It’s been a long couple of days. You are tired. Emotionally drained. Confused. Your best friend just went through unspeakable torture and now lays in a grave. This man you devoted your life to. Three years you have walked every day together. You have learned from him. You have seen miracle after miracle. You have seen the lame walk, the deaf hear, the blind see. You have seen demons pulled out of people’s bodies. This was the Messiah. This was the promised one of God. He was supposed to take the throne. He was supposed to rule the world. The prophets spoke of it. You are certain you read it right. Now you are left with nothing but confusion.
A group of women go with spices early this morning to embalm his body. There wasn’t enough time before the day of preparation. You are torn. Your soul wants to go, but your mind wallows in self-doubt. You are trapped in your own head. You are done crying. Only confused now. Was he the messiah? Or did we just read it wrong? He did mention over and over that he was heading to Jerusalem to be handed over to die. Why didn’t we believe it? But the prophets spoke of him taking over. His enemies would be his footstool and he would reign forever. But you just watched him tortured and hung. His blood spilled all over the ground. You knew the counsel well enough to get into the special meeting two nights ago. You watched as they tried him, pulled out his beard, spit on him, punched him, and drug him off to the rulers of this world to be killed. Why didn’t he say anything? He just stood there! He was the chosen one, the messiah. Why didn’t he just kill his enemies and rule? What went wrong?
Your mind flashes back to the day you first met him. You had just spent all night in the boats, with no catch, your older brother and Simon decide to call it a day. You are at the shore washing your nets when a huge crowd of people show up. They are following this prophet who teaches new ways. You have heard about this man. You listen in as he climbs into Simon’s boat and begins teaching the people. He tells you to put out into the deep and cast your nets one more time. You were exhausted. It was a long night, no catch, but Simon says “ok,” so you put out to deep water and cast the nets one more time. The haul was so big it began to sink the boats. The nets almost tore. It was all you could do just to get to shore with the catch of a lifetime. The joy and the fear you felt. Your life would never be the same again. When you get to shore Simon is already willing to follow this man. The Rabbi extends his hand to you and your older brother James, “Follow me,” he says. And your life was never the same. You think, if I had only turned away then, I could be saved from this pain. But then again, it was worth it right?
For three years you have walked with this man. You consider him to be not only your Master, but your friend. You have reclined at table with him. You have spent more time with him in the past three years than any other. You can remember the way he smells, the sound of his voice, the way he corrected you with love, and his laughter. The way he embraced the little ones. You remember how he fed tens of thousands of people. How he sent you out with all the authority he had. You cast out demons, healed the sick, and preached the good news just as your Master and best friend had. You laugh to yourself; I can’t believe we sent mom to ask if we could sit at his left and right hand in his kingdom. You miss him. A tear runs down your cheek as you think of all the good times.
There is a knock at the door and Simon (now called Peter), lets in a frantic woman. Mary says, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him!” Perplexed, you and Peter take off together for the tomb, unsure of what you will find. Being of a slimmer build than the man they call “The Rock” you out run Peter and arrive at the tomb first. The strange thing is the guards are gone and the stone is moved. How can this be?
You stoop to look but dare not enter the tomb. Peter arrives and barrels past you. Into the tomb he goes. You follow. There is the linen clothing he was wrapped in when they buried him, folded neatly and lying where his body was. The face covering is rolled up and moved by itself. It suddenly dawns on you. Duh! All those times he said he would be back! He said He would live again. The fog of your mind has lifted and you now know beyond a shadow of a doubt, he is the messiah! He is alive!
As the three of you walk back to the meeting place with the other disciples, Mary tells of seeing an Angel and meeting Jesus just outside the tomb. You can’t believe what you are hearing. She actually saw him? You and Peter listen closely as Mary tells of Jesus saying he will ascend to the Father. To stay put until he comes for them. You hurry to the meeting place.
For fear that the Jewish leaders might think this whole empty tomb business is your fault, you and the others decide to lock the door and bar it shut. As you are discussing the happenings of the day with others who have seen him, he is suddenly there in your midst. He says, “Peace to you.” Two things run through your mind, one, I am going crazy, and two I, need a change of underwear. He scares all of you. He just appeared behind locked doors! Your mind registers this is Jesus. This is the messiah, just as he said. You are filled with great joy. He tells you all that he is sending you out again, but he will be with you. He shows you the wounds in his hands, his feet, and his side. Then he calls you all together and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” and breathes on you. He even proves he is alive by eating with you.
This is amazing! This is life changing! The Messiah lives! Over the course of the next week or so, he explains all the scriptures that say he must come and die. He opens your minds, so you can go out and preach to the world. You John, the son of Zebedee, will go out and change the world.
Little do you know you will write the story of The Word Becoming Flesh. That your writing will prove from generation to generation that Jesus is the Messiah the Son of God and that by believing and obeying you may have life in his name. You will go on to write letters to churches. You will be beaten and imprisoned. They will attempt to have you boiled alive! But when it fails, they will exile you to a secluded island. But you will see Jesus again, and he will put a message in your heart about the end of days; that will again reach from generation to generation. You, John, brother of James, disciple of Jesus the Messiah, have just witnessed the linchpin, the cornerstone of all the Christian faith. The death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Without Jesus being resurrected there is no hope. There is no afterlife. Everything would just end in a black canvas and you would cease to exist. But there is hope. There is a way to live forever. John proved it with his story. Not only him, but 500 others including Paul saw Jesus alive. If it were not true, why would they all be willing to die horrible deaths? The cornerstone of our faith rests in Jesus’ death, and resurrection. If Jesus didn’t die and come back, then we are still trapped in our sin, and our proclamation of him as Messiah is for nothing. It’s pointless. The apostles died for nothing.
Paul writes to the church of Corinth, “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only we are of all people most to be pitied. But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man had come also the resurrection of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-21 ESV, emphasis mine)
Without Jesus there is no hope for eternal life and what we believe is meaningless. But Jesus is raised from the dead. After three days, he rose again just as he said. He lives! He lives in and through those who chose to have a relationship with him. We get to experience God every day. Living within us. All it costs is everything. Are you willing to take up the cross, drink the cup that he drank, and follow in the steps of his disciples?
I hope this gives you hope going into Easter Sunday. More reason to celebrate. Jesus is not dead. He is Alive and he wants to have a relationship with you. This is cause for celebration. We can have the same friendship that John had with Jesus when he was alive. He extends his nail pierced hand to us and says, “follow me.”