Summary: The disciples took time to come to terms with the resurrection. So do we. But come on board with the life-changing reality of Easter.
Easter day was the day which changed everything.
On the Friday it seemed like the end of the world:
• Jesus who said “I am the way” was going nowhere – lying on a cold stone slab.
• Jesus who said “I am the truth” was to speak no more. His words of love and mercy were drowned by a shouting mob who had bayed for his blood, his voice silenced by death.
• Jesus who said “I am the life” was dead – buried in a tomb amongst other tombs.
Jesus’ death had been powerful. There was no doubting that. As he died, the earth had shaken, the curtain in the temple (representing the last barrier between people and God) was torn in two – something extraordinary had happened. But that was no help to the disciples, his friends, because Jesus was still dead.
We cannot begin to understand the despair of the disciples that weekend – when all their hopes and dreams (which we based on all they knew of Jesus, their master) crumbled into dust as they watched him die – and the despair as it started to sink in that they would not see him any more.
That Saturday must have been low point like no other for the disciples – full of fear and despondency and deep grief. Saturday passed like a bad dream.
Then Sunday came.
Each of the gospels have a slightly different account of what happened that morning, but they all testify that the women came to the tomb and discovered that the stone had been rolled away, the body of Jesus was gone.
How did the disciples react?
There was a great range of emotions that day. I was interested to understand what was going on for the disciples after the discovery of the empty tomb so I did a quick check of the first three gospels which recorded their emotions and reactions:
Fear “do not be afraid” Matthew 28:5
Then Fear again (28:9)
They were “alarmed” (Mark 16:5,6)
“Trembling and bewildered…afraid” (Mark 16:8)
“wondering” (Luke 24:3)
Frightened (Luke 24:5)
“wondering” (Luke 24:12)
“startled and frightened” (Luke 24:37)
“joy and amazement” (Luke 24:41)
The process of owning the resurrection
What happened that day was so enormous – it was so huge – it was so far out there that it was clear that the disciples took time to get on board with it.
The first reaction to the resurrection wasn’t joy. That happened later.
The first reaction was confusion and fear and bewilderment and wonder and amazement which later was to segue into the stuff of joy and elation.
That is the way we process deep seemingly impossible news whether that be good or bad.
If you have someone who is deeply close to you die, it takes a long time to actually understand that they really are dead. It takes time to recognise that they won’t be walking through that door, or sitting at that chair. The disciples were probably just starting coming to terms with that by Sunday morning – even having watched him die over a whole afternoon.
They are just getting to grips with him being dead and now they have to come to terms with him being alive and, one by one, they have to come to own the reality of the resurrection.