On that first easter morning, the MEN who counted themselves among Jesus’s closest friends and followers were in hiding out of fear for their lives.
They were afraid that, if they were outed as Jesus’ closest friends and followers, they might meet a similarly terrifying end on crosses of their own.
And so they did not dare even to go outdoors.
But while these MEN had locked themselves away behind closed doors out of fear, the WOMEN who counted themselves among Jesus’ closest friends and followers got up at first light.
The WOMEN rolled up their sleeves.
The WOMEN grabbed the spices and oil they had prepared
The WOMEN set off to the tomb to wash and anoint Jesus’ body.
So the men were hiding, tail between their legs, while the women risked their lives to go and pay honor to their Lord? The men dropped the ball and the women had to pick it up.
We don’t talk about that much, do we?
But later on that same day, Jesus appears to these cowering men.
He leads them about 3 and a half miles out of the city to the village of Bethany. Once there, he blesses them, and then he’s somehow taken up to heaven.
The once fearful disciples are now filled with great joy. When they return to Jerusalem they don’t go back into hiding.
Rather, they go directly to the temple where they start spending all of their time praising God and openly worshipping Jesus.
When the sun rose on that first Easter morning its rays fell on the faces of disciples who were shaking in their booties – either afraid to go out of doors or fleeing from Jerusalem altogether. But by the end of that same day those same disciples could be found in Jerusalem’s temple publicly, boldly, joyfully praising God and worshipping Jesus.
What in the world had changed?
It certainly wasn’t their external circumstances! Those hadn’t changed at all. They were in just as much danger that evening as they had been that morning.
What changed was that the disciples finally GOT it. They were finally able to really receive in their hearts the good news that Jesus had been preaching and living all those years.
And, friends, it was that NEWS that set them free.
It’s news that says, “Yeah, there is a lot of bad stuff, a lot of scary stuff out there: There are crosses that the Roman government won’t hesitate to nail you to, there are POW Camps with lousy food and German soldiers to contend with, there are pandemics and there are mass shootings. And that stuff is real and it is deadly make no mistake about it.”
But that good news that Jesus preached and lived tells us that, at the very same time, there is something bigger out there than any of those other things. It tells us that that the power of love at work in the universe is greater and more lasting and more enduring, than any of those things.
The Roman empire: it will rise and it will fall.
The Germans will surrender.
Vaccines will be created.
Gun reform can and will happen.
But the love of God endures forever.
No matter how disappointed we are at the trajectories our lives have taken No matter how mind numbing our dead-end job may be. No matter how adept we’ve gotten at blowing up our interpersonal relationships. No matter how addicted we are to drugs or alcohol or to other people’s attention. No matter how bone weary we are of being in lockdown.
No matter where we are.
No matter how we are.
No matter our circumstances.
The Easter story teaches that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God. Not even death. And if we just receive that news. If we just believe what it has to tells us about our status as God’s beloved children If we just give that love the final word in defining who we are and how we act no matter our external circumstances.
Then we too can be set free.
Luke 24:1-53 (New Living Translation)
But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.
The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”
Then they remembered that he had said this. So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and several other women who told the apostles what had happened. But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. However, Peter jumped up and ran to the tomb to look. Stooping, he peered in and saw the empty linen wrappings; then he went home again, wondering what had happened.
That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. But God kept them from recognizing him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
“What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
“Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”
Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!
“Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.
Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he ate it as they watched.
Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ You are witnesses of all these things.
“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”
Then Jesus led them to Bethany, and lifting his hands to heaven, he blessed them.While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up to heaven. So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy. And they spent all of their time in the Temple, praising God.