April 21, 2019
By MB Discipleship
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple… – John 20:1-2a
Repeatedly, in different ways, Jesus had tried to express to his disciples that he would die and be resurrected.
They hadn’t gotten it.
A group of women hauling expensive burial spices arrived in the garden while it was still dark; perhaps they hadn’t been able to sleep the night before. Other Gospels flesh out some of the details – knocked-out guards sent to watch over the tomb in case someone tried to steal Jesus’ body, discussion among the women as they grew close, realizing they might need help shifting the large rock blocking the entrance.
As it happened…they didn’t need help. They arrived to find it had been moved.
Everything happened in a frenzy, a panic, spices forgotten, Mary Magdalene running for Simon Peter and John, chaos. The men came and went, confused and distraught. Angels appeared, asking Mary why she was crying.
And then, Jesus.
Have you ever seen something your brain couldn’t process? The closest we might come is the shock and surprise of a soldier’s family who suddenly sees their loved one while they think that person is still halfway around the world. The mind can’t quite comprehend what’s right in front of their eyes. Sometimes we struggle to process hope, joy, relief, and good news. We think we know the score, we think we have a grasp on a situation, and then – shock.
Jesus had died. Jesus was alive.
Some guards were going to be in big trouble, and the expensive spices that Nicodemus had paid for could be used for something else. The chaos would continue to spin outward, baffling other disciples who heard the story but didn’t know what to make of it; two of Jesus’ followers on the road to Emmaus would tell a stranger about the chaos, only to discover the stranger they were talking to – was Jesus.
Jesus would appear to the disciples, though Thomas was away. Thomas would steadfastly refuse to believe his crazed friends until he could see and poke and touch Jesus in the flesh. Jesus would appear, saying, “here – feel my scars. They weren’t crazy with grief. It’s me!”
Most of his disciples would end up being martyred; but the news of this group of Jewish people and a few Gentiles thrown in who were followers of Jesus continued to spread around the Mediterranean, across Europe, even, quite early, to British shores, as well as down the eastern side of Africa and across southern central Asia.
Why does this matter?
You’re being swept into a long, long line of people who have testified to belief in Jesus Christ. The first Christians were people who had been eyewitnesses to Jesus, resurrected, and those who knew the eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses wrote things down; what they wrote down was circulated, like physician Luke’s Gospel and Acts, written to someone named “Theophilus.”
As fun as Easter dinner and Easter egg hunts are, Easter is a day when we also remember the long line of witnesses in which we stand: Jesus actually died, but Jesus didn’t stay dead. Jesus rose from the dead, and we’re still proclaiming that today, 2,000 years later. Protestants, Orthodox, and Catholic Christians may celebrate it in different ways, but around the world, Easter celebrations lift up the hope of Jesus Christ. And that hope takes roots in individual hearts, but is celebrated in community across time and around the world. You can travel to India or Pakistan, South Korea or Kenya, Brazil or Bangladesh, and find people who are meeting together to worship Jesus and celebrate the resurrection.
*Do you think of yourself as part of a global community? How does it feel to connect the hope of Jesus in your personal life with a long line of people from other places and times who have also followed Jesus? What perspective does this awareness give you as you follow Jesus?