Yes There is Hope -
The Resurrection of Jesus, the Messiah
..through death He (Jesus) might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage – Hebrews 2:14,15
The Apostle John was an eyewitness. He was standing close enough to Jesus on the cross to see a centurion piece Jesus’ side. He saw in detail the clear fluid from the heart’s pericardial sac flow out with Jesus’ blood (John 19:34). Jesus was dead, for when the pericardial sac is broken there is no hope for resuscitation.
He witnessed Jesus’ entombment and shed his tears with the rest of his brethren and they returned to their homes shrouded in a grief that was mingled with the pathos of not understanding.
They rested in their sorrow on the Sabbath, some of them perhaps seeking through the Torah, and the writings of the prophets, trying to make some sense of what had transpired. John knew the Scriptures as well as anyone, yet in this time of intense mourning the words that would give him the sense of it all somehow were evading him.
He read numbly from Isaiah 53 – He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.. and the words brought back in full force the image of His Lord impaled on that torturous cross and he shed his tears anew.
But he believed in the promise of a resurrection. He found his way back to the Prophet David’s words – My flesh shall also rest in hope… Psalm 16:9… For Thou will not leave my soul in hell: neither will Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption –Psalm 16:10.
Yes, John there is hope, can you believe now even in your darkest moments of despair?
Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead…Isaiah 26:19. … I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: oh death, I will be thy plagues; oh grave, I will be Thy destruction…Hosea 13:14.
He knew the promise, but his faith at the moment was so small, and this day was so dark and endless. The light of those words were not enough at that moment to keep the pain away and hopelessness remained his companion throughout the long night until the morning of the first day.
While John and the other disciples were still sleeping, or writhing in sleepless agony, and restless stirrings, or agonized pacing and prayers that echoed Jesus’ tortured cry from the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken us! - Mary Magdalene had risen from her bed of sorrow and gone to the tomb in darkness.
Did she go there to weep? Or did she remember the words of her Lord – “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again” (John 2:19).
Did she understand that He was talking about the temple of His body? She had seen so many miracles, was there a flicker of hope in her soul that there could be a miraculous finale to banish her despair?
How many moments had passed before she could comprehend that the large stone that had sealed the tomb’s entrance was no longer there? Did she gasp? How long did she remain standing there before she worked up the courage to peer into the darkness of that tomb and realize that it no longer contained Jesus’ body?
She quickly fled to tell the others.
“Peter!” she cried at his doorstep. “Wake up! The tomb is empty! They have taken Jesus’ body!”
Peter hurriedly joined her and they went to awaken John from his stupor.
Here I will stop and let the disciple tell you in his own words the details of his eyewitness account.
“Peter and I went to the sepulcher. We were running together. I outran Peter and got there first. I stooped down and looked in and saw the empty linen burial clothes. I didn’t go into the tomb. Then Peter caught up to me and actually went into the sepulcher and saw the empty burial clothes, too. The cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head was lying in a place by itself. Then I came in after Peter. I didn’t know what to believe then; aside from the acknowledgement that what Mary had told us was true. Jesus body was missing.” (John 20: 3-9).
At the time, the disciples could not connect what they were seeing with the scriptures that foretold the Messiah’s resurrection, or even Jesus’ own words –
“Yet a little while, and the world shall see Me no more; but you see Me: because I live you shall live also. (John 14:19).
When He said, “A little while, and you shall not see Me; and again, a little while, and you shall see Me because I go to the Father,” (John 16:16) – They thought He was speaking to them in riddles. At that moment, when their emotions were colliding in a strange mixture grief and confusion, did they remember that Jesus had said that He was the resurrection and the life and anyone who believed in Him, though he died, yet he would live? (John 11:25).
He spoke those words before the power of His own word brought the dead back to life right before their eyes (John 11:43) and they witnessed, Lazarus, a man who had been dead for four days, leave his empty tomb behind (John 11:43,44).
But their faith at that moment was still clouded by agony and even some rage at the thought that Jesus’ tomb had been desecrated and His body stolen.
The two disciples returned to their homes. Mary Magdalene remained behind weeping at the tomb’s entrance. She peered into the tomb once more, not knowing why.
Did she tremble when she saw the angels, one sitting at the head and another at the feet where Jesus’ body once had lain? (John 20:12). And then she was asked a most curious question, considering the circumstances – “Why are you weeping?” Because the angels knew this was no occasion for sorrow.
And Mary answered, “They have taken away my Lord, and I don’t know where He is.” I have lost Him once and now once again, it is all too much to endure, she must have been thinking and her grief outweighed the impact of the fact she was suddenly conversing with angels.
