Easter Sunday: You Will See Him
Scripture: Matthew 28:1-10
Today, we join countless Christians around the world to celebrate what is for us a clear and glorious reality: the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The stone cave in which Jesus was entombed was as restrictive to his resurrected body as a spring morning fog is to our bodies. Today, we see and believe this wonderful truth. For us, Easter is a high and holy day because on account of the resurrection, we have hope. And in a day when so much that’s happening in our world can easily seem hopeless, possessing a hope rooted in the resurrection of Jesus can be a real life-changer. Wouldn’t you agree?
It’s worth remembering, though, that it wasn’t that way on that first Easter. On the very day Jesus was raised from the dead, confusion, disbelief, doubt, and fear were the prevailing feelings amongst his closest friends. Each of them had devoted the previous three years of their lives to following Jesus wherever he took them. Over those three years, their live were turned upside down, and now they were all-in when it came to being a part of this life-transforming ministry. With each miracle and each Kingdom lesson they caught Jesus’ vision of what could be; more importantly, what will be. The problem was, they still didn’t fully understand, or see the truth, about the manner in which this vision would in fact unfold. And when their beloved rabbi, the man whom they’d professed to be the Messiah, was crucified and buried in a stone-cold tomb, the vision quickly faded. Hope was suddenly lost. And fear for their very lives set in. So, they locked themselves behind closed doors and tried to make sense of not only the past few hours and days, but the past three years. They had put all their hope and trust in this man Jesus, and now he was dead. Yes, they recalled him saying something in the past about rising from the dead, but did he really mean that, literally?
Then came a frantic knock at the door. It was the two Mary’s and they seemed particularly spirited about something. As it was, they and a few of the other women had gone to the tomb that morning to anoint the body but discovered that it wasn’t there. Instead, they’d seen an angel who sent them back with a very specific message, which was this: 1) Jesus has in fact been raised from the dead and is alive; 2) he’s heading up to Galilee and wants the disciples to also go there; 3) when they get there, they will see Jesus.
On their way back to deliver this message, the risen Jesus appeared to the women and he gave them the same basic message — Tell your friends that I (Jesus) said: 1) just like I told you a few days ago, I’m going up to Galilee and I want you also to head there; 2) when you get there, you will see me.
I find it interesting that both the angel and Jesus wanted the disciples to know that they would in fact see him [once they got to Galiee]. That is, they would see him alive and well just as he had previously said would be the case. You see, doubt had taken hold in their heads, in their thinking. And fear kept them locked in a room somewhere in Jerusalem. Jesus knew they needed some encouragement in order to take the next steps of their journey. Mary and Mary, tell them that they WILL see me with their own eyes. And, of course, tell them that you’ve already seen me, and that it’s true that I’m alive. With that, hope begins to be restored. So, at some point, they pack their bags and head back to Galilee where it all began three years earlier.
And, of course, they did see Jesus. Different Gospels report different post-resurrection appearances. But the point is, the disciples became witnesses to the resurrected Jesus, and this personal eye-witness on their part was exactly what they would need in the years ahead when they would be building up the church and bringing people to faith in Christ. And it all began with a shot in the arm, if you will, with a word of hope and encouragement when they were feeling hopeless and fearful. He’s alive, and I guarantee you WILL see him.
Today, that same word of hope and encouragement is offered to each of us. The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for all hope. The resurrection is God’s ultimate sign that all is not lost, and that life and light are still available to us even in this darkened, hurting world. I could run through a litany of situations taking place throughout the world at this very moment which reflect our ongoing struggle against injustice, war, violence, hate, lies, corruption, fear of the other, and every ism under the sun. In a world where news of these happenings travels around the globe in a matter of seconds, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the massive amount of all it, isn’t it? But the good news, friends, is that Jesus is alive, and the truth of the resurrection gives us a hope that enables us to see the light even where there’s darkness.
In what way is this word of hope which is rooted in the truth of the resurrection making a difference for you? I’ll share a personal example with you.
Last fall was a very challenging time for me vocationally. As a church, we had to make some very challenging, painful, but necessary decisions regarding our finances and our staff. In the late fall, it was clear to me that I was in uncharted waters for me as a pastor. As the lead pastor, I was in new territory and had no experience with the things we were going through as a church at that point in time. This left me feeling very overwhelmed. I wasn’t quite sure what to do or how to lead us forward. In a way, I kind of felt like the disciples locked in a room.
That’s when I made a contact with a conference staff person and got connected with a coach. This person coaches pastors for a living and has the pastoral experience I lack. Because of our monthly conversations, my homework assignments, and the things I’m beginning to implement, I have a renewed sense of hope not only in my ability to lead but, more importantly, in the future of this congregation. My first phone conversation with my coach was just like Mary and Mary knocking on the door and telling the disciples, “Guaranteed, you WILL see Jesus again.” Through these sessions, God has been opening my mind and heart to see possibilities I simply didn’t see before. I’m very excited about what lies ahead for this church, even as we continue to live into some very challenging times. And that’s because we worship a God who is alive. We have a Messiah who’s alive and sitting at God’s right hand, interceding for us even at this very moment. Christ is alive, and that resurrection truth makes all the difference.
How about you? What aspect of your life right now has either been encouraged by the hope we have in resurrection, or is needing that word of hope? Whatever that may be for you, I’d like to invite you to lay this before the Lord right now. Give thanks for the hope he’s given you. And, if it’s the case, ask God to give you that word of hope just like he gave it to the disciples through Mary. In fact, let’s do this right now. Let’s pray…