Easter. It seems so long ago that we celebrated one of the most recognized events in Christianity. However, what happened next? The story of Christ’s deliverance for us did not just stop with His resurrection. He promised to send a Helper. He promised we would not be left alone. Over the next two weeks I would like to take some time to reflect on the same question the disciples must have been asking after they saw the empty tomb—Now What? Have we celebrated the risen Savior back in April only to forget that He is still alive and is still revealing His presence to us? Have we seen the risen Lord over the last 40 days? Join me as we experience the sightings of Jesus after His resurrection.
We begin on Resurrection Day as the women head to the tomb to anoint the body with spices as was their custom. Let us take a moment to read each gospel account to get the full picture of what was happening on that glorious Sunday morning. Take special note how each individual responded to seeing the empty tomb.
“Early on the first day of the week, after He had risen, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had driven seven demons. She went and reported to those who had been with Him, as they were mourning and weeping. Yet, when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe it.” Mark 16:9-11
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothes. So the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” asked the men. “He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” And they remembered His words. Returning from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them were telling the apostles these things. But these words seemed like nonsense to them, and they did not believe the women. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. When he stooped to look in, he saw only the linen cloths. So he went home, amazed at what had happened.” Luke 24:1-12
“On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark. She saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran to Simon Peter and to the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him!” At that, Peter and the other disciple went out, heading for the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and got to the tomb first. Stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying there, yet he did not go in. Then, following him, Simon Peter came also. He entered the tomb and saw the linen cloths lying there. The wrapping that had been on His head was not lying with the linen cloths but was folded up in a separate place by itself. The other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, then entered the tomb, saw, and believed. For they still did not understand the Scripture that He must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went home again. John 20:1-10
“But Mary stood outside facing the tomb, crying. As she was crying, she stooped to look into the tomb. She saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet, where Jesus’ body had been lying. They said to her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “Because they’ve taken away my Lord,” she told them, “and I don’t know where they’ve put Him.” Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus. “Woman,” Jesus said to her, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Supposing He was the gardener, she replied, “Sir, if you’ve removed Him, tell me where you’ve put Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus said, “Mary.” Turning around, she said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!”—which means “Teacher.” “Don’t cling to Me,” Jesus told her, “for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them that I am ascending to My Father and your Father—to My God and your God.” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what He had said to her. John 20:11-18
“As they were on their way, some of the guards came into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. After the priests had assembled with the elders and agreed on a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money and told them, “Say this, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole Him while we were sleeping.’ If this reaches the governor’s ears, we will deal with him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been spread among Jewish people to this day.” Matthew 28: 11-15
Wow! As I reread through the accounts immediately following the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ I find myself in the same position as the women and the disciples. Yes, I went to church and celebrated Resurrection Sunday. I said I believed, but have I truly “seen” the Lord since then. Mary saw Jesus and did not know it was Him. He called her by name and then she truly saw Him. I am left pondering, “Have I taken the time to hear the Lord call my name?”
What about the disciple’s reactions? Some saw the empty tomb, but did not go in. Maybe you made a decision this past Easter to place your trust in Jesus Christ, but for one reason or another you have been timid in stepping out in faith to actually experience the fullness of living a life in full relationship with Him. Whereas Peter step out in faith and went all the way into the tomb, I challenge you to do the same. Peter still did not have all the answers when he went in nor will you or I have all the answers when we step out in faith either. However, we are guaranteed He will guide and direct our paths and give us understanding and wisdom in His perfect timing.
Finally, what story are we spreading regarding the empty tomb? Have we shared the good news of the empty tomb with anyone since we celebrated Easter this past April? (Ouch!) Instead, have we allowed false stories of the disciples stealing the body or other such nonsense to penetrate our communities? Have we truly listened to other fellow believers about the work the Lord is doing in their lives? As we focus the next two weeks on the time between the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and the day of Pentecost, may our eyes be spiritually open to see clearly not only Christ’s work on the cross, but the work He desires to do in our own lives and those around us in this present day.
My Heart’s Prayer: Lord, open the eyes of my heart. Open the eyes of my heart. I want to see you. I truly want to see you. Forgive me for so easily being prone to wander and fall right back into the traditional model of worshipping you. I want to truly see you as Mary did when you called her name. I want to have the courage to run and tell others how I have seen you so that they too might believe because of the work they see You have done in and through me. Lord, I don’t want live a life that demonstrates false stories about your resurrection, but instead want to live in a way that shows your almighty power. Lord, I wait now as I am certain I will see Your goodness in the land of the living as I wait for You (Psalm 27:13). In Jesus Name, Amen.