It had been about three years since they had answered the call to follow Jesus. Each had his own story. In John 1:47, Nathaniel was told he was an Israelite indeed in whom was no deceit. Peter and his brother Andrew heard the words, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men,” while casting their nets into the sea, Mark 1:7. In Matthew 9:9 we find Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow Me.” Matthew followed.
These years of following Jesus, had been the most exciting and intense years of their lives. Jesus was the most incredible person they had ever known, and they loved Him deeply. The things they witnessed were amazing. They witnessed many miraculous healings, deliverances from demonic forces, and the feeding of the 5000 with only a few loaves of bread and a few fishes. The disciples remembered the day when a funeral procession was coming down the street. Jesus who was moved by the dead man’s grieving mother, stopped the funeral procession, touched the coffin, and the young man sat up alive. That wasn’t the only time they experienced Jesus bringing one back to life. They experienced the girl who was dead when Jesus entered the room, and alive when He left the room. How could they forget Lazarus, who had been dead for four days when Jesus called him from the tomb?
There were times when Jesus told insightful stories. These stories held deep meaning, revealing great truths to those minds and hearts which were open to understand them. Sometimes Jesus taught the multitudes who gathered around to hear his teachings. The teachings of Jesus were so compelling, that at one point, the people desired to take Him by force to make Him king. At other times, Jesus only shared his insightful teachings with His closest followers. He would take them away to a quiet place where they could rest. Here, He could give them more personal teaching.
Of course, not every day was full of such wonder and excitement. Sometimes there was opposition. His religious enemies disagreed with what He taught. They continually challenged Him. When challenged, His answers were filled with wisdom, power, and most of all love. As time went on, the opposition grew stronger. His enemies grew more determined to stop Him.
The days of following Jesus had been extraordinary. They days had been full of wonder, hope, excitement, learning and love. His followers probably expected that things would continue as they were for many more years. Then suddenly, everything changed. Jesus was arrested. Less than 24 hours later, he was executed as a criminal. Their dreams were dashed, shattered into pieces. The one they loved so much was gone. The life they had lived for the past 3 years was over. It seemed the future Jesus had spoken of would not work out. He was dead. Sad, confused, and afraid, they hid behind locked doors. How quickly it had all come to an end. The work they had been a part of, the love they had come to know so well, GONE. Everything changed, almost instantly. The future for them looked bleak.
On the third day after the execution of Jesus, early in the morning, some women who had followed Jesus visited His tomb. Much to their amazement the body of Jesus wasn’t there. When they told the other disciples about the empty tomb, no one took them seriously, except Peter and John. They ran to the tomb. They confirmed the women’s story. Jesus wasn’t there!!!! They didn’t understand what had happened, but His body was gone!! Suddenly, Jesus appeared in the midst of the room in which they were hiding, behind the locked doors. The man they had loved and followed, the man who had been brutally tortured and killed was standing before them. He was alive!!!
Jesus had risen from the dead. He was back with them. His presence changed everything. Though He had been executed as a criminal He was standing there alive. The fact that He was standing there among them, Alive, validated everything He had told them about himself. Jesus truly is “The Resurrection and life.” Jesus had taught them how He would be killed but raised to life again in three days. The truth of these words was now evident. He is there, Alive! The presence of Jesus totally changed the way they viewed the preceding days. They knew their faith had not been misguided. God’s plan had not been defeated after all.
Forty days later, Jesus ascended into heaven. He was no longer with them physically, but the Holy Spirit was sent to dwell within them. The Holy Spirit would be a constant presence guiding them in truth and love. The Holy Spirit would direct them in all the teachings Jesus had shared with them. The Holy Spirit would remind them of all they had witnessed during their time together with Jesus.
The wonderful days of living and working together with Jesus had come to an end. The days of reaching out to others had begun. The knowledge of Jesus being resurrected to life empowered them to move beyond what they had been accustomed to, to let go of how things had been, and to dedicate their lives to spreading the love and salvation of Jesus to others.
This new understanding of their work would take time and adjustment. They followed the instructions of Jesus. They went to different cities and countries, meeting new people, making new friends, and leading others to Christ. Although things had changed, and Jesus was no longer with them physically, they still experienced miracles. Through the power of Jesus name the dead would be brought back to life, those in need would find answers. They would show love, compassion, and mercy. They would spread the Good News of salvation in Jesus. Now, instead of Jesus performing these miracles himself, He was performing these miracles through His disciples. He continued to dwell in them and work through them. He continues to be alive today. He is alive in those who love and follow Him.
Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. It’s a celebration of His defeat of death and Satan. Jesus redeemed us from our sins. He lived and loved us. He died for us. He is with us today in Spirit just as much as He was with those He walked with 2000 years ago.
There was a short time when the disciples of Jesus despaired: in those days after Jesus had been crucified, when he was not present with them. However, that crisis was short lived. The confusion, fear, and uncertainty passed once they realized that He was ALIVE!
Today, we can learn from their experiences. No matter the circumstances we are in, no matter what changes have occurred, no matter how difficult things may be, Jesus is alive in us. Where we are, His power and Spirit are with us. He is working through us, as much as our faith will allow.
Today, lets show others He is alive by letting them see His Spirit working in us by letting others hear His words through our words, and by letting them experience Him through our actions. Let’s show them He is alive in todays mixed up, messed up world by helping them connect with Him.
Remember, we do not have a Jesus on the cross, He left the cross. We have an empty cross. We do not have a Christ in the grave. We have a Jesus that is ALIVE. He is alive in our hearts. He rose in victory, joy, and freedom, never to die again. He was raised again so He could redeem us, as well as prevent us from going through the agony of death of the spirit.
What a day of rejoicing that must have been for the disciples of Jesus, when they realized Jesus had risen from the dead. They realized their sorrow was over. Jesus had won the victory.
The miracle of Easter is that because Jesus didn’t remain in the grave, we won’t either. We will not suffer in hell to pay for our sins. Jesus made the payment for us. Then, he rose to a new life. Now, he is living inside us, giving us hope and peace because we are filled with His love.
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