These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
The women left the tomb “with fear and great joy” (v.8). Afraid, no doubt because the awesome power of God was at work; the empty tomb was totally beyond explanation. People fear what they do not understand. But fear on its own can be debilitating, and will undermine faith.
Jesus met them as they fled off towards the disciples. Certainly they were experiencing “great joy” (v.8), but they still carried fear with them. Jesus wanted to dispel that fear before it took root and did harm. “Do not be afraid” (v.10) he said. He did not tell them that there was no need to be afraid. He gave them an order. Fear can be controlled. We can either give way to it and let it sweep over us, or we can listen to the voice of the Lord: “Fear not” (v.10).
With the Lord by our side there is never anything to fear. He has all things under control, whether we understand it or not. “In everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Fear is from the devil who undermines our calm trust in a loving God. But fearlessness comes from our God, for “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John. 4:18).
Many things can frighten us: a shouting teacher, a school bully, an abusive father or husband, a falling Stock Market, bad news from the doctor, a dark and lonely house. Each time fear knocks at our door we need to hear those words of Jesus, “Do not fear” (v.10). Remember also the words of Peter when he uses the example of Abraham’s wife Sarah: “And you are now her (Sarah’s) children if you do right and let nothing terrify you.” (1 Peter 3:6)
Forgive me, O Lord, when I give way to fears and worries. Help me to trust you in all circumstances, and indeed to know great joy. Amen.
What a lovely picture this is! Imagine the gaggle of grieving women who come at first light to the tomb of Jesus to anoint his dead body. They haven’t considered how they will remove the stone – but grief is not reasonable. Then they are confronted by an open tomb guarded by angels, and if that was not astounding enough, they are met on their way back to the disciples by Jesus himself.
They were running to witness to what they had discovered. They were eye witnesses to the empty tomb and the angel’s message. They hadn’t got the full picture, but witnessing is not about telling the full story. Witnessing is about telling what we (ourselves) have seen and heard and touched (1 John 1:1). Of course, the rest of the picture was to be given them when the risen Jesus met them on the way. They now had even more to report to the disciples.
I expect they were bitterly disappointed when they burst into the room and told the disciples all that they had seen and heard only to find the men were less than persuaded. They presumed that the women were deluded. We cannot expect everyone to be persuaded by our witness. We are often treated with mild derision. We are thought to be somewhat sad and simple.
At least some were prepared to at least look into what the women claimed. Peter and John ran off to see for themselves. Some people will take us seriously enough to look into the faith for themselves. Take heart. Graciously tell it at you see it.
Thank Lord for those first witnesses to your resurrection. Help me not to be ashamed, even if I can’t explain. May I be a witness for you. Amen.
1. Who was the first witness of Jesus’ resurrection?
John 20:1, 11-18
2. Note the forecast of the resurrection of the dead?
Belief in the resurrection from the grave is not make-believe, nor is it fantasy or even mythology. Belief is based on the evidence of eye witnesses. The empty tomb was one of the key pieces of evidence. First the women saw it (v. 1), but when they reported it to the men they didn’t believe them! However, Peter and John went to see for themselves. Peter surveyed the empty tomb and studied the grave clothes, but scratched his head, perplexed. But when John went in, he saw and believed, even though he (and Peter) did not yet know the scripture that Jesus “must rise from the dead” (John 20:9).
The disciples did not make up an elaborate story about resurrection, since they were not looking for it or expecting it. However, the word had got around that Jesus had forecast that such a thing would happen; that is why they placed a guard in front of the tomb (Matthew 27:62-66). This very guard turned out to be even further proof that Jesus’ body was not stolen, but had actually disappeared.
Disappointed disciples needed some convincing that the very real death of Jesus that they had witnessed was not the end. Jesus had to disappear and then re-materialise in solid form. He ate before them and let them touch him. He said, “Handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Luke. 24:39).
The early faith, and our faith too, is based on the factual and historical miracle of the resurrection of Jesus. We have that eye witness account recorded for us in the Bible. We too will one day undergo the same transformation, “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Praise God!
What a wonderful faith you have given, Lord! How amazing it is, beyond my imagining! Help me to be assured and strengthened so that I may be confident in my faith. Amen.
1. What sort of evidence does John speak of?
1 John 1:1
2. Who found it hard to believe in the resurrection?
“… they took hold of his feet and worshipped him.” (v.9) RSV
Come to the feet of Jesus. A strange thought maybe, but when we worship we bow down low, indeed prostrate ourselves on the ground. To us who, like John the Baptist, are not worthy to untie the sandals on his feet, we count ourselves blessed to be in his presence and to cling to his feet.
Indeed we find the feet of Jesus to be beautiful. As Isaiah wrote, “How beautiful … are the feet of him who brings good tidings,” (Isaiah 52:7). The risen Christ is worthy to be worshipped. He has taught us the good news, he has shown us through his works the good news, and indeed he is within himself the good news. His resurrection shows that the good news works! He has overcome sin and death, disease and destruction. Alleluia, what a Saviour!
The Westminster Shorter Catechism of Faith (1642 AD) asks many questions and gives trenchant answers. The first question is: “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” There is no greater joy and purpose in this life and the next than to serve/worship God in word and deed. Our whole life is made worthwhile if this is our chief end (goal and aim).
Even if we are bed-bound or have lost our legs in combat, even if we are very young or very old, we can all fulfil this great purpose in life – worship the risen Christ who is our Saviour, our Love and our Life. Let us prostrate ourselves in worship and cling to his feet.
Thank you Lord for all you have taught and all you have done. You are my Saviour. I worship you and want to follow you all the days of my life. Amen.