Summary: Have you ever thought what it might have been like for the disciples to experience the death of the One they gave up everything to follow? Try to visualize one of those disciples coming to meet with us here on Resurrection Day.
Read Luke 24:1-9
Easter! What a glorious day for Christians. It means everything to us. In fact we worship on the first day of the week, Sunday, every week because Jesus came out of the tomb on that day. I hope none of us takes for granted what Christ’s resurrection means. I hope that we have experienced His new life and will experience our own resurrection because He conquered death for us.
We are so accustomed to Easter rolling around every year. Yet have you ever thought what it might have been like for the disciples to experience the death of the One they gave up everything to follow? They had no idea that He would rise from the grave. Try to visualize one of those disciples coming to meet with us here at our Sonrise service.
“What good does faith do me now?” I remember thinking that when Jesus was arrested and tried on that Thursday night so long ago. “If a good man like Jesus has to go through all this, what kind of a just God is there? Maybe the unbelievers are right.”
My name is Matthew. I’ve come back to tell you about the week many have come to call holy. I was a tax collector before I became a follower of Jesus. Everything was going so well until that Thursday of the longest weekend in the world. When it dawned that Thursday we had no idea what we were in for.
Jesus celebrated Passover with us as He had done a couple times before. During the supper Jesus boldly proclaimed that one of us would betray Him. Now others had become disenchanted with Him and had left following Him. But we were the ones who stayed on with Him. Certainly it couldn’t be one of us. I still had some doubts about whether He was The Messiah, but there was no way I could betray Him. And yet I wasn’t fully sure of that. Later I was told that the Lord identified Judas as the betrayer. I did notice he left suddenly, but I just thought our treasurer had been given some instructions by Jesus to attend to.
Toward the end of the supper Jesus instituted His own touch on the time-honored feast by telling us that the bread and cup were actually referring to Him. The bread referred to His body and the cup referred to His blood that would open up a new covenant with God. If that wasn’t strange enough, He then predicted that all of us would deny Him. “Not me,” said Peter. “Even if all the rest deny you, I never will”, he continued. Funny I was thinking the same thing. Then Jesus’ words astounded all of us; “Before the cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” “Never,” said Peter defiantly, Never.”
We had moved from John Mark’s house through the Kidron Valley and arrived at the Garden of Gethsemane, exhausted by the night’s activities, with apprehension of what was to come. Jesus asked us all to pray with Him. Three of our group were invited to go with Him further into the garden. The rest of us settled down to pray and that is the last thing I remember until a loud commotion woke me up. When Jesus specifically asked us to pray with Him I fell asleep. Only later would I realize how much He and I needed that neglected prayer.
Then Judas arrived. He kissed Jesus to identify Him to the guards and stepped back while the soldiers started to arrest the Lord. Peter slashed at the soldier’s face, but caught only a piece of his ear as the soldier ducked. “Put away the sword,” Jesus said. “All who take the sword, die by the sword.” And then He turned to the soldiers and said, “You don’t need swords and clubs to take me.” That did not deter their harsh treatment of Him. As soon as they grabbed Him, I found myself running away. I didn’t stop until I just couldn’t run any more. Even then I was looking behind to see if I had been followed.
How can you keep faith in a man who will say something like that? If He could call down a legion of angels, why didn’t He do it? What good does faith do, if the best man who ever lived can be treated this way? It was a sad, confusing time for me. It got worse.
Peter later told us how he went to the courtyard of Caiaphas, the high priest, where Jesus was tried. Jesus was confronted by Caiaphas, who said, “Tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “So you say,” was the crisp reply. Tearing at his garments, Caiaphas cried, “Blasphemy! We need no other witnesses! He is guilty and must die.” They all agreed. They spat at His face and beat Him. Yet it wasn’t over for Jesus. He would be hauled from one egotistic leader to another for trial.