The Journey of A Lifetime"As we love Him and worship Him, the way before us becomes clear. So does our calling as His awakeners."
Jesus has died, and Mary Magdalene and the other Mary have come to pay their last respects and anoint the body with precious spices. They are grieving. There had been so much promise for a new tomorrow, and now only memories. Only shattered dreams. Only lost hope.
Maybe people were right about Jesus’ kingdom of God—the religious realists who dismissed it, the doubters who ridiculed it, the power structures who killed it, the ones who criminalized, condemned, and crucified the hope. They shattered the dream. Even Jesus’ closest followers seemed to be calling it quits. Still, the women came.
“Let’s just anoint his body one last time.” The Marys want to say a final farewell to their Lord, perhaps to keep the memories of what could have been and now seems lost. To honor the dream.
But perhaps there is still a thread of lingering confidence. Perhaps the women see past the overwhelming evidence of failure to a glimmer of awakening hope, and they cling to it and nurture it deep down, in their quiet way. A part of them remains open to a different outcome, to a Jesus who will not let them down.
The tomb greets them in a most unsettling way: a violent earthquake accompanied by a powerful angel, who rolls away the huge stone blocking and sealing the tomb, and then seats himself on it and looks at the two ladies with a calming face. (The guards cowering in fear.) “Don’t be afraid,” says the angel. “He isn’t here because He’s been raised from the dead, just as He said.”
What is this? What does this strange person mean? “Come, see the place where they laid Him,” he says. The women follow him.
They are aghast at what they see. Who has stolen the body—and where is it now? Wait, this angel just said the crucified Jesus has been raised from the dead. But where did He go? That, by the way, is the question they will be pursuing and answering for the rest of their lives, as will we. But for the time being, “You’ll see Him in Galilee,” says the angel. “Right now, your job is to go find His disciples, who are probably pitying themselves, and tell them the good news.”
Suddenly realizing the importance of this shocking revelation, the women hurry off “with great fear and excitement” to tell the disciples. There’s another surprise for them soon after they depart. A bigger surprise. Jesus is waiting for them along the way. Stunned by the sight of Him, they fall, grab His feet and worship Him.
What is it like to be the first humans to worship the resurrected Jesus? What shall they do, and how shall they do it? Without the obstruction of theological rationale or debate, they simply follow their deepest instinct and largest love—they bow, they cling, they adore.
Thus begins this lifetime journey for all the awakened Easter people. The Easter people: those who wake up every day to the reality of a resurrected Jesus, wherever they may be on their journey. Those whose lives will now be changed over a lifetime by the Jesus they remember and study, who now lives. Those awakened with eyes to see their resurrected Lord and ears to hear His voice and hearts to resonate more and more with His.
Holy Week closes with a deceased Jesus. This first Easter day, the Christian’s new Sabbath, opens with a living Jesus—not a resuscitation, a resurrection! Jesus with an eternal body. The bonds of the grave are torn asunder and the burst of a new life emerges. Having lived our earthly life with us for over thirty years and having tasted death for us, He brings to life a new thing, a first, a resurrection. He awakens not as He fell asleep in death; He awakens clothed with eternity.
We’ll follow the story. We may have doubts (28:17), as did those first eyewitnesses (Matthew 28:17), but we still go looking to find Him where He said He would be. He comes close to us because we take the risk of obedience and follow Him. The obedience may be slow in coming owing to our own unreadiness, or our uncertainty or our doubt. But sooner or later, a peace comes, and then an awakening. We’re now ready to meet our calling from Jesus:
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations [ethnicities], baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (28:18b-20).
Living the LIfe
This is the calling of every disciple of Jesus, every person who claims to be a Christian. We are all sent into the world to act like, and speak for, the living Christ.
So we follow, we act and we pray in the name of our crucified, resurrected, and living Lord Jesus. The Cross releases the saving power of love, the Resurrection brings the miracle of life eternal and the Spirit gifts us with accessibility to the living Jesus and through Him to the Father. This power, this miracle and this intimacy with God are together the keys we’ve been given to live the life of Jesus in the world.
We are Christ’s awakeners, called to lead the awakening wherever we live our lives. We heed the call: “Wake up, sleeper! Get up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14b CEB). We are bearers of the light-revealing light of the world. We are driven by that same question on the minds of the two women: “Where has Jesus gone?” We set out in faith, and on the way of our obedience He appears. As we love Him and worship Him, the way before us becomes clear. So does our calling as His awakeners.
Excerpted from “Lenten Awakening: Daily meditations from Ash Wednesday to Easter” by Phil Needham (Copyright 2020). Published by Crest Books. Available at crestbooks.com.