“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” (Luke 24:5-6 ESV)
He is not here, but has risen. What emotions does that one little phrase conjure up? Think about it – he has risen. If you are a follower of Jesus, perhaps joy, excitement, awe? If you have heard the Easter story, you have probably heard it emphasized that Jesus did not stay in the grave. He rose and he is alive today. What does that mean for us?
Imagine you were living during the time Jesus was here on Earth. Now, imagine you considered him a close friend – one who had taught you the truth about himself and the way to eternal life. Jesus told you, as he did his other followers, that he would be crucified and on the third day rise from the dead. Then that fateful day arrives. Your close friend, Jesus, has been arrested; men are mocking him and beating him! How would you feel if you were standing near that crowd of people crying out to Pilate, “Crucify, crucify him!” Would your heart be breaking, knowing that your friend is about to be led away to die?
It’s over. Jesus has just breathed his last. You saw him crucified with your own eyes. You walk away feeling a growing ache inside of you, while tears roll down your cheeks. Jesus said this would happen, that he would die. But wait! He also said he would rise on the third day! Do you believe him?
Days pass. The word is now spreading that the grave that held Jesus is empty! He is appearing to people; walking with them; talking with them. You have now seen him – alive! The emotions running through you are vastly different than a few days ago when you watched your dear friend breathe his last. It is a reunion you will never forget! One filled with tears, but tears of joy! Your heart is full to bursting with seeing your friend alive again! What a glorious day!
Those overwhelming emotions of pure joy, elation and awe for the risen Saviour is what should fill our hearts today. Yes, our hearts should break at the gravity of Jesus dying on the cross for us, for our sin. But, take heart, our Jesus did not let death overcome him or the grave hold him down. He defeated both by rising from the grave! He is alive!
The period between the crucifixion and resurrection must have been filled with pain and fear for the people who followed Jesus. They were living in uncertain times, not knowing for sure if Jesus would defeat death, but clinging to his declaration that he would rise on the third day. Our world today is full of various trials that cause us to feel pain, fear, anxiety and uncertainty. Like the believers who lived on earth with Jesus, we, too, can take hold of the promises of Christ.
In Luke 24, after the resurrection took place, we see Jesus drawing near to two travellers on the road to Emmaus. They are discussing the events that have occurred over the last few days, talking through their pain, confusion and fear during that time of upheaval. It is during this discussion that “Jesus himself drew near and went with them” (Luke 24:15 ESV). Our Jesus travels with us, walking beside us through life, and speaking to us in our pain. Isaiah 43:2 declares, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you” (ESV). Notice this does not say “if” you pass through waters or walk through fire – it says “when.” God does not promise us lives that are free from any pain or trials, he tells us to expect it. But he also tells us that we do not need to be afraid of these trials because he is with us. Our God is with us today because he is alive! He is with us every day, in every circumstance, walking with us through the water – whether that water is calm and smooth, or filled with overpowering waves. Our God is with us.
Jesus also appeared to his disciples after he rose, and the first words he spoke to them, according to the Gospels, were “Peace be with you” (John 20:19 ESV). Jesus, our Prince of Peace, offers us the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. The Bible is full of passages that speak of peace. Jesus himself said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV). No matter what you are facing in life, be it the joys of the hilltop or the sorrows of the valley, remember that nothing can separate us from our source of peace. He has overcome the world. Romans 8:35-39 proclaims, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? […] No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (ESV). Perfect peace, that guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus, is ours when we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is the giver of peace.
In a world that is full of trials and suffering, let us offer the hope and peace that can only be found in a risen Saviour. These trials are a reminder that this earth is not our home, we are only here for a moment. They should point us to our heavenly home, our eternal home with our Father: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV). In light of this hope we have, should we not be concerned with sharing this assurance with others, especially in their own times of uncertainty?
Before Jesus ascended to heaven, he reminded his disciples of the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-47 ESV). This was one of the last things that Jesus said to his followers, reminding them of the importance of sharing the Good News. Our God is alive and because of that our faith is not in vain. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians, if the resurrection is not true, we are the most to be pitied. But the resurrection is true, and we have hope because Jesus rose from the grave. Let us remember that, “we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever” (Hebrews 6:18-20 ESV).
As we take time to reflect this Easter, let us hold fast to our risen Saviour. He is our peace and comfort, the one who is with us. Easter reminds us of our duty as Christians to speak the hope of the resurrection! Let us share the good news boldly!