And they were smiling at her. How they could be smiling at a time like this, she must have wondered. She was in so much agony. Were angels incapable of identifying with human suffering?
No, Mary, dear, they were enjoying the moment, because they could see Who was standing behind you.
Mary turned to leave, possibly to report to the disciples that she had seen a couple of insensitive angels in Jesus’ tomb, when she noticed someone standing nearby in the early morning shadows.
Then the stranger’s voice asked her the same question – “Why are you weeping. Who are you looking for?”
She thought he was the gardener who worked among the tombs planting flowers among the dead, pruning branches and moving corpses on a whim.
“Sir,” she pleaded to a face that was barely visible in the half light of morning’s arrival, “if you have taken Him away, tell me where you have put Him and give Him to me.”
Did her thoughts cry, ‘He is mine, He is my Lord, He belongs to me?”
“Mary.” He said. Did she wonder at that instant how this stranger knew her name?
The angels behind her in the tomb were grinning and disappeared before they broke out into full blown joyous laughter. The emerging sunlight enveloped Jesus’ face and in the dawning of this momentous revelation, she recognized His smile.
It was quite a moment. When shock and joy collides in the human soul it can leave one stunned, breathless, and unable to move. Yet, as the realization broke over her being that she was beholding the reality of this glorious miracle, the urge to touch it, to possess it was quickly rising in her being.
As she began to rush toward Him Jesus stopped her with His words, “Don’t touch me now, for I have not yet ascended to My Father. But go to My brethren, and say to them, I ascend to My Father, and your Father, and to My God and your God” (John 20:17).
She looked at him hard, memorizing the reality of His face. Then with joy, she began to cry again as women sometimes do when they are happy. Jesus threw back His head and laughed, now that she was in on the surprise.
With her own laughter mingled with her tears she obeyed His command, turned away from him and ran.
She found the disciples gathered together in their gloom like a bouquet of black roses with thorns turned inward upon their souls.
Mary burst upon them like a joyful storm. Did they believe her when she told them she had seen the Lord?
Her words tugged at their sorrow, then pulled and held on. Was she mistaken? Did her grief create an illusion? Yet, she was so sure.
Later that evening the disciples were gathered together, hiding from the religious leaders who had ordered Jesus’ death. Now there was great fear they would come to try and have them killed, too. Were they conversing about Mary’s testimony? Were they praying? I’m sure one of them must have ventured the question, “What are we going to do now?”
Then Peter turned his head, and saw Him first, too stunned to speak. Jesus looked at Him and His voice announced His arrival as He answered their anxiety and ministered to their need.
“Peace be to you.”
Startled, the other disciples looked up in unison and beheld the resurrected Messiah.
And the Scriptures tell us that they were glad (John 20:20). I would say in the light of that astounding moment, the disciples were ecstatically glad.
And so the God who made the universe and all things that have breath, breathes into His followers through His Son the Holy Gift of eternal life. “Receive the Holy Spirit” Jesus says to all of us (John 20:22).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16.)
It is not a dream. He is real. He accommodates the doubting Thomas in us all as we behold the wounds in His hands, side and feet (John 20:27). We can touch Him now for He has ascended and returned to us glorified and adorned with the evidence that the scars of this life will be redeemed.
He promises us that in His Father’s house are many mansions (John 14: 1-3). The Son of God does not lie. “If it were not true I would have told you.”
Then with a smile and a gleam in His eyes because He knows what’s in store for all those who believe, like an anxious, waiting child – “Let not your heart be troubled, you believe in God, believe also in Me. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And you will never be alone, because I am with you always, even to the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20).
The eyewitness account of the Apostle John continues to assure us that Jesus verified the reality of His appearance to them by many other signs that He did in their presence (John 20:30).
And through the testimony of these eyewitnesses the apostle Paul reports that Jesus was seen by many more also, up to five hundred people at one time, James, all the apostles and even himself (I Corinthians 15: 5,6,8). Then at Jesus final appearance, His grand finale, His disciples watched in awe as He ascended into a cloud (Acts 1:9.)
“But these things were written” John tells us, so that we might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life – and hope – in His name (John 20:31).
We are told that there are ten thousand religions in the world, but there is only one testimony of life defying death that belongs to those who follow this One called Jesus.
When a multitude of tears are shed at gravesides in every race, culture and tongue around the world, those who believe and have received this gift of hope and eternity, can shed their tears, but they know it is only for a moment.
Yes, children, there is hope.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time – I Peter 3-5.
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
But after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; that being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:3-7.
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God – I Peter 1:18-21.
For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day – II Corinthians 4:16.
For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens – II Corinthians 5:1.
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost. - Romans 15:13
copyright 2011 by H.D. Shively