Part 1 of a new series begins with the inspiring and fascinating account of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the perspective of the disciples.
[Darris McNeely] We began this new series, “The Path to Pentecost” to show you how the resurrected Jesus Christ began to work with His disciples in the period after His resurrection, a critical moment in the lives of those who had followed Him for more than three years. What He did with this group has big lessons for us today. So, let’s begin with the first encounter. It is the morning after His resurrection. Jerusalem is quiet. It is still dark while several figures make their way through the streets, going to the garden containing the tomb where Jesus was buried. These women are carrying spices they purchased two days earlier. The burial had been hurried. They wanted to properly prepare the body for burial. Now, despite their Lord’s teaching that he would rise from the grave, they expected to find the tomb sealed and the body still there. They had had three days to think. Their lives had been completely shaken. Jesus was arrested by the guards of the high priest while they were in the garden of Gethsemane. The disciples had scattered and they were scared.
Throughout the long night, their confusion and fear melted. Jesus was taken from Pilate to Herod to the high priest. They watched as He went through the streets to Golgotha, where he was crucified. The horror of Rome’s worst punishment had shocked their senses. The dramatic darkening of the sun, the earthquake, and the reports of the great veil in the temple falling into two parts had created fear and uncertainty. Their own people, the Jews had viciously turned on them. Their little band of fellowship had clashed with the iron power of Rome. Their spirit was crushed and they wonder, would they now be hunted down like rats? So, it was the female disciples who ventured out that morning to provide their last act of service for the body of their Lord and Master. As they entered the garden, they looked and they saw that the large stone had indeed been rolled away. As they stooped and entered the tomb, they were alarmed to see an angel appearing as a young man, sitting on the right side. Seeing their shock, he quickly announced, “He’s risen, He’s not here. Go tell the others, and Peter that he is going before you into Galilee.”
So, they went out quickly, and they fled from the tomb, for they trembled and they were amazed. They ran back to the room where all were staying. With mingled voices of surprise and wonder, they told what they had seen. To Peter and John, it seemed like an impossible story. They had seen him die and watched as the body was put into a tomb and sealed with a rolling stone. Peter decided he had to see for himself and ran out of the room, followed closely by John. Through the streets, they rushed. John was first to reach the tomb and looked in to see the clothes that had been around the body lying there. Peter came next. Together, the men looked at the empty tomb and the discarded clothing. They believed the body was gone and the tomb was empty but did not fully understand the meaning of the teaching that He must rise again from the dead. They left the tomb. They returned to their home still trying to understand what had happened.
These men, Peter, John, the other disciples, they had seen Lazarus walk out of his tomb. They had marveled at the miracles performed by Jesus during his ministry. But now, confronted with this scene, they could not connect the teaching with the reality in front of them. Fear and doubt still held them back. This new scene of an empty tomb was layered on the events of the past four days. What did it mean? One disciple remained at the tomb in a vigil. It was Mary of Magdala. Mary had been the first to discover the empty tomb. Now she stood outside the tomb crying. Perhaps she thought if she looked again, she would see something that helped make sense of what they saw. She stooped and looked in. To her surprise, she now saw two angelic beings sitting on the bench where Jesus’ body had been.
They asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” To which she answered, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” With those words, no more than out of her mouth, Mary sensed another presence in the small space of the tomb. She turned and saw Jesus without knowing it was Him. Jesus asked the same question, “Why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Thinking it was a gardener, Mary said, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you’ve laid Him and I will take Him away.” And with that, she dropped her head, the tears overwhelming her.
Jesus then called to her in a voice with a tone that brought back some memory from across the years. “Mary.” It was the voice of her teacher, the voice that had reached her at a moment she needed someone to understand her life and needs. It was the only voice that ever brought understanding and with it, a healing balm. That voice, which she heard and had followed, now spoke her name. Jesus knew Mary. He knew her hopes, He knew her dreams, He knew her disappointments and hurt. His words and teaching had given meaning to her life. That voice as the voice of a shepherd she heard and chose to follow around Galilee and to Jerusalem. Jesus was her teacher. As she reached out to embrace him, he said, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father, but go to my brethren and say to them I am ascending to My Father, and to your Father, and to my God and to your God.”
Mary had been the first to see the empty tomb and to report it to the disciples, now she was the first to recognize Jesus in His resurrected body, and she is to report that He is ascending to His Father. She did as she was told, reporting the words that he spoke. These words have become a little-understood part of the message of Christ’s life. You see, His suffering and death were profound aspects of the purpose worked out by God from before the foundation of the world. By that sacrifice of Christ, God would gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven and which are on earth in Him. Jesus did ascend to the Father, and His sacrifice was accepted. He entered behind the veil into the Most Holy place, the presence of the Father with the angelic host praising His coming. Through His blood and the eternal Spirit, Christ offered His life and is the mediator of the new covenant. And we receive the promise of an eternal inheritance.
With this accomplished, Jesus began an all-important 40-day period of training with the disciples. There was the mission of the church to take the gospel to all the world and to make disciples, but several things had to be done. First, the fear had to be removed, doubt about Jesus and their future role as apostles had to be confronted. Jesus would need to take them through the scriptures, which predicted and explained his role as the Messiah. Now, He would spend much time unwrapping the deeper layers of scripture that they would later preach with power and conviction. Jesus would spend time restoring the relationships between the disciples. They would need the highest level of unity to withstand the opposition to their mission. As we read the gospel accounts of this period, we see how He addressed all of it while preparing a vital and energized group to go out into the world. The church Jesus founded went into the hostile environment of the Roman Empire and preached the hope of the Kingdom of God. Jesus, the head of the church, knew exactly what was needed. Jesus rose from the dead, He was accepted as the Passover sacrifice, the Lamb of God. He now set himself to prepare the church. And this begins the path to Pentecost, the festival in which the Holy Spirit was given.
That’s BT Extra. Join us next time when we look at two disciples who experienced a unique encounter with the risen Lord.