What was it like to be a follower of Jesus on the morning he rose from the tomb?
The Bible tells us that it all started when the sun was just coming up. The sky probably was still pitch black. But then an earthquake rumbled, an angel came down from heaven, and the guards were paralyzed with fear and fell down like dead men. At that point a group of women including Mary Magdalene visited the tomb where the angel told them Jesus is risen, just as he promised.
That was amazing enough — but then as the women began running to tell the disciples the wonderful news, Jesus suddenly was there in their midst. Boom! He literally interrupted their emotions and invaded their presence: “Do not be afraid,” he told them.
Can you imagine being one of those women — the first believers to see him risen from the dead? What did he look like? What did he sound like? Did he seem different? The same? They had front-row seats to the most important event in all of human history — and in that moment their lives were forever transformed. How could they not be? This Jesus was so much bigger than they ever could have imagined. And it of course gave them an entirely new meaning for living as Christ-followers.
But how does that affect you and me? Well, just like the women who literally ran into Jesus, we need to recognize how big God is, especially when he interrupts us.
Around the middle of the day, Jesus met two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They, too, had visited his tomb and didn’t find his body. They were downcast and upset. Even though they’d heard the news that the women saw Jesus alive, their countenances didn’t reflect the amazing news. And then suddenly there was Jesus, walking with them! But they didn’t know the true identity of this fellow traveler.
You know what else is interesting about his passage? These two disciples were walking in the wrong direction! Away from Jerusalem and all the action surrounding Jesus’ resurrection. But Jesus still came to be with them. And isn’t that just like us? We tend to move away from the Lord and drift in our thinking, too. It’s our sin nature pulling us like a magnet away from God and transporting us into selfishness. And yet, Jesus is right there in our wanderings away from him.
The disciples on the road to Emmaus also were victims of dashed expectations — which is also a lot like us. We’ve all had our share of disillusionments. We’ve had ideas in our heads of what our marriages, relationships, finances, and careers were supposed to be — but then in the aftermath maybe they haven’t been what we’d hoped for.
But then here comes Jesus, interrupting us in the middle of our wanderings — and turning our negative, ungodly thinking inside out! And just as he went through the Scriptures with the two disciples and showed them God’s huge plan to redeem the world, he also shows us that God is so much bigger that we ever could have imagined.
Of course, the pair of disciples still didn’t realize this guy who’s blowing their minds is Jesus, but they wanted to spend more time with him. So about 3 p.m. or so they all headed inside for a bite to eat and a rest. Then as Jesus broke the bread and gave thanks, the two disciples’ eyes were opened, they recognized Jesus — and then he disappeared. Incredible!
But as it turns out, God gave them just what they needed: A momentary glimpse of the risen Lord. And that’s all they required to get moving — and that’s all we need too, isn’t it?
The first day of Jesus’ rising ends in the upper room in Jerusalem where the disciples — hunted by Roman soldiers and accused by the Jewish leaders of stealing Jesus’ body — were behind a locked door in total fear. What would they do? Where would they go? How will they survive when so many are out for their hides? And then suddenly Jesus interrupted their fearful debate and stood among them — just like he interrupted the women at the tomb in the morning; just like he interrupted the disciples on the road to Emmaus later in the day.
That’s what Jesus does to us, too. He has our lives in his hands, and all he wants is our attention, our devotion. And when he doesn’t get it or our eyes are focused elsewhere, Jesus thankfully interrupts our tiny thoughts that blind us to his presence, charges in — and changes us!
As the Lord himself stood in the upper room, he knew his friends were startled and scared. “Peace be with you,” he told them, also encouraging them to dismiss the doubts that were invading their minds. But soon Jesus would remove all disbelief that he was really there with them — just like he proves to us all the time that he’s right here with us.
The truth is that just like the disciples needed to experience Jesus in this way to empower them to do the amazing things in the church that the Lord had planned for them, we need that same touch from Jesus to accomplish our mission. And through the Bible, he’s telling us the same things: “Peace be with you” and “be not afraid.”
If you come away with one thought after our virtual Easter gathering this week, let it be this: Let Jesus interrupt you! Invite him to swoop into your life and tell you “be not afraid.” Ask him to give you new insights as you read the Word he wrote! He’ll do it all if you just ask.
Happy Easter, Calvary Chapel Living Hope!