Look to the Lord

Because Everything Hinges on the Resurrection
Verse 1 of John 20 says, "Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb."

Mary Magdalene; Mary, the mother of James; and Salome went to the tomb to anoint Jesus's body.

They didn't know Roman soldiers had been assigned to guard the tomb. They didn't know how they were going to roll the stone away, which could have weighed over 1,000 pounds. And they didn't know Jesus had risen.

But they went anyway.

As it turns out, the soldiers were nowhere to be found. (We can read their story in Matthew 28).

Jesus's followers were terrified and depressed because their Rabbi had been crucified. Yet, the Jewish leaders who did not want to admit the story of an earthquake, an angel, and a risen Savior offered the soldiers a great deal of money, and promised them they wouldn't get in trouble for leaving their post, if they would only lie about what happened. Apparently, those who heard them believed that these distraught disciples actually rolled the massive stone away and stole their Master's body.

But when the women arrived at the tomb, they knew nothing about all this. They were simply relieved that the stone had been rolled aside.

When Mary Magdalene saw that the Lord's body was not there, she feared grave robbers had taken it. She took off running and went to find Peter and John.

When she found them, she said, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him" (John 20:2).

In verse 4, we read, "Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus' head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed."

Why is the fact that the cloths used to wrap Jesus after He died evidence that He hadn't been taken by grave robbers? That would be the same as someone breaking into your home, stealing your possessions, and cleaning your house. That's not going to happen.

D. A. Carson said, "The description is powerful and vivid, not the sort of thing that would have been dreamed up; and the fact that two men saw it (v. 8) makes their evidence admissible in a Jewish court (Dt. 19:15)." [1]

Peter and John observe the linens in the otherwise empty tomb, and then, they inspect them. While we know from the passage that they didn't fully understand what had happened, the story was unfolding—the greatest story in all history. And every word of it is true!

Although Jesus had told them He would rise again, they couldn't grasp what He meant. They didn't know He was referring to a literal resurrection from the dead.

There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Jesus was dead. As a precaution—and an unwitting fulfillment of Old Testament scripture—the soldier thrust a sword into Jesus's side while He was hanging on the cross, but he didn't have to break His legs because He was already dead.

Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus the Pharisee prepared the Lord's body for burial and laid Him in the tomb.

The soldiers guarding the tomb knew Jesus was dead. The Jewish leaders who opposed Him knew He was dead. And His followers knew He was dead.

No one dies for a lie they know is a lie. Why would the apostles go around saying Jesus had been resurrected, knowing they would be martyred? Almost all of them, except for John, did die as martyrs. So, if Jesus never rose from the dead, and they preached Christ crucified and resurrected, it would be the dumbest thing they could do.

It's absolutely ridiculous that critics throughout history have stated the disciples were "so committed" to the resurrection of Jesus that they made up everything. That contradicts scripture. They didn't believe Jesus would be raised. They didn't believe in the resurrection until Jesus was standing before them and they could touch Him. They didn't believe until they could see for themselves that Jesus was alive.

While the events at the tomb were taking place, Luke 24 records that something else was going on. About the same time Mary arrived at the tomb, two men were heading home, Cleopas and a companion. They lived in a little village called Emmaus, about two hours away on foot. These men were disciples of Jesus, and they were on their way home. Passover was over. And their Savior was dead—so they thought.

We don't know how long they followed Christ, but we know they believed Him to be the Messiah, their promised King. And now, they're broken and confused.

Luke 24:14 says, "They were talking with each other about all these things that had happened."

They were discussing the horrific events of the previous week. And then, something amazing happened.

"While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them" (verse 15).

Does the risen Messiah appear before the Jewish leaders who whipped the crowd into a frenzy? Does He appear before the Romans who crucified Him? Does He make a grand entrance? No!

Instead, just as He did at His birth, He quietly comes to those who love Him, to those who know they need a savior, to those others would take very little notice of.

Jesus came to this earth in the humblest way possible in order to establish His kingdom in the hearts of those who would come to Him for salvation. He appears to two men we haven't heard of before, not in the temple, a town square, or a nice house. Instead, He joins them on the dusty road to Emmaus, a small, otherwise insignificant village.

They don't immediately recognize Jesus. They were expecting a conquering king, not a rabbi who would die and rise again. Because they only had a partial understanding of the Scriptures, they couldn't understand why Jesus had to die.

In Luke 24:25-27, we read Jesus's words to them: "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."

It is crucial that we devote ourselves to the study of God's Word. We want to recognize the Truth when it's standing before us. Plus, we want to discern the lies that are based on only a partial understanding of the Scriptures.

When did these men recognize their Master was in their midst?

Luke 24:30 says, "When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight."

In Luke 24:41, we read that He then appeared to the disciples who were in hiding for fear of what would happen to them.

"And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate before them. Then he said to them, 'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures."

Even though He stood in their midst, it wasn't until Jesus opened their minds to understand the Scriptures that they realized their Lord and Master was no longer dead. He had been raised again—just as He'd promised.

My hope is that we will continually pray that God will reveal more of His Word to us, so we can see more and more of His beauty.

If we prayerfully study the Scriptures, our hearts will be set on fire with joy. Jesus will open our minds. We will want to get to know Him better. We will want to get to know God's Word and obey it. We will want to share the Good News with everyone who will listen.

[1] (The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans/Apollos], pp. 637-638)