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Resurrection Joy: The Ultimate Miracle!
Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-18; Matthew 16:21-23; Luke 8:1-3; Acts 2:29-36 - He is risen, indeed!
“Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave. And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. The guards shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying. Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus *said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.””
Matthew 28:1-10 NASB1995
“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him. Very early on the first day of the week, they *came to the tomb when the sun had risen. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” Looking up, they *saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large. Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed. And he *said to them, “Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see Him, just as He told you.’ ” They went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had gripped them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”
Mark 16:1-8 NASB1995
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“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.” And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”
Luke 24:1-12 NASB1995
“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene *came early to the tomb, while it *was still dark, and *saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. So she *ran and *came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and *said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he *saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also *came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he *saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. So the disciples went away again to their own homes. But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb; and she *saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She *said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” When she had said this, she turned around and *saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus *said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she *said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus *said to her, “Mary!” She turned and *said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher). Jesus *said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.’ ” Mary Magdalene *came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.”
John 20:1-18 NASB1995
Does the truth of the Resurrection send chills down your spine? Even when I was wandering in skepticism and unbelief, all I had to do was think of this story and I always imagined the beautiful morning sunshine and the dawn of a new day of creation. Christmas is fun and is, of course, the advent of our Lord, if you can get around Santa Claus, the Grinch and the gift-giving frenzy (and the dark, gloomy winter). Resurrection Sunday, though, is my favorite holy day and also my favorite day of the year. It is springtime, life is returning to Earth and we are all renewed for eternity on this day if we believe!
I’m writing this devotional on Holy Saturday, the day of waiting and saw a painting today on Plough on their Facebook page. Plough is a publication of the Bruderhof community and they have superb articles and poetry, centered on Christian belief. Here is the painting, by Eugene Burnand, called “Holy Saturday”:
The torment and woe of the disciples is palpable. Peter, the denier, is the figure with his hands on his forehead, with John sitting near him (the only disciple at the crucifixion). Andrew, who brought people to Christ, looms behind his brother. James sits to the left of John, staring into space and trying to make sense of what is senseless. The miracle-working rabbi that they have followed is now dead, after suffering horribly during His trial and crucifixion. There is no hope, but only fear and dread and they are in hiding from the authorities. Of course, if these guys had actually been listening, Jesus told them over and over again that His fate and the salvation of humanity led through the Cross:
“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.””
Matthew 16:21-23 NASB1995
So it is up to the women who follow Jesus to make the discovery of the ages. The four Gospel versions have Mary Magdalene specifically named as one of those women. Mary Magdalene was healed (seven demons cast out) early in the ministry of Jesus and she and other women found ways to financially support Jesus and His disciples:
“Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.”
Luke 8:1-3 NASB1995
I really like the version of the Resurrection in the Gospel of John, where Mary Magdalene finds Peter and “the disciple whom Jesus loved (John)” and tells them that the tomb is open and the body is not to be found. Once again, French artist Eugene Burnand created a wonderful image showing these two disciples running to the tomb:
Can it be true? Did the Messiah defeat death and be eternally resurrected, scattering the plans of Satan and his minions? It is true and many came to believe in His Resurrection, but only after seeing Him. John, on the other hand, believed when he saw the burial linens, but he was’t sure yet what it meant. Here is commentary from David Guzik in Enduring Word:
The other disciple… he saw and believed: After Peter went into the tomb John also went in. He then saw (the ancient Greek word eiden meaning, “to understand, to perceive the significance of”) and then John believed. The distinctive arrangement of the burial wrappings convinced him.
Generally, the very first Christians did not believe in the resurrection only because the tomb was empty, but because they saw and met the resurrected Jesus. John was something of an exception; he believed simply by seeing the empty tomb, before meeting the resurrected Jesus.
