“If God Could Do That…”
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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.”
So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”—Matthew 28:1–201
There are two ways to look at human history, I have concluded. One way is to focus on the wars and violence, the squalor, the pain and tragedy and death. From such a point of view, Easter seems a fairy-tale exception, a stunning contradiction in the name of God. That gives some solace, although I confess that when my friends died, grief was so overpowering that any hope in an after-life seemed somehow thin and insubstantial. There is another way to look at the world. If I take Easter as the starting point, the one incontrovertible fact about how God treats those whom he loves, then human history becomes the contradiction and Easter a preview of ultimate reality. Hope then flows like lava beneath the crust of daily life.
This, perhaps, describes the change in the disciples' perspective as they sat in locked rooms discussing the incomprehensible events of Easter Sunday. In one sense nothing had changed: Rome still occupied Palestine, religious authorities still had a bounty on their heads, death and evil still reigned outside. Gradually, however, the shock of recognition gave way to a long slow undertow of joy. If God could do that...—Phillip Yancey2
Mark tells us, "They came unto the sepulcher at the rising of the sun"3—this little group of His devoted followers who had trudged along with the jeering, taunting mob up the steep hill to the place called Calvary. Just a few hours before had they seen His enemies nail His precious body to an old wooden cross, and He had been left there to die on the hill lone and gray outside the city wall of old Jerusalem. How bleeding and broken were their hearts! How crushed their spirits! Suddenly all their lights had gone out and their future hopes had been snapped, as it were, in twain. When hope is gone, the last hope—desperate despair—invariably follows.
Had He not told them that He would rise again? Had He not said to Mary and Martha, "I am the Resurrection and the Life"? And had He not raised Lazarus after he had been dead four days! How easily His precious words are forgotten when we are plunged into a night of thick darkness, an hour of naked faith, and we cannot see our Father's hand or discern His presence! We fail to remember that "In the pitch-black night when there's no outer light, it is the time for faith to shine."
What wondrous surprises awaited these weary-hearted, bewildered followers! They were greeted by angels! They heard them make the announcement, and it was made exclusively to them: "He is not here: for He is risen as He said!" What rest is brought to them! It whispered peace! Sweet peace! Their bitter night of weeping now ended in a morning of joy! "Never the exquisite pain, then never the exquisite bliss." Oh, the gladness, the shouts of triumph on that first Easter morn! The morning time of all the ages! Christ's triumph over Satan! It reaches down the ages and touches our own hearts at this very hour. We triumph in His resurrection victory! Forever is Satan a defeated foe!—Mrs. Charles E. Cowman4
He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.—Paul the Apostle5
And Jesus Christ our Lord was shown to be the Son of God when God powerfully raised him from the dead by means of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name.—Paul the Apostle6
Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.—Paul the Apostle7
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.—Paul the Apostle8
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead—Simon Peter, one of the twelve9
Easter is the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. It’s the celebration of the fact that He’s alive. He defeated death and hell and Satan. He redeemed us from our sins. He lived and loved and died for us as individuals, and He’s with us today just as much as He was with those He walked the earth with two millennia ago.
He’s alive! There was a short time when His disciples didn’t realize it, as they only saw the circumstances they were in.—He had been crucified, He was gone and no longer with them. But that was short-lived. The confusion, fear, and uncertainty passed once they realized that He lived, and that His love, His truth, His compassion, His words and actions, were still there with them, even if their physical circumstances were different. He was alive and was working through them to change the world, to spread His truth and love, His redemption and salvation.
He’s just as alive today, working through you to do the same. No matter what circumstances you are in, no matter what changes have occurred, no matter how difficult things may be, He’s alive in you. His power, anointing, and Spirit are there with you. The power to fulfill the commission He gave to His first disciples, and to all who have answered His call since then, is still active.—Peter Amsterdam10
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.—Jesus11
Published on Anchor March 2013. Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
Music by Michael Dooley.
2 The Jesus I Never Knew (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995).
3 Mark 16:2.
4 Streams in the Desert, Volume 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1977).
5 Acts 1:3 ESV.
6 Romans 1:4–5 NLT, adapted.
7 Romans 6:8–11 NIV.
8 Philippians 3:10–12 NIV.
9 1 Peter 1:3 NIV.
11 John 11:25–26 NIV.