The Surprise of God – Easter Sunday
Acts 10, Jer.31, Jn.20
For the full magnitude of the events recorded by those who witnessed them, we would benefit from placing them into context.
Jesus was dead. The Romans knew how to execute people and he was definitely dead. The disciples and followers of Jesus had watched him die. There was shock, utter devastation and bitter disappointment at the reality of this. This was not what they expected – not the surprise they were anticipating. Jesus was dead and buried. There were no Christians because there was no Christ. There was no Hope because all Hope had died with Jesus. Nobody assumed anything else would happen other than what usually happens when someone dies. There was nobody waiting at the tomb counting down from 10 expecting a surprise. Jesus was dead and so were all their hopes and dreams … and then … then the whole history of the world takes a new direction!
Jeremiah gives prophecy of a new age, Luke records the power of this new age and John recalls the opening events of this new age in detail. Let’s look at it from the perspective of the three key characters on that morning. Mary, Peter and John.
Mary arrives early and sees the tomb has been opened – without further investigation she leaps to a conclusion and rushes to speak with the others: ‘Jesus’ body has been removed and we don’t where it is’. How often do we, or those we know with regard to issues of faith and questions regarding the Church, do the same I wonder? See something at face value, make a decision and then begin to declare it as truth before we have taken the opportunity to discover more?
Peter, typically, wonderfully impulsive, rushes to the tomb and runs straight in. He looks around. What has happened? It doesn’t connect. John records that he doesn’t understand. How many of us, how many others do we know, look on the Christian faith and the Church’s teaching, make a judgement based only on what they see and then walk away without any further questioning or investigation?
John arrives first but hesitates and initially holds back – he looks in but does not engage. Interested but cautious. How often do we, how many others do we know respond in the same way? We see or hear something wonderful about God but don’t pursue it? There is interest but no commitment. John does however, overcome his reticence and decides that he must experience this first hand. He enters the tomb. This is important. None of us can live our Christian lives based on the encounters and experiences of others. We have to experience Jesus for ourselves … we have to enter in and experience the surprise of God personally.
But take note of Mary – if we are to encounter and experience the risen Christ for ourselves, then we need to be looking in the right direction. Mary did not ‘see’ Jesus because she was looking at death and not Life. She was facing the Tomb and had her back to Him. How often do we do the same? How often do those we know live their lives in that way? Looking to all that the world has to offer instead of what Christ has to offer? Make no mistake … God wants us to enjoy our lives but if we think that this is gained by living them without Him, then all we are looking forward to is death and a burial site and a burial site that if we’re lucky, someone might tend to for a while after we’re gone.
Even as Jesus speaks to her she is still not taking any notice – it’s not until she hears her name that she makes a decision to turn and then looks straight into the eyes of Jesus. The surprise of God. Many hear the Lord speaking to them through the words of scripture, through the message of the Church or through the testimony of others but until they respond to the personal call of Jesus for themselves and turn and look towards Him, they will not meet Him.
We know about the Resurrection because first hand witnesses recorded it. The only reason Jesus’ life is worth sharing is because of the Resurrection and The Resurrection is the reason why Jesus’ life is worth sharing! Defeat is turned into Victory. Death is turned into Life.
What does that mean for you and me? If we place our trust and faith in Jesus Christ, accept Him as our personal Saviour and all that has been achieved through the Cross, then our sins are forgiven and we are made righteous before God our heavenly Father. Rom5 That whatever challenges we might face, whatever disappointments might cross our path, the name of the risen Jesus stands above them all.
They saw Him die. They saw Him alive. That single event transformed their lives to the point where they spent the rest of their lives putting their own lives at risk to tell others what they had seen. A God of surprises – One who calls us by name and longs for us to know Him – Meeting the risen Jesus changed lives – Meeting the risen Jesus still does.