“He believed that Jesus was risen from the dead. He received into his mind, embraced with his assent, THE FACT OF THE RESURRECTION, for the first time. He did this, on the ocular testimony before him; for as yet neither of them knew the Scripture.” (Henry Alford)
“John believed, but Peter was still in the dark. Again the former had outrun his friend.” (Alexander Maclaren)
“Some of the best books on the Resurrection have been written by lawyers, some of whom originally set out to disprove it. I am thinking of men like Frank Morrison, Gilbert West, J.N.D. Anderson, and others. Sir Edward Clark, another English jurist, once wrote: ‘As a lawyer I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the first Easter day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling… As a lawyer I accept it unreservedly as the testimony of men to facts that they were able to substantiate.” (James Boice)
The disciples return home to the others, but then the appearance of Jesus happens to Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of John. She remains behind and is distraught at the disappearance of His body and even the appearance of two angels in the tomb do not dissuade her from her grief. He only has to speak her name for her to recognize that it is Him. What joy!! Here is Charles Spurgeon quoted in the commentary by David Guzik:
“In the garden of Eden, immediately after the Fall, the sentence of sorrow, and of sorrow multiplied, fell upon the woman. In the garden where Christ had been buried, after his resurrection, the news of comfort — comfort rich and divine, — came to a woman through the woman’s promised Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ. If the sentence must fall heavily upon the woman, so must the comfort come most sweetly to her.” (Spurgeon)
In our current culture, sadly, Resurrection Sunday has largely been supplanted by the Easter bunny, Easter egg hunts, Peeps (does anyone really eat those?), Chocolate eggs and the appearance of many strangers in church (if they decide to go at all - after all, those brunch reservations were hard to get). Even worse, the growing legion of skeptics and mockers and atheists have a field day telling us that not only is the Resurrection a phony story and “scientifically impossible”, but that Jesus character probably never existed. The disciples made it up, for fame and fortune, and to subjugate others. Besides, the believers in Him are bigots and narrow-minded judgmental people who talk about irrelevant and nasty things like sin, humility, self-control, repentance and faith. Well, I thought I would share a marvelous story from Precept Austin on two British gentlemen who set out to disprove the divinity of Jesus:
There is a story relating that years ago in England, two men set out to disprove Christianity. One was a well-known English jurist and literary scholar named Lord Lyttleton. The other was Gilbert West. They agreed that if Christianity was to be discredited, two things were necessary: to disprove the Resurrection and to explain the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in a way that satisfied the skeptics. The two men divided these tasks between themselves, Lyttleton taking the problem of Saul and West agreeing to research the Resurrection. They invested over a year for their studies, then met together to compare notes. Each one was astonished to discover that the other had become a Christian. The evidence was too strong, the truth too undeniable. It still is. So whether the details of this illustration are exactly as stated, the principle is clear that an honest approach to examination of the evidence for and against the resurrection will leave one with little doubt that the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is a true, historical event. But such a glorious truth that Jesus has conquered death for all who believe in Him demands a response, the nature of which will determine a soul's eternal destiny! As Paul declared "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."
When I was claiming to be a non-believer, I was able to swallow hook, line and sinker the skepticism and doubt that is sown by the enemy. But this is not a myth. Jesus is the Son of God, part of the Trinity. He suffered and died on the Cross to redeem the sins of fallen humanity. The nuances in the four Resurrection stories amplify the overall message: He was not in the tomb on that early Sunday morning and He was clearly dead on Friday. He fulfilled many prophecies by resurrecting from the dead, appearing to many over the course of 40 days, and then ascending to Heaven. His disciples (almost to a person they became martyrs for the faith, not rich church leaders) were filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus turned His enemy Saul into the greatest evangelist the world has seen (Paul was also a martyr). The bumbling, denying, impulsive Peter has this to say, with great boldness, on the day of Pentecost. He has seen, he believes, and he now understands:
““Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” ’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.””
Acts 2:29-36 NASB1995
Hallelujah, He is Risen!! Let us be joyful, hopeful, faithful, and thankful!!
My next devotional returns to the Miracles of Jesus, starting with a series of miracles in Genneseart after the return from the Decapolis region.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - This miserable sinner is truly humbled by Your sacrifice, love and the power to overcome death. I anticipate eagerly dwelling with the saints and worshipping You and serving You for eternity! Amen
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.
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