Jun 23, 2021, 12:36 PM
“I lay down my life – only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.” (John 10:17b--18)
Imagine having been three and a half years with a charismatic leader like Jesus who was always talking about His kingdom – thus assuming He was a King; then all of a sudden, it looked like His kingdom had crumbled when He was arrested tried, and crucified for saying He would destroy the temple and build it up again in three days. It is even more difficult to fathom how His 12-man army of faithful followers known as His disciples could have left all that they had going for them -- giving up their lucrative professions to follow Him – only to have their dreams dashed in this manner.
No doubt they had nursed hopes of holding senior positions in that kingdom which He added was not of this earth; until the day He told his close collaborators that He was going to be arrested, tortured, and crucified but that He would rise again. This was a leader who had always kept His word. They could rely on Him for He had proven He could be counted on.
It was such a blow to them; He Himself could sense it. Yet all He could offer them as consolation for their disappointment seemed to have been: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1) I want to believe that those words fell on deaf ears. In that they did not make sense to them at all.
Then things started moving so fast in front of their very eyes. It was upsetting. Their lives were in danger. The Shepherd of the sheep was in trouble and His sheep were scattered all about. All of them except John, the Beloved, had fled the scene and had gone into hiding. Their lives mattered more to them at this stage than their ministry. They had been deprived of their ‘covering’; their assurance of a future life of bliss had been rudely shaken.
As Jesus hung on the cross, passers-by mocked: ‘He saved others, but He can’t save Himself.” (Matthew 27:42) “Come down from the cross if you are the Son of God. (27:40)
Meanwhile, the rest of the disciples had locked themselves up in the Upper Room for safety. Nothing of what the Lord and Master told them could hold water; After Jesus’ crucifixion and death, nothing else happened for His disciples. They had become despondent. Sentiments of having to start all over again occupied their minds. Negative thoughts ripped open their future. For a booster, some of them had returned to their fishing careers which offered them a sure ground to stand on. Shattered, others undertook a journey back home to Emmaus. Indeed, nothing seemed to matter anymore. From the evidence available, all hope was lost. But was it really the case?
The chain of events constituted a test of resilience and a test of faith for the disciples and followers of Jesus. In the background, Pilate and his men were reinforcing their positions to ensure that Jesus’ disciples could not go and steal the corpse and claim that Jesus’ had resurrected. So they did not only seal the tomb, soldiers mounted guard at the entrance to deter any perpetrators.
Maximum security was the watchword; because this was no ordinary prisoner or corpse. The State and the religious leaders were bent on proving that the man Jesus was an impostor.
The overhanging silence was heavy and palpable both with the authorities and with the religious leaders of the day. For them, this upstart and rebel’s popularity had been nipped in the bud for good. He had proven to be a thorn in their flesh and justifiably had been done away with.
Then God manifested His power against the powers that be. That fateful Sunday morning an earthquake shook the foundation of the tomb where Jesus’ had been laid and the tomb ‘vomited’ what it had swallowed, like whale did Jonah. Jesus had woken up from the dead and the mystery of the Risen Lord and an empty tomb began to spread in Jerusalem.
Looking back, the people began to recall what the Lord had said about His return. “I will lay down my life and after three days will take it back.” (John 10:18) “I will destroy this temple and build it back in three days.” (Mark 14:58) The three-day mystery had become a reality.
Mary Magdalene was privileged to have been the first to behold the Resurrected Jesus. It became Breaking News and the Headlines read “The disciples had stolen the body of Jesus.” How could they have stolen His body amidst guards that were armed to the teeth? How could they have stolen the body of Jesus when the disciples were so frightened to leave the Upper Room? How could they have stolen the body when over 500 witnesses saw the Risen Lord in town, in person?
It all goes to prove that Jesus’ words were not empty words. His resurrection manifested Jesus’ authority over death and sin. The battle over sin and death had been won. Jesus had crushed Satan under His feet. Everything seems to have fallen in place with what the Lord Jesus had predicted about His death and resurrection. Death could not hold Him captive. Even in the grave, Jesus is Lord! King David had received this revelation as recorded in Psalm 16 that Jesus’ body will not rot in the grave: “... because You [God] will not abandon me [Jesus] to the grave, nor will you let Your [God’s] Holy One [Jesus] see decay.” (Psalm 16:10)
Hallelujah! “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Jesus had won the victory! We no longer have to be afraid of death. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54b-55) It was Resurrection Day! Jesus has vanquished death.
Jesus was not compelled to die on the cross, O no! No one put a gun to His neck. He faced the cross out of His free will. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet, not as I will but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39) After He prayed this prayer three times, He summoned His disciples who were under the influence of sleep. “Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer! (Matthew 26:46)
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 12:2) Handsomely rewarded!
He did it all for you and me so we could not be fearful of death. “Because I live you also will live.” (John 14:18c)