belief system enjoy Christmas, if only for the time off work.

So, Easter gets short shrift.  It’s really a “Christian-only” deal because, bunny not withstanding, it’s all about THE resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The resurrection is the most important event in the history of the world.  Even our calendar recognizes it.  Or at least it used to until the curious “C.E.” replaced the traditional “A.D.”  Of this once-time event, Robert Flatt once remarked,

The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances.

That’s a nice sentimental thought, but wholly inadequate.  Truth is, if Christ had not risen from the dead, there would be no Christianity, no Christian faith, no hope, no Church, no Redeemer, no Savior, and no Lord.

Let’s take a look at the power of the resurrection and how it impacts our lives.

Recognizing the Risen Lord, John 20:1, 11—18 

Mary Magdalene’s shocking discovery, John 20:1

If you are reading this study, you are probably a Christian and at least generally familiar with the whole Crucifixion story.  It is the basis of your faith, after all.  So we’ll dive right into the day of the Resurrection.

Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone was rolled aside from the entrance.  (John 20:1  TLB)

Those who would deny the events of this particular Sunday morning, have to contend with eye witness accounts in the four Gospels—and almost all of the New Testament in fact, and all the prophecies of the Old Testament.  Everything in the Bible points to or back to this day.

It was appropriate that John would begin his version of the Resurrection with the experience of Mary Magdalene.  There were other women heading to the tomb besides Mary.  They are mentioned by name in the other Gospels, and include Mary, the mother of James and Salome, as well as Joanna and probably others!  But John focuses on Mary Magdalene.  She had been forgiven of so much and her love for her Lord was legendary.

What she saw before even going into the tomb was shocking:  the stone had been rolled away.  The Greek construction is a little more graphic:  “the stone having been taken away.”  Actually “taking away a boulder” is far more powerful than just “rolling it away.”  Who did this?  Matthew tells us that an angel—one angel, mind you—did it.

Mary’s sorrow, John 20:11—13 

You’d think Mary would be excited at the prospect of an open, empty tomb.  But, no, she wasn’t.  She hadn’t put two and two together like Peter and John did.  The effect of the empty tomb on them was staggering.

Then I went in too, and saw, and believed that he had risen…  (John 20:8  TLB)

But the truth hadn’t yet dawned on Mary.  She saw the empty tomb, but apparently not the grave clothes.  She had assumed somebody had stolen her Lord’s body.  She also saw two angels in the tomb who probably appeared in the form of two young men.

The question often asked is why did these angels appear to Mary (and the other women) but not to Peter or John?  Some think it was because the faith of the women was so weak they needed something like an angelic appearance.  That’s pure speculation, of course, usually put forth by men.  Another idea suggests the appearance of the angels and their message was a kind of reward for the ministry, love, and devotion these women had for Jesus during His earthly ministry.  However, there really is no explanation as to the angel’s appearance to the women only, but one thing is certain as far as Mary Magdalene was concerned.  The emotional tears of grief blinded her to the greater reality of her Lord’s Resurrection.  The application to believers today is obvious.  Sometimes our emotions and feelings, no matter how appropriate they may be, can get in the way; they can cause a kind of “spiritual blindness.”

The Lord’s question, John 20:14, 15 

She glanced over her shoulder and saw someone standing behind her. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him!  “Why are you crying?” he asked her. “Whom are you looking for?”  (John 20:14, 15  TLB)

For some reason, Mary turned away from the angels, which suggests they appeared like ordinary men.  After all, would you be able to take your eyes angelic visitors?  Turn away she did, and she looked straight at the risen Jesus.  And she didn’t recognize Him!  Can you imagine?  A Bible scholar with the regrettable name of Gossip offers three reasons as to why Mary didn’t recognize the Lord she loved so much:

  • Mary wasn’t looking for a risen Christ, she was looking for a dead Jesus.
  • The risen Lord sought her out, and she wasn’t expecting that.
  • Even though Mary loved Jesus and sought Him with her whole being, she just didn’t recognize Him because He did the unexpected.

Very often this happens to Christians, who fail to see the good God is doing in their lives because sometimes that good appears to be something else.  Blessings often come disguised as illnesses or other challenging circumstances, and because God comes to us and does unexpected things in unexpected ways, we assume He’s just not there.  How many opportunities to give God the glory have we missed because we were busy looking the other way; looking for something else?

Jesus’ revelation, John 20:16—18 

Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.  (John 20:18  TLB)

Mary finally got it!  Verse 16 has often been called “the greatest recognition scene in the history of literature.”  All Jesus had to do was mention her name, and Mary instantly recognized who this Person was!  Hoskyns said it best:

The true, life-giving ruler of the Paradise (Garden) of God has called His own sheep by name and she knows His voice.

In adoration, Mary latched on to her Lord; probably clinging to His feet, but Jesus didn’t want to be touched right now.  That’s a curious thing, considering He would later encourage doubting Thomas to literally “thrust” his hand into the wound on His side.  To Mary, Jesus used the word haptomai, meaning “hold on to.”  This was the time between the Resurrection and the Ascension.   Hoskyns, once again, said it best:

So intimate will be the relationship with Jesus that, though Mary must for the time being cease from touching Him, because He must ascend and she must deliver His message, yet, after the Ascension, both she and the disciples will be concretely united with Him…

Or to put it another way, Mary wanted to hold on to Jesus because she loved Him so much, but He had to leave so that He could send the Holy Spirit who would dwell within Mary and all believers.  And there is no more intimate relationship with the Lord than that!

Relationship with the risen Christ, Luke 24:13—18, 26—35 

Here’s another case of followers of Jesus who just didn’t recognize Him.  These two hapless followers of Jesus were strolling along a road.  It was the Road to Emmaus, and was probably a seven mile trip from Jerusalem to the village of Emmaus.  The risen Lord joined the two disciples on their trip.

As they walked along they were talking of Jesus’ death, when suddenly Jesus himself came along and joined them and began walking beside them.  But they didn’t recognize him, for God kept them from it.  (Luke 24:14—16  TLB)

These two loved the Lord but just didn’t believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.  That’s the real reason why they didn’t recognize Him, by the way.  They didn’t recognize the risen Lord because they, like Mary, weren’t looking for Him.

Jesus asks a question, Luke 24:17 

“You seem to be in a deep discussion about something,” he said. “What are you so concerned about?”  (Luke 24:17a  TLB)

Of course, Jesus knew exactly what they were talking about, but this was our Lord’s way of jumping into a private conversation.

The disciples respond, Luke 24:18 

“You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about the terrible things that happened there last week.”  (Luke 24:18  TLB)

Now, this comment provides a little sidelight of historic note.  These two followers of Jesus could not believe that this “stranger” hadn’t heard about the arrest, trial, and Crucifixion of Jesus.  That was huge news in and around Jerusalem.  Now there were these rumors about a Resurrection.

But Jesus persisted in “playing dumb,” not because He’s having fun with these two fellows, but because He wanted to teach them something.  He did this by leading them in a discussion about the Scriptures.  Many Jews of Jesus’ day, like devout Christians today, were students of the Word, yet often missed the essential meanings.  For example, they were well-versed in the prophetic passages that spoke of the Messiah as King and Lord of the world, but completely missed the verses that spoke of the Lord’s suffering as God’s way of dealing with sin and evil.  Here, Jesus took time to reason with these men, showing them how this theme ran through the whole Old Testament.  He showed them that suffering by way of the Cross was actually the way to ultimate victory.

Opened eyes, Luke 24:28—32 

They began telling each other how their hearts had felt strangely warm as he talked with them and explained the Scriptures during the walk down the road.  (Luke 24:32  TLB) 

It was almost the end of the day before the two friends of Jesus recognized Him, but at the moment they did,  He miraculously vanished from their sight.  What’s interesting is not so much why they didn’t recognize Jesus, but when they did:  it was while (they realized in hindsight) He shared the Scriptures with them and when He broke bread with them.

Knowing Jesus is all about entering into a relationship with Him.  Many modern Christians are oblivious to this.  To them, their faith is a religious thing, their faith is a formal, Sunday thing.  Jesus doesn’t come into their minds during the week.  Their Bibles sit, collecting dust.  However, He is the Word, so as we read and meditate on the Word, we are actually in a relationship with the Living Word.  And having a meal with people has always been seen as an “intimate” thing to do.  After all, you don’t eat with your enemies, do you?

Eager witnesses, Luke 24:33—35 

Within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem, where the eleven disciples and the other followers of Jesus greeted them with these words, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter!” 

Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread.  (Luke 24:33—34 TLB)

How these men changed after their encounter with Jesus!  Rufus McDaniel, an ordained minister of the Christian Church denomination, preacher, pastor, and extremely prolific hymn writer—he wrote over 100!—penned these words a hundred years ago that describe how these two friends of Jesus must have felt:

What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
Since Jesus came into my heart;
I have light in my soul for which long I have sought,
Since Jesus came into my heart.
 
Since Jesus came into my heart,
Since Jesus came into my heart;
Floods of joy o’er my soul like the sea billows roll,
Since Jesus came into my heart. 

These men were transformed from extreme pessimists into outgoing optimists.  They ran back to Jerusalem, by now dusk and getting dark, completely unafraid of the dangers of traveling this semi-wilderness road.  This is what Jesus does to people!  He transforms them.  He gives them purpose, direction, and courage. The great Woodrow Kroll wrote,

God intends to use you in wonderful, unexpected ways if you let Him.  But be prepared; finding God’s purpose and following it will undoubtedly require work and sacrifice—which is perfectly okay with God (because He knows the marvelous blessings that He has in store for you if you give yourself to Him).

Have a blessed Easter, and may the power of the Resurrection empower you to serve Him!

 

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