Christians may have differences in some areas of belief but one truth claim of Jesus is non-negotiable – his bodily resurrection! The early Christians didn’t merely share the fact of Jesus’ death they preached his resurrection proclaiming him ‘Lord of life’! Good Friday was our human ‘NO’ to Jesus, Easter is God’s ‘YES’ to Him! The Cross was the Son’s payment for our sins, the empty tomb the Father’s receipt stamped ‘paid-in-full!’ Because Christ lives his followers will also live! (Jn. 14:19) This is good news – the Gospel! Christianity has a risen Savior, not a dead founder, hence a ‘living hope’; a faith that’s real, future with hope, community (church-life) with purpose and a mission that’s possible! The women who went that resurrection morning ‘looking for the living among the dead’ (Mt 28:1-10) became the 1st Gospel preachers! Let’s join them to hear 4 words of exhortation that will mobilize mournful seekers to be fervent missionaries..
1. Word of Consolation: ‘Don’t be afraid!’, God knows your need!
As the women hurried to Jesus’ tomb before sunrise what were their thoughts and feelings? As loyal disciples they had lingered near his cross, watched him die, noted his burial spot, now had come to anoint his body for a decent buried. They had loved Jesus’ teaching, experienced his miracles, built their hope on him, but now he was dead! Paying their last respects they must have wondered: Who is going to roll the heavy tomb stone? How to get past the Roman guards to get to Jesus? The darkness outside swelled their inner despair, filling them with fear! They were looking for the right person, in the wrong place!
Their fears prove unfounded. God had intervened; sent an earthquake and angel on a mission to roll and sit on the stone that stood between them and their living Lord. God’s first word through his messenger was, ‘Don’t be afraid, I know…’ What encouragement to know, God knows! This is the comfort of God’s perfect love that casts out all fear (1Jn. 4:18)! What are our concerns, burdens and barriers, like stones that cause anxiety and block us from our risen Lord? God is still in the business of ‘Rolling Stones’! Don’t fear, God knows and cares!
2. Word of Declaration: ‘He has risen!’, God keeps his word!
Note what they had heard before coming and needed to be reminded of. They knew the death penalty for tampering with Caesar’s seal and heard rumors of grave robbers taking Jesus’ body. Yet God makes a decree to solve any mystery of the missing body of the crucified Jesus: ‘He has risen!’ Then that significant phrase ‘just as he said’! The resurrection was no afterthought or surprise but according to God’s sovereign plan and Christ’s prediction (16:21; 17:22; 20:19).
While Jesus’ enemies remembered, he said he will rise again on the third day, sadly his own disciples forgot this promise (27:63). Less wonder in that cemetery, their faith was also dead! Skeptics, atheists, anti-supernaturalists, secular humanists forget God’s Word is true and stands! Jesus’ followers must carefully hear and remember to remember his word since that’s how faith is generated (Rom. 10:17)! In spite of the Sanhedrin, the stone, seal, the soldiers there is the mysterious shroud left behind and our living Savior. God’s not dead, Christ has risen in deed, as he said, is now with us. God keeps his word!
3. Word of Invitation: ‘Come and see!’, God calls us to himself!
The third word is a warm invitation to examine the evidence, ‘Come and see!’ It remains an attestation to this historical fact whenever we date a piece of official work (AD = in the year of our Lord). The stone was rolled away not to let Jesus out but let us in! The invite was not to see the place with the cocoon of linen clothes just the way these women had wrapped Jesus, but to encounter the person. On their way, Jesus meets and greets them. Now their faith gives way to sight and their hope is realized in the glorious Christ himself!
Jesus always made himself the central issue and called followers first and foremost to himself. His disciples now must know him in a new and living way, as they fall at Jesus’ feet to worship him as Lord and King! Where were the male disciples? Hiding in the upper room! These women had come, sought and found Jesus. Today our souls are unsatisfied and though entertained by so many substitutes they remain restless! Don’t hide, seek and you will find! In His presence there is fullness of joy, and their response is telling!
4. Word of Commission: ‘Go quickly and tell!’, God sends us out to share!
A fourth word ensues the third and the two stand together – ‘Come & See’, ‘Go, quickly & Tell!’ Jesus, not an angel, now mandates or charges them to ‘Go’ with a sense of urgency and serious responsibility. Consider how their worship or intimacy with the Lord leads to their witness or involvement in his world. These Jewish women whose report who would believe or testimony a court would not accept are the first evangelists! Jesus sends (missio) them to his disciple who he had called to be fishers-of-men! (4:19). He is not ashamed to address them as ‘brothers’ since his resurrection has made his Father their Abba in heaven!
The women’s sorrow turns to joy because of Jesus’ presence. Moreover this is a Co-mission and our blessed assurance for ‘lo’ as they ‘go’ on in obedience to Galilee, Jesus goes ahead of them. Meeting the risen Christ calls for a response viz. mission! Christian mission is possible because Jesus goes with us and is for us! As the Father sent Jesus, the risen Christ has poured out his Spirit and so sends us into the world. We have his authority and as a community, the great opportunity to ‘Go & Tell’ all nations (28:19-20). So there are our four words: ‘Don’t be afraid!’ why? God knows your need; ‘He has risen’, God keeps his word; ‘Come and see’, God calls us to himself, and ‘Go quickly and tell’, God sends us to share his life of love! Christ arose, so his follower goes!