Here we are, at the end of the first Gospel book in the Bible. What a ride so far.
The women who witnessed the earthquake three days earlier when Jesus breathed His last human breath are now at the tomb witnessing another earthquake. Witnessing creation participating in the sorrow and subsequent joy.
They have seen a lot in their days of walking with Jesus…healing, casting out demons, feeding thousands from basically nothing, even raising people temporarily from the dead. But they haven’t seen anything yet!
As the two enter the tomb area, fully expecting to find the dead body of Jesus, they instead experience a collision of the spiritual and earthly realm as an angel comes down from heaven. His appearance like lighting; his clothing white as snow (Tide Ad!...sorry, couldn’t help myself).
The angel rolls back the stone and sits on it. Death is defeated!
The guards are terrified. Frozen, as if dead.
The angel says to the women (notice that it is to the women, not to the guards or the general area), “Do not be afraid.” Easier said than done, they must be thinking.
He continues, “for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”
The stone isn’t rolled away to let Jesus out, but instead to let His followers in. In God’s goodness and provision, He allows these initial messengers to see for themselves; to strengthen their faith and confidence in the resurrection.
Continuing, the angel says, “Then go quickly and tell the disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.”
See. Believe. Then go and tell others.
These women who stayed until the bitter end at the foot of the cross are chosen as the first to go and tell the good news. God is so gracious and faithful when we draw near to Him.
Quickly they depart as instructed. What struck me when I read this passage is their state of mind as they go. We are told they were filled with fear and great joy. At first glance, it feels like emotions that wouldn’t go together; even contradict each other. But I think back on the hardest and most fulfilling things I have done, and I was certainly filled with fear and great joy. The birth of my first child. So much joy, mixed with, “I can’t believe they are going to let me leave the hospital with this helpless human.” Or, starting a new job, or venturing into a new calling God placed on my heart. It is a combination of so much hope and excitement and new beginnings, mixed with so much uncertainty and fear of how it will all play out.
Before they could even tire from their quick sprint, Jesus appears. “Greetings,” He says.
They can respond no other way than to drop to His feet and worship. Perhaps they clung to His feet to keep Him from leaving them again.
“Do not be afraid,” He tells them. There is something so comforting about seeing Him; hearing these words from Him. Yes, the angel was an incredible sight and told them the same, but nothing is like hearing it from Jesus Himself.
At last, Jesus and the eleven disciples are reunited. We are told they worshiped Him, but some doubted. Fear can mess with us if we let it.
Jesus is undeterred as He gives them instructions…
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” He begins. Jesus has all power and all authority.
Continuing, He says, “Go therefore…” Action is required. We may be scared. We may be filled with joy. We may be both at the same time. One thing we must do is GO.
“…and make disciples of all the nations…” Disciples: scholars, teachers, students. Not just converts; disciples. And not just Jews…ALL nations. This good news is for everyone.
“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” Not circumcising and converting to Jewish law observation, but baptizing. In the name (singular) of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit. One God in three persons.
“…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Don’t just baptize them, teach them about Me. Help them to know Me as you know me.
He concluded, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” I will never leave you. I will always be with you.
The great commission to the first hearers of the words and to us comes with: power and authority, instructions, and a promise from Jesus to be with us always.
Be not afraid. Believe the gospel, and then GO and BE the gospel.
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