April 15, 2019
Recently there was a news article of a young police officer who was killed in the line of duty. Whenever a tragedy like this occurs in the line of duty, whether it is a civil servant or someone in the armed forces, someone is designated to be the one to go and personally tell the family. The responsibility of telling the family of such a tragedy must be terrible. I can’t imagine being the one who has to deliver such terrible news to the loved ones. Terrible news like that is an example of the kind of event in our lives which can stop us right in our tracks. Many of us can remember receiving a phone call or hearing about a tragedy which cut right down to the deepest part of our soul, so that nothing else mattered right at that moment except finding out the truth of what happened to the one we loved.
As we think of the Easter story we should be reminded of how the followers of Jesus had to deal, not only with the news of Jesus death, but the amazing news of his resurrection. They had seen Jesus beaten and crucified. They knew he was dead and had been buried. They also knew that government and law enforcement of their day were suspicious of them because of their association with this man who claimed to be sent from God, but in the end had died a criminal’s death.
Imagine if the news media today was reporting on the events surrounding the resurrection of Jesus. How do you suppose that they would question Mary Magdalene, Peter, or John? What would they say about the stone being removed from entrance of tomb? Would they broadcast from the grave site where Jesus had been buried? Would they make conclusions or raise questions about whether Mary thought someone had stolen Jesus’ body or how the body disappeared? Would there be a political and economic slant to the story? I suspect that such an event would receive worldwide non-stop coverage that would dominate cable television and the Internet. The background information of all those who followed Jesus would be reported and various theories would surface and be quickly spread across social media. Opposing sides would either embrace or scoff at the reports that Jesus was risen. Government officials would weigh in with their opinion and carefully slant their response to receive praise from their supporters. Not unlike today, as the news spread, many opinions were formed, but in the end, only a few would believe.
In in John 20:14-18, the true encounter that Jesus had with Mary Magdalene after the resurrection is recorded. “At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabbani!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.” Jesus gave her the amazing task of going to those who loved Jesus with some incredible news. Although this was opposite of someone notifying the next of kin about a death, it was certainly not an easy announcement.
When Jesus told Mary to go tell the disciples of His resurrection, it is a command that is relevant for us today. One of the purposes of Easter is to remind us that everything changed with Jesus triumph over the tomb. It is a reminder that even the things of this present life that we might wish we could keep forever, are nothing in comparison to what God has for those who believe in His risen Son. There is a risen Christ who meets us in a new form, and because Jesus is alive, God has called us to take the Good News to the whole world about God’s provision for salvation.
So, the message that we can take to people is not an announcement about the finality of the terrible death Jesus suffered, but rather it is the Good News that Jesus defeated death and came out of the grave. There simply is no other answer we can offer to people regarding the continued onslaught of world events and the fears and frustrations which come from the uncertainties of the world we live in. So today we can rejoice. Hallelujah! Jesus is alive! He will lead us through all the challenges we will ever face, today, and in the future. It is the best news we could ever give to anyone.