A new age

Read John 20:1-18; Luke 24:1-12; and Matthew 28:1-20

This greatest news of all time needs to be declared over the whole earth! In this generation we may see the fulfilment of the great commission to go and tell every person on the earth that Jesus is not dead but alive. We have the most exciting job in history! After the Sabbath, as soon as they could, the women went to anoint and wrap Jesus’ body. This would have been a very unpleasant task for them, considering the awful wounds and disfigurement that Jesus had suffered. They went because they loved Him and considered it their duty to see that their Master’s body was anointed for burial in the proper, customary manner after the hasty burial three days previously. Mary Magdalene was the first to declare that Jesus was alive after the angel had spoken to her. The women then tell the disciples, who tell the nations. Even the guards at the tomb tell the religious leaders! We have got the same message today and have a responsibility to tell everything that we know to as many as we can.

“He... disarmed powers and authorities.” (Colossians 2:15)

In the meantime, Satan had laid claim to the soul of Jesus, who had been taken to hell to bear the punishment for the accursed (Galatians 3:13) He was forsaken by God and underwent the torments of the damned. (Read Psalm 88:1-18.) Father saw that Jesus had paid the full price in order that humanity might be saved. (2 Corinthians 5:21) He sent the Holy Spirit to bring Jesus to Him. With great power and glory, Jesus turned the tables on Satan in the throne room of Satan’s own domain.

Death could no longer hold Him. (Acts 2:24-27.) Throwing off the evil powers of darkness, Jesus triumphed mightily over all cowering hell. (See Colossians 2:15.) Demanding the keys of hell and death (Revelation 1:18), He moved to paradise and liberated all those who had been awaiting the coming of the Messiah. Leaving Satan a defeated foe and with the hordes of hell routed, He began His ascent to Father’s throne, leading a mighty throng. (Compare 1 Corinthians 15:20 and Ephesians 4:8-9.) Jesus is the "captain of the host"! He is the high priest who is about to present the "blood of the lamb" within the "Holy of Holies" in heaven! (Hebrews 9:11-12)

Back on earth, the angel of the LORD descended from heaven and appeared to the soldiers. This was accompanied by a great earthquake and the stone doorway to the tomb rolled open. The guards were rooted to the spot in sheer terror.

“Woman... why are you crying?” (John 20:15)

Jesus was on His way to His Father, but was stopped by the cry from the heart of Mary Magdalene as she looked for a dead Christ instead of the living one, despite having learned from the angel that Christ had risen. After she had gone running to tell Peter and John that the stone has been rolled away, she returned to the tomb. At first she stands crying outside, but then dares to look inside, where she sees two angels sitting on the slab where Jesus’ body had been laid. She turns back and then sees Jesus, who she takes to be the gardener. Jesus speaks to her just one word: her own name. He called His "sheep" by her own name, as only He could speak it. (John 10:3) Mary (His "sheep") immediately knew her shepherd’s voice. She wanted to seize hold of Him out of rapturous joy, not realising that a new relationship was about to begin: one of faith and not sight or touch. Jesus gently dissuades her because He must now enter into the presence of God, as both High Priest and perfect sacrifice, with His own blood. After His ascension, it became possible for us all to experience this same relationship with our Father.

What was it all about?

For the disciples, the crucifixion was a cruel disillusionment. They were put to shame before the "world" as those who had been "duped" by a false prophet suffering from delusions of grandeur. Their faith in Jesus as the messiah was shaken to the core. They were perplexed and confused. In their grief, neither the women nor the disciples had remembered what Jesus had told them. Even when they were reminded by the angel, the women were still trembling and bewildered, although, at the same time, they were “afraid, yet filled with joy”. (Matthew 28:8)

What a mixture of emotions! Grief-stricken, puzzled, alarmed by the angels, bewildered by the message and burdened by the responsibility of conveying it, they were, nonetheless, filled with a dawning, joyful hope that something wonderful must have happened.

The women had been preparing for the funeral, but the men had been talking behind locked doors in hushed tones, wondering if it was safe to go back to the Galilee and try to pick up what was left of their lives and careers. Even though the women’s words seemed to be making no sense, impetuous Peter got up and ran off to the tomb. He wanted so much to believe. He needed a second chance with Jesus although he certainly didn't expect to get it. John went with Peter and outran him, but was too afraid to enter the tomb. Peter had no such qualms, even though contact with a dead body would have meant ceremonial uncleanness. Peter went in and saw the position of the linen cloths and wondered. John saw and believed, even though he “didn’t understand that Jesus had to rise from the dead”. (John 20:8-9) As we accept, by faith, what God says to us personally and receive the revelation into our hearts, nothing and no one can shake us.

“I have seen the Lord!” (John 20:18)

Mary Magdalene, who had been possessed by demons, knew how vital it was to stay close to Jesus. He had set her free and there was no way she was going to return to her former way of life.

  • She knew not to underestimate the power of Satan. (Luke 11:24-26)
  • She followed Jesus out of love and gratitude and with great passion, because of where she had come from and the wonderful future He had promised her.
  • She chose to follow Him as Lord, whatever the cost, until the end, with a passion to see others brought from darkness to light. (Acts 26:18)
  • She was powerless to do anything to help the one who had done everything for her.

Mary Magdalene would have seen what Jesus went through, especially the change of mood of the crowd. This did not change her attitude. She knew what He had done for her (and for so many others) so she was determined to remain faithful and not go with the crowd. Once the Holy Spirit came (at Pentecost), she had the answer to her questions as to why Jesus had not saved Himself. She now had the ability to walk close to the Master and to witness His saving grace, because the Holy Spirit lived within her. She must have left the tomb that day, soaring with unspeakable joy and longing to share her news with others.

We too will experience such heights in our relationship with the living Christ. When He mentions our name or speaks deeply into our being, we respond by faith and our task is the same: to tell others what our Lord has done. We can all say: “we have seen the Lord” and, if we know Him, our spiritual blindness has been cured. We can also learn more and more about Him as we look into God's word. Mary Magdalene became more and more like a diamond, as all the many facets of God’s character were reflected through her to the world around her.

Oh yes, we can all have an intimate relationship with Father that flows to others.

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