From Discover Your Destiny
They were desolate!
Rarely have the personal lives of individuals sunk into a deeper abyss of despair than those of the disciples of Jesus Christ immediately after His death on the cross. The blackest days in the personal history of Peter, James, John, Andrew, Bartholomew, and the others came that day when they experienced the utter disillusionment that was their sequel to Calvary. For us, the awful emotions of those hours have been dimmed by two thousand years of the yellowing of the pages of history. Not so for them; they were the first to experience the pure despair, the indescribable personal loss at the death of Jesus Christ!
These men had walked with Christ for three unforgettable years. They could say,
We that had loved Him so, honored Him, followed Him,
Jesus Christ had become all of life to these men. None of them would ever forget the day when the Son of God called them from the narrow pursuits that so characterized their lives. They were nameless members of the faceless mass; real purpose was unknown to them. Then they met Christ! “Follow me,” He had said; and from that moment on, their lives became an electrifying series of unforgettable experiences with the Man of all men.
The expanding of their association with Jesus Christ had produced for them the mounting conviction that this Man, the Messiah of Israel, would stand astride the leadership of the world. Surely, they believed, He would deliver Israel from its humiliating servitude to pagan Rome. Certainly He would strike a smashing blow against the pagan powers of the Gentiles, and under His leadership God’s chosen people would mount to the mastery of the nations of earth.
Because of the dimness of the years, it is hard for us to understand with what passion the Jews looked forward to the coming of their Messiah. They daily remembered the glories of the kingdom of Israel under Solomon and David. They believed with an unquenchable passion that God would send another champion who would lead them out of national enslavement to world prominence. Messiah, the Prince, would be a master politician and military genius, a leader of leaders. They daily prayed that soon He would come striding across the horizon of history..
In no small measure the disciples of Christ shared this view. They saw in Christ the One who by His miracles and the weight of His words would soon make Israel the terror of the nations. They were somewhat confused by His words that “my kingdom is not of this world,” but to a great extent they saw Christ as a human Messiah. In the years that they had known Him, He had become the burning focus and potential fulfillment of all their hopes.
Now all this was finished. The path they had followed ended with a bloodstained corpse hanging on a cross on a hill outside the city of Jerusalem. Their minds became traitor to their hearts as they began to believe the unthinkable. Jesus Christ was dead! With leaden feet they stumbled through a world awash with their own tears to return to Galilee, there to attempt to refit the hopeless bits and pieces of the little lives they had abandoned three years before to follow the Savior. For them the lights of the world had gone out.
The rumors they heard after three days seemed like a last cruel irony of their enemies. Confirmed despair is the most reluctant listener to any message of hope. Nevertheless, the message was there, for the rumor persisted, “The tomb is empty. He is alive!”
Those who heard the early whisperings that Jesus Christ was alive again were bewildered at these reports, “For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9).
The disciples continued needlessly in their disillusionment, being slow to believe. They were unsuspecting of the fact that that very day the rulership of death had been eternally broken, the king of darkness had been deposed and the throne of the universe was to be occupied by the conqueror from heaven.
What had taken place was essentially this. The Lord Jesus, after He was crucified, was placed in a tomb near Calvary. Roman soldiers were commissioned to guard the tomb to prevent the disciples from coming and stealing His body. Now, of all times, the enemies of Christ must consolidate their gains. They must prevent at all cost any incident that would bring the name of Jesus Christ back. When they placed the stone before the new tomb where the body of Jesus Christ was lain, they were reasonably sure that this was the end of the matter. They had defeated and done to death the Galilean who had stirred up so many inexplicable loyalties from the people during the brief three years of His earthly ministry.
Those priests and rulers were sure that the massive stone that sealed the sepulchre would stand as mute testimony to the failure of this ecstatic boaster to make good His promises. With the swirl of their skirts, they strode from the scene of His burial in the smug confidence that they, the masters of Israel, had prevailed again.
The interlude that followed echoed with the measured trade of Roman guards and was washed with the tears of mourning women. The heartbreak of sorrowing disciples, the satisfied smiles of the murderers of the Lord, and the slow ebbing of the tide of enthusiasm that had swirled around the life of Jesus Christ in these recent days all characterized these hours.
“He is dead.”
“He is buried.”
The lips of His humiliated followers were sealed with the terrible finality of death. Their hopes lay buried beneath the rock in the garden tomb.
But was this really the end?
In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightening, and his raiment white as snow: and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for He is risen, as He said, Come, see the place where the Lord lay (Matthew 28:1-6).
With unmistakable clarity, heaven struck the first blow of the new conquest. It brought forth the first life of the new creation. Jesus Christ was alive again! He is risen as He said! Living, vital, breathing, resurrected, the Son of God stepped from that tomb into the morning sunlight of the greatest day in all of history.
From this moment on, the life of the world could never be quite the same again. A new gift had been given to humanity, a new purpose for living, a new hope that the grave could not contain. Now there was new reason for birds to sing, for the sun to shine. The calendar of humanity would be changed, for indeed the winter of the world’s desolation would now give way to the springtime of eternal hope. The God-man who had died now lives again! Captivity is captive and gifts are given to all mankind.
Comparing with one another their own private rumors of this event, the disciples waited behind closed doors with mingled emotions of fear and breathless anticipation. They wondered and hoped. Indeed they were dreaming dreams that no mortal had ever dared to dream before. Then,
came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord (John 20:19-20).
The impossible had happened! Jesus Christ was indeed alive again. Furthermore, He had chosen as His first appointment to meet with those who had stood by His side during the three years of his earthly ministry. Before He had even ascended to His Father, He met with His friends, the disciples. The Lord would not allow the agony of their heartbreak to be prolonged one moment more than necessary.
Eight days later, now with Thomas the doubter present, Christ once again met with His disciples and saw that circle of faith form itself before Him to completion as Thomas with the other disciples said, “I believe.”
From this moment on, the historic fact of the resurrection and the reality of the living Christ became proof that He was indeed the Saviour of the world! This was proof that His gospel was the only way for all mankind. Specifically, the resurrection of Christ is the proof—or if you please, the final argument—for the truth of the claim that Christianity is true.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ declares that He is the Son of God with power (Romans 1:4). His miracles and His message were profound indications of the fact that He was the Son of God; but His own resurrection is the final irrefutable evidence that He is indeed God, able to exercise the power of deity. When Christ arose from the dead, He arose not to die again in some later year but to live forever. Death had no more power over Him. He became the conqueror, putting death itself to death.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ also demonstrated that the purpose for which He died on the cross indeed had been fulfilled. It is true that “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures,” and that with His own blood on the cross He atoned for the moral guilt of all mankind. His suffering and death during those six hours on the cross did away with sin’s power. He “put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26).
Without the resurrection there would always have been the great unanswered question, Did He really succeed? The onlooking world never could have known whether or not Jesus Christ had indeed conquered sin and death without the evidence of the resurrection. His followers—if indeed He would have had any followers—would have been mere religionists preaching wistfully about the Sermon on the Mount and the sharing of food among the five thousand. His disciples would have been exponents of a hopeless religion surrounding themselves with crosses and stained glass and black robes and slow music. They would have had only a “Judeao-Christian philosophy” with dubious application to the needs of the soul. They would have perpetuated a religion with artificial props of protracted organization, frantic promotion, endless threats and appeals to vague duty, and finally “a movement for unity around a common denominator” to avert their inevitable collapse as an influence on earth.
The resurrection changed all of this.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ shows that Christianity is not merely just a religion, but rather it is the life and reality of God available to the lives of men. The reality of the resurrection ran through the lives of His dispirited disciples like an electric shock. Because of the resurrection, these men were transformed.
Is it possible that the resurrection can have a similar influence on our lives today? Indeed it is. Because of the resurrection we have several immensely valuable gifts.
We have the forgiveness of every sin. The gospel proudly announces that Jesus Christ was “raised again for [because of] our justification” (Romans 4:25). We are justified from the guilt of sin and from the condemnation of the law because Christ bore the curse of the law for us on the cross. Now “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Romans 10:4). The resurrection says in effect, “You are justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
We have a new life to live. There is a new kind of life available to us because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. All of this is implied in the statement, “Because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). This same quality of life that was possessed by Jesus Christ after He came again from Joseph’s tomb is the identical quality of life that can indeed become the portion of every believer.
We have power from God in our human lives. The apostle Paul prayed one day in his life, “That I may know him and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). He was aware that he would have to face staggering odds in the work that he aspired to do for Christ. He needed strength beyond his own and ability he had never known. He realized that because of the resurrection, Jesus Christ gives every man the power to be more than he really is. Talk about being nine feet tall! Jesus Christ does more than this. He offers life that is qualitatively different from anything the world has to offer and, beyond that, power to do what humans have never done before.
That first Easter morning, then, was the dawning of a new day for all the world. The one who believes in Christ can now say, “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55). He knows that death need not be fatal, for Jesus Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. He is confident that the powers of darkness have now been devastated on his behalf. He is sure that the one who lives and believes in Jesus Christ shall never die.
The empty tomb stands today as mute testimony of the God who lives. Christ is risen from the dead, creating a gospel that laughs at impossibilities and presents limitless life to all who believe.
Discover Your Destiny