A few days ago I wrote about the darkest day, as the Son of Man hung upon a cross, torn and beaten and deserted by His friends. Now I write about a risen Saviour who did not stay in the grave, but was raised back to life in power and victory.
We all need hope, don’t we? Without it, we struggle to keep going. We become despondent and despairing, feeling the darkness closing in. At the time of Jesus’ death and burial, His friends had lost hope. They had heard Him say that He would be tortured and killed, AND that He would be raised to life again. According to Luke’s gospel this was now the third time that He had told His disciples what was going to happen:
“And taking the twelve, He said to them, “See, we are going to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spat upon. And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.“” Luke 18:31 – 33
However they just didn’t get what was being said to them:
“But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.” Luke 18:34
It is no wonder then that we find the disciples hiding away after the crucifixion, and it is the women who loved Jesus and followed Him closely who go to the grave and discover what has happened. They went to anoint His body with spices and ensure that all was dealt with well. When they reached the grave, they were shocked to find that the body of Jesus was missing. Angels appeared to them and one of them spoke, saying “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5b).
If we go to tend to a loved one’s grave, we are not expecting to find an empty grave. We can try to imagine the women’s feelings at this point. They had not grasped Jesus’ words to them about His own resurrection, so the angel reminded them. Then they did recall His words and it must have started falling into place for them. They went and told the disciples, who didn’t believe it at all. Only Peter, the one who had denied ever knowing Jesus, went to inspect the grave for himself (Luke 24:12) and “went home marvelling at what had happened”.
You might think, well that was all very well for the people back then in His own time, but what does this mean for me today in the 21st century? Why does Jesus’ resurrection from the dead mean hope for me today? What it means is that Jesus was and is who He claimed to be. He did die a cruel death and rise on the third day, just as had been spoken earlier. His body has never been found to this day. Anyone who wanted to show that Christianity is a myth would only have to produce the body of Jesus to put a stop to it, yet none has ever been found. I’m sure the Romans wanted to put an end to it, the way that they persecuted the early church, yet Christianity spread and grew and continues to spread to this day. The Bible records many accounts of eye witnesses to His bodily resurrection (see the gospel accounts and 1 Cor 15:5 – 8). Paul even writes that if the resurrection did not happen,
“..then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins….If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied”. 1 Cor 15:14, 17, 19
If Jesus is now risen and ascended, that means that His words about life after death can be trusted, and that there is an eternal home for those who will believe in Him. There is forgiveness for sin and hope beyond this life. Some things here will never be right and may always be challenging, but in the age to come all things will be made right and we will rejoice with Him who made an end of all our sin and of its consequences.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” John 14:1 – 3