Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.
And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.”
Matthew 28:1-10 NKJV
So often, we get lost in either empty, repetitive religious practices – or in our striving for works – or in our forgetting Christ and being distracted by this world. But we see laid out the foundation of our Christian lives in this passage.
Yes, it’s our fear of God that begins the uncovering, the revealing of God to us. At some point we realize that there is something greater and more lasting than what we can see and touch and taste and smell. And as we grasp the concept of a Holy, righteous, and perfect God – as we catch just a tiny glimpse, just a bit of knowledge of His glory, we can become fearful because it shines light on everything in our lives that is imperfect.
Has our every thought today been pure and set on glorifying and praising God?
Have our words and actions been perfect examples of His love to everyone around us?
In my case, I hope the answer to the first two could some days be yes, but I fear the answer might always be no – for some small infraction that I don’t even remember, right?
Have we held pride in our hearts over how good we are doing, claiming His victory and strength as something that we’ve accomplished ourselves?
Do we sit, hearing a message of instruction meant for our ears and our heart and our lives, but think to ourselves, “I know that so and so needs to hear this message”?
Do we hear the message, let it stir our emotions, but not let it pierce the cold stone of our hardened hearts so that it might make a difference in our lives daily?
I say this because how would we react if an angel of the Lord appeared before us this morning? Or maybe on a Friday or Saturday night after we’ve been comfortably removed from the rigid reminder of a Sunday morning pew?
If Christ himself stood before us right now, how would we react?
I’m reminded of a song by Mercy Me –
“Surrounded by your glory
What will my heart feel
Will I dance for your Jesus
Or in awe of you be still
Will I stand in your presence
Or to my knees will I fall
Will I sing hallelujah
Will I be able to speak at all
I can only imagine
I can only imagine”
How will you react this morning to a risen Savior, whose messenger comes to tell you –
“Do not be afraid,
I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.
He is not in the tomb;
He is risen, as He said.
Come, see the proof.
And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead,
He is going before you g preparations for you;
you will see Him.
Believe and behold, because the Lord has told you.”
This messenger brings hope for those who seek Christ, not condemnation. The Lord recognizes our fear. He recognizes our conviction when drawn closer into the presence of his Holy Spirit. He does not come to beat us up, but to lift us up.
Lord, help us to examine our lives – not so that we can measure and compare with others, but so that we compare our lives to yours and are humbled by our need for your grace. Don’t let us get prideful about any good works that are just filthy rags, and don’t let us remain guilt ridden and ashamed of past sins confessed and forgiven and cast as far as the east is from the west. Help us to recognize our need, not once, not once daily, but continually throughout our day – remembering the love you demonstrated and the price you paid so that we can follow in your footsteps and walk in the power, love, and self control that your Holy Spirit provides. Teach us, guide us, and help us find our way back home.
When a messenger brings a message to us, we have the opportunity to either –
Run away in fear -OR- Be drawn closer in trust
Listen to the message -OR- choose to listen to other voices
Hear and understand and learn -OR- argue and justify and ignore
A message from the Lord does not leave us unchanged. We will either be drawn closer if we choose to listen and believe, or by ignoring and denying the message our hearts will be seared and hardened against the truth. The ones bringing truth are bringing a message that convicts us and that takes faith for us to believe and follow. The worldly and wicked will get