Memorable words have been spoken throughout history. Among those standout quotes are words from General Douglas MacArthur who, upon landing on the Philippines during World War II, fulfilled his pledge, saying “I have returned.” During the bleak days of that war Winston Churchill inspired the people by urging “Never, never, never give up.” Likewise, John F. Kennedy inspired citizens by proclaiming in his inaugural address “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
However, no words spoken in history match the words of an angel on the third day after the brutal crucifixion of Jesus: “He is risen!”
The words “He is risen” bring hope to the despairing; comfort to the afflicted, healing to the sick and, light to those in darkness. The Cross demonstrates God’s love for mankind. “He is risen” demonstrates His power over sin and death.
Scriptures tell us that God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that we could have life. However, when I think about Mary, the mother of Jesus, I cannot fathom her grief. She was not given a choice.
The crucifixion would have made no sense to her heart. She may have heard Jesus’ words predicting His death. Still, how could she have felt anything other than grief when seeing Him on the Cross. I wonder, amid her sorrow, would she have thought about His growing up years—Jesus learning to walk, losing His first tooth, telling Him bedtime stories or working alongside His father?
This was an awful time for Mary, and for Jesus’ followers. The effect that Jesus’ death had on His followers was devastating. Hope was ripped from them as the cruel realities of life stole their dreams.
On that Sunday, according to Matthew’s gospel, we see two women walking toward the tomb. Among them was Mary Magdalene, a woman that Jesus delivered of seven demons. These women were showing true love and care toward Jesus—even after His death.
How they planned to get to His body, we don’t know. There were significant obstacles; the massive rock sealing the entrance to the tomb and the Roman guards standing in their way. Although they had few answers and no plan, they kept going.
This is where the story gets very interesting.
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Now I have told you” (Matthew 28:1-7).
Two things in this passage strike me as humorous. First, the One who is supposed to be dead is alive and those who are alive (the guards) are “as dead men.” Second, we find the angel sitting upon the stone that had been removed. It is as if he is saying to the evil one and those who crucified Jesus, “Is that all you can do? You beat Him, mock Him, crucify Him, place Him in a tomb, roll a large stone in front of the entrance, place the seal of Rome on it and have two armed guards at the front. Is that all you’ve got?”
When I think of the events surrounding the Resurrection, I ask myself if there is any wonder that Paul said, “For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:4).
IS ALIVE &
THOSE ALIVE ARE
“AS DEAD MEN.”
There are so many lessons to be learned from this wonderful account. I highlight three.
FIRST, God’s capacity to love is beyond comprehension. I will never fully understand John 3:16: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” There are some for whom I would sacrifice my own life, but sacrifice one of my children? Never. I do not understand it; but I eagerly accept the gift God gave.
Romans 8:38-39 offers powerful Resurrection words:
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
SECOND, for whom was the stone rolled away? It certainly was not for Jesus. Do you think that a stone could have kept Him in the grave? I believe God understood the grief of the women, and wanted to lift them out of it by removing the obstacle and giving them a clear path of hope.
THIRD, how many miracles do we miss because we are afraid and give up? How often do we take the next step not knowing the plan, only that we are supposed to go? What plans of God go unrevealed because we do not do what we should?
There has been and always will be stones in our way, including financial burdens, failing marriages, wayward children, addictions, fears, insecurities and our own sins. The list is endless. In the center of such times we need to remember verses like Ephesians 3:20: “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us.”
God desires to do a miracle in all our lives. Often, He is simply waiting for us to, like the women, step forward in faith. Perhaps we too will see the angel sitting upon our obstacles and hear him say to the evil one, “Is that all you’ve got?”
HE HAS RISEN!!!!
Commissioner David Hudson is National Commander for The Salvation Army in the USA.