Everything about what we believe - Christian and Non-Christian alike - hinges on who Jesus is and what happened after He died on the cross.
Until the morning of the third day, those who followed Christ did so because of what He did while He lived. The disciples had witnessed many miracles to be sure, but who can raise themself from the grave? Once life is gone isn’t all hope lost? Didn’t whatever power Jesus have disappear when He breathed His last?
I wonder what they were thinking when they took Jesus off the cross that horrible day. I imagine they were tense with the anticipation that Jesus might spontaneously draw in breath, open His eyes and leave the Place of the Skull walking alongside them. But He didn’t. He was dead.
I imagine they prayed as they carried His battered and lifeless body to the tomb, “Please God, don’t take Jesus away from us! We love Him! We can’t go back to life as it was before. Before Jesus called us. Before Jesus loved us. WE are different now. How can we bear this world without Him in it? How can we keep going without Him to show us the way?” But their prayers went unanswered. At least that’s how they must have felt.
So, they laid His lifeless body in the tomb. They washed Him, wrapped Him and then covered His body with fragrant herbs and oils as they did for all their dead. For them, it must have seemed the last gesture of love they would ever be able to show Jesus.
When it was done, they went home to grieve.
It was the next day, I imagine, when the confusion and doubt must have overwhelmed some of them. He’s dead! How could He be our Messiah when He’s dead? Were we fooled? Did we just throw away the last three years of our lives following a magician? Did we walk away from our families our jobs and our homes to follow an amazing man…but a mere man nonetheless?
I imagine they replayed all the miracles they witnessed in their minds. They were real! They saw the blind healed. The lame healed. The diseased, deformed the disenfranchised all restored to health and joy. And the way He loved!! The way He talked to God in Heaven! The way He spoke to the wind and the waves….and they listened!
But, He’s dead now and He’ll never be able to do any of those things again.
Have you ever had a friend whose faith was borderline annoying? When reality collides with hope and the evidence is too great to hold onto the happy ending you prayed for- there is always that one friend with irrepressible optimism…that makes you secretly roll your eyes. I bet there was one or two of those in the room too. “He’s coming back, you guys! He said He would and I believe Him! I know it looks bad but remember He said He would rise again on the third day?” They all wanted it to be true, but dare they hope?
It’s on that high wire that spans between what we believe and what we see they stood trying to regain their balance. We all want hope but we want the Truth more. None of us want to get this wrong. No one wants to go all-in on something they can’t be sure of. No one wants to be the sucker that fell for a lie. If there is a God in heaven and if it’s true there are many false prophets, how could they be sure the dead man they laid in the tomb wasn’t one of them?
The most agonizing place in life has to be on that wire. It will become the place we walk with a reckless faith that cannot be shaken by what we see…or the place we choose to safely back down and cling to what we can.
The turning point for the whole world happened when the sun rose on that empty tomb. For those who believe and those who doubt. When the angel spoke to Mary and said, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? Jesus is not here. He is risen.” Faith was given a Name.
Could it be? Could a dead man rise up and exit His own grave?
It was in accepting the Truth of the empty tomb they could see that the high wire was actually the line drawn between heaven and hell. To walk it is to proclaim that Jesus truly is our Messiah. For if Jesus did not rise from the grave there is no reason for the hope we live with.
But He did rise! The angels heralded His resurrection just as they did His birth.
Jesus didn’t only rise but He spent 40 days with His friends to chase away every last doubt. 40 days to teach them how to hear Him and follow Him when they could no longer see Him.
It wasn’t what they thought – but it was the Truth. It wasn’t what they asked for – but it was the answer.
It wasn’t His life or His death that proved who He was, but His resurrection.
For if the dead are not raised, then the Messiah has not been raised, and if the Messiah has not been raised, your faith is worthless and you are still imprisoned by your sins. Yes, even those who have died believing in the Messiah are lost. If we have set our hopes on the Messiah in this life only, we deserve more pity than any other people. 1Cor 15:16-19
He is risen. He is risen indeed!