Summary: Jesus Christ has come to bring us back to God, to clear the way for us to enter once again into his presence. Christ has died to forgive our sins. Christ has risen to bring us new life. Empowered by God’s Holy Spirit we’re called to go out, to spread the
It’s amazing what a brief description we’re given of such a world changing event, isn’t it? Here’s Jesus Christ, the Son of God, coming back to life after being crucified by the Jewish and Roman authorities and all we get are three verses of terse almost bare boned narrative. There was an earthquake, an angel of the Lord came and rolled the stone away and sat on it. That’s a nice touch, isn’t it? And the guards were frozen with fear. That’s it. No razzmatazz. No superlatives. Just the simple facts. You can tell Hollywood had nothing to do with it!
So why are we given such little detail? Is it perhaps that the spectacle wasn’t the point? The real point was that Jesus was no longer in the tomb. The gospel writers all tell us that the tomb was empty; that Jesus was no longer there; that Jesus is alive. Here is the great significance of this day that’s the central festival of the Christian year. We worship a risen saviour. He’s alive.
But then if that were all there were to it the gospel would have stopped there. In fact the gospels may never have been written. Nor would the rest of the New Testament. But do you see what happens straight away?
The women have arrived. The angel has come down and frightened the living daylights out of these tough Roman guards; and then the angel says to the women, "Don’t be afraid. I know why you’re here. Jesus isn’t here any more. Just have a look in the tomb. It’s empty. Now I’ve got a job for you."
It doesn’t take long for Jesus followers to be given a job does it? And notice what that job is: "Go quickly and tell his disciples, ’He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’" And off they go. But as they’re hurrying back to tell the disciples this exciting news, who do they meet but Jesus himself. "Greetings" he says. Can you imagine how they were feeling? They may have wondered whether the angel was telling the truth, though his message would have been fairly compelling, I guess, hearing it from an angel sitting there on the stone that’s just been rolled away from a now empty tomb. But then, suddenly to be met by Jesus! They would have been totally overwhelmed, wouldn’t they? So much so that they fall to the ground, take hold of his feet and worship him.
Here’s the one they’ve followed for the last three years with as much love if not more than the 12 disciples and they just want to hold on to him, even if it is as an object of worship.
But that’s not to be. They can’t hold on to the risen Jesus. He’s here for just a few more weeks before he’ll return to his Father in heaven. He’s no longer bound by human limitations of time and space. That’s made clear by his instruction to them. - Remember they have a job to do. And he repeats the instruction. They’re to go and tell the disciples to go to Galilee where he’ll meet them.
And that’s almost the end of Matthew’s gospel account. His final report, a few verses later is of their final encounter with Jesus. They go to the top of a mountain and Jesus gives them his final instructions. Now they all have a job to do. In fact it’s the same job. He says "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you."
At that moment the disciples become apostles. They’re no longer students. Now they’re ones who are sent out to proclaim the gospel. First it was the women who were sent to proclaim the gospel to the disciples. He is risen! Now they’re to go and tell all nations about Jesus. They’re to make disciples. The students have become the teachers. And what are they to teach? "Teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." In other words they’re to make disciples who will become apostles. And so the process will continue year after year. In fact we’re still doing that aren’t we? Part of our mission statement is to speak the gospel and teach the Bible. We teach the Bible so people will be able to speak the gospel. Our aim is to grow Christians to a level of maturity where they’ll be able to bring others into a relationship with Christ.
Our Easter meditation that we started on Friday finished a moment ago with the account of Thomas - our apostle. His is a great story isn’t it? He’s such an enigma. He’s at one level a cynic, a doubter, a pragmatist. He just wants to see the holes in Jesus’ hands. But at another level he’s totally committed to Jesus. When Jesus says he’s going to Bethany to heal Lazarus, in the final weeks of his life, the disciples object. "You’d be committing suicide!" they say. "The Jewish leaders are out to get you. You’ll be walking right into their trap." But when Jesus insists on going, who is it who speaks up? It’s good old Thomas. He says: "Well guys, if Jesus is going, we’d better go with him, so we can die alongside him!" That’s commitment isn’t it? Absolute loyalty and devotion! And when Jesus in his grace and compassion stands before Thomas holding out his nail pierced hands, it’s Thomas who falls on his knees to worship, just as the women had when they first encountered the risen Jesus.