Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Favorite Part of my Favorite Story

Matthew 27:66-28:20

Men conspired against Him even when His body was in the grave.

The Pharisees were still fearing Him. They doubted His power and had strong men make the stone on His tomb as secure as they knew how. Jesus' mother and Mary Magdalene watched the sealing of His grave, mourning and treasuring Him in their broken hearts.

A few days later, they came again to look at His grave, much the way we do to this day. But the earth shook that day, and an angel descended from heaven without any earthly disguise. The angel rolled away the "securely placed" stone and sat on it. Sitting...because it was finished. Sitting on the object that man used to try to keep Him in the grave.

But heaven came down and made earth's strongest barriers as nothing. He SAT on the stone, shaming the enemy as if to say, "In your face!" The enemy's strongest weapon had just been snapped in half.

The guards of the tomb fainted from fear. But the angel that so terrified the guards told the women not to fear. He then proceeded to tell them that he knew their heart's intention: To see Jesus' body.

They were about to see it. They just had no idea that they would see His body upright and fully alive, walking and talking and breathing again.

I want to get inside their hearts for a minute. I wonder if they doubted what Jesus said. I wonder if they clung to hope or submitted to despair. I wonder if they were trying to find a way to live like they did before Jesus came into their lives. I wonder if they slept or ate much.

I wonder if they believed that evil had won.

And there they were -- with their eyes wide with shock and their faces probably still stained with tears -- standing in full view of an angel who was telling them that the Man they love so much had risen from the dead and was about to SEE them.

Mary had experienced angels before. She knows they do not lie. One came to her when she became pregnant with the Messiah. How great of a song she must have sung upon hearing the news of His living after being a witness of His dying!

And so they ran -- with their hearts leaking with fear and joy, trembling and exulting with every breath. When they were on their way to tell His disciples what they had heard with their ears, Jesus met them along the way and let them see Him with their eyes. And then they grabbed hold of His tangible feet with their tangible hands and worshiped the Man who was so dear to them. And what did He say?

After greeting them (literally saying, "Hello"), He said, "Do not be afraid."

He spoke straight to the fear that had fueled their dread for the days that His body lie limp in the grave.

His following words were so perfectly timed. He told them where and who to go to. He told them to tell His brothers that they would get to see Him too. Do you see the tender love and hope in that?

Something very interesting: While all of this was happening, the chief priests lied about what happened to Him. They came up with a story about how the disciples were to blame for the empty tomb. Why? They wanted to save themselves from punishment. But they didn't realize the punishment that His death and resurrection had just paid for.

EVEN THOUGH these lies were spreading, Jesus didn't send His people to them to straighten things out. Instead He gathered them on a mountain in Galilee. When He was seen, He was worshiped. Simply. To the ones who doubted the incredulousness of it all, He said that He had all authority in heaven and on earth. It was really Him. He was really God. He really did just walk out of that tomb.

And then He told them to go -- because of His all-surpassing power and authority. He promised the very thing every flock would want to hear: He said He would be with them always. Any fear of lacking direction from there on out was alleviated when He spoke. He promised to lead them.

Something beautiful: He told them to go to every nation. That was the mystery revealed. Every nation could be grafted in. No more foreigners or slaves. Only sons and daughters and heirs of every good thing God had ever promised.

"By revelation there was made known to me the mystery...revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel."
Ephesians 3:3-6

"When the Lord will have compassion on Jacob and again choose Israel, and settle them in their own land, then strangers will join them and attach themselves to the house of Jacob. The peoples will take them along and bring them to teir place, and the house of Israel will possess them as an inheritance in the land of the Lord as male servants and female servants; and they will take their captors captive and will rule over their oppressors."
Isaiah 14:1-2

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