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Surprised by Easter

Categories: Blog,From The Pastor

Has Easter snuck up on you this year? Do you find yourself thinking “I can’t believe Easter is next week!”? If we think that we’re unprepared, just think about the disciples! Burned into their memories was the horror of the crucifixion—Jesus was dead. They had seen him killed and knew where he was buried. So that Sunday found them hiding in a room (Jn. 20:19) or heading home in despondency (Lk. 24:13). Even the women, whose love and courage propelled them to the tomb, went there to anoint a corpse (Mk. 16:1), not find the Risen Lord.

What those faithful women found that Easter Sunday morning was so unexpected that the Bible tells us that their initial feeling was fright (Lk. 24:5) and that their testimony was so amazing that the news so incredible that the disciples still didn’t know what to think (see Lk. 24:22-24). These reactions conclusively answer the objection sometimes raised against the truth of the resurrection. Some accuse the disciples of mass hallucination, seeing the resurrection as some kind of wish-fulfillment; that is, the disciples wanted so much to believe that Jesus rose from the dead that they imagined the whole thing. But here Scripture gives us the unflattering truth that the disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise from the dead that Sunday morning! But the grave is empty, Jesus is alive, He is risen!

But here is another surprise: there is no body, but the tomb is not quite empty either! I’m not talking about the angels who appeared and spoke to the women but did not remain. John records in his gospel account (Jn. 20:3-9) that he outraced Peter to the gravesite and what they saw compelled them to believe, even though they didn’t fully understand. What was it that was left behind? The grave clothes! There was no body and they didn’t see Jesus yet, but they did see the strips of linen that his body had been wrapped in lying there undisturbed, and the burial cloth that had been around his head “folded up by itself, separate from the linen” (v. 7). Here again we have a compelling answer to a common objection. Some will challenge the reality of the resurrection by suggesting that grave robbers stole the body or that the religious leaders hid it. This argument falls apart when the burial cloth is found; it is inconceivable that whoever might have wanted to steal the body would have even been able to leave those strips of linen undisturbed or taken time to fold the cloth and lay it separate from the linen. This evidence was enough to, as Dr. James Boice puts it, “quicken faith in John” (The Christ of the Empty Tomb, 83). Praise the Lord!

These believers were undoubtedly surprised, but what a blessed surprise it was! Jesus Christ is Risen! Hallelujah!

That wondrous truth is just as true today as it was that first Easter morning—He’s alive! But I wonder if we expect anything surprising to happen to us as we encounter the Living Savior? The disciples’ lives were transformed, women and men alike. The people around them knew something had changed, something was different. Another evidence of the truth of the resurrection is how surprisingly different the disciples were after Jesus appeared to them, blessed them, commissioned them, and sent His Spirit upon them! As we see in Acts, Peter, who had denied his Lord and had hidden in a locked room after Jesus’ death, now stands boldly before all and proclaims that God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 2:24 & 32; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30).

As you prepare to celebrate Easter and look ahead to work and worship after Easter Sunday, Pray that God would bless you with (a surprisingly) fresh joy in the truth that your Savior Lives!  Do you want your heart to be changed by the Christ who rose from the dead?  Because He lives, we have new life and new hope and good news to share with others!  Will your life be characterized by repentance and reconciliation and renewed zeal for God’s work?

Have a blessed Easter,

Pastor Milligan

P.S. May the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ and its wonderful implications be apparent to all who worship with us this Easter season as we lift up our eyes to heaven and see the Lamb of God who was slain standing in the center of the throne and those around singing a new song: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Rev. 5:12)

And may all God’s people say, “Amen.”

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