At the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And then there was a great earthquake. For the angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone from the door and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his garments white as snow. The soldiers shook for fear of him and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid. For I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and indeed, He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him. Listen, I have told you." So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. As they went to tell His disciples, suddenly Jesus met them, saying, "Greetings!" They came and took hold of His feet and worshipped Him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go tell My brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me." Matthew 28:1-10
It had been a painful week for the followers of Jesus. They followed Him as He rode into Jerusalem and was hailed as the Messiah and King of the Jews. They heard His words as He taught in the temple. They heard His laments and rebukes because of unbelief and heard of the judgments to come. They saw His anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. They witnessed His trials, the horrors of His crucifixion and saw His lifeless body taken down from the cross and hastily laid in a nearby tomb before the sabbath day began.
Now, all that remained was to complete His burial before returning home. Jesus was dead. All His teaching about forgiveness of sins, the kingdom of God and eternal life in God's kingdom was buried with Him in that tomb.
The Gospel of Luke tells us of the women (Luke 23:55 – 24:3): "The women who came with Him from Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was placed. Then they returned and prepared spices and ointments. On the Sabbath, they rested according to the commandment. Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. But when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus."
For many today, Easter Sunday is a day to properly finish Jesus' burial. Lent is over and we can now put Jesus' sufferings and death behind us and move on to other things -- at least for another year. It is a day to say His life and death have meaning and His legacy lives on in our hearts.
But Jesus wasn't in the tomb! Instead, an angel was there and announced to the women: "Do not be afraid. For I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. For He has risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay."
And, as the women hurried to tell Jesus' disciples the news, Jesus met them and greeted them. He was alive -- not just in spirit, but bodily -- they held his feet and worshiped Him.
His death was full payment for the sins of the world. God accepted the atoning sacrifice of His Son and raised Him up, proving that all who look to Jesus and His cross in faith are justified and forgiven (John 3:15-18; Rom. 4:23-25; 1 Cor. 15:17-20; 1 John 2:1-2).
Jesus truly is the Resurrection and the Life as He said to Martha in John 11:25-26: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die."
He lives and we shall live also (John 14:19; 1 Thess. 4:13-18). With Job, we can say: "For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God, whom I will see for myself, and my eyes will behold, and not another" (Job 19:25-27).
All His words and teaching are indeed true! He shall reign forever and ever (Rev. 11:15) and all who trust in His name shall reign with Him in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 7:9-17; 21:1-7)!
Therefore, we come today not to eulogize Him in death but to celebrate His victory over sin, death and the devil for us, and to rejoice in the new and everlasting life He won for us by His death and glorious resurrection on the third day!
O crucified and risen Lord Jesus, grant that we might see and believe the message of the angel and rejoice in Your triumph over sin and death that we might have the certain hope of forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting through faith in Your name. Amen.
[Devotion by Randy Moll. Scripture is quoted from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]