The Final Week: Sunday 5th April, AD 33
(Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:1-7; Lk 24:1-43; Jn 20:1-23)
At some point on Sunday, an angel appears to the ones guarding the tomb. Terrified, they see the stone has been rolled away and the tomb is empty. The fear for the their lives. They run and tell the authorities… And a story begins to spread… The disciples stole the body while the guards were asleep! But hang on, really? How would they have known it was the disciples if they were sleeping? Would professional guards really all fall asleep at the same time without setting a watch? Wouldn’t the sound of the stone being rolled away have woken at least one of them up?
However, the bigger reason that this story holds no weight is the fact that contrary to most people hearing this version of event (that the disciples stole the body), at least 50% of the population of Jerusalem came to believe that Jesus had really risen again, and had subsequently put their trust in him as the Son of God. Why would they do such a thing? Perhaps because of what happened next…
Women followers of Jesus came to the tomb and discovered it empty. They were there at the same time the angel appeared to the guards. They went to tell the disciples, but on their way, they meet who they think is the gardener… but it turn to to be Jesus. Jesus actually appears to them! Now they really have something to tell the others! Perhaps Jesus’s resurrection body is different enough to be not so easily recognised at first, but at the same time, once you get close enough, you can see who it really is.
Peter and John—the leader and Jesus’s best friend—immediately rush to the tomb to see for themselves. All they find is emptiness and some folded grave clothes.
Jesus then appears to some disciples on the road to Emmaus about seven miles outside of Jerusalem. It’s quite funny really. They don’t recognise him either, and begin telling him about the story of their suffering and dying messiah, and how they are now leaderless, with their hopes dashed. Eventually he has had enough and rebukes them! Then he opens the scriptures and shows them, page by page, how the Old Testament scriptures all point to him. He is the One they’ve been waiting for. Hope isn’t lost. The human perspective could only see part of the picture. As we’ve previously said, no one actually believed in a dying and rising messiah… They were expecting a military and political leader who would overthrow the Romans and bring Israel back to its glory days. They weren’t expecting the Son of God to overthrow sin and death and usher in the Kingdom of God!
He then appears to 10 of the disciples (the encounter with Thomas comes later…). Again, they don’t actually recognise it’s him (Thomas wasn’t the only doubter!)… They think it may be some spirit or vision. Jesus points them towards his wounds and shows the reality of his identity. And this is the coolest part… Jesus eats with them.
Jesus has paid the price so that our sin no longer prevents us from connecting to God. Jesus rose again so that sin and death no longer rule or reign. Jesus lived, died and rose again so that we can have communion with him; so that (metaphorically now, perhaps literally in eternity) we can eat with him.
I just love the idea that through all the eternally, cosmically significant events of the last week, Jesus is back with his friends, back with his followers… back with his Church, eating with them, sharing a meal with them and commissioning them to go and share the love of God with the world.
Significantly, one of the first things he says when he meets his disciples is found in John chapter 20 when he says to them: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
This Easter, let us remember that Jesus died for us as Christians, yes. But that his death is sufficient for the whole world if they would just put their trust in him. This Easter, let us take every opportunity to allow the truth of the love of Christ to compel us into sharing that love with the whole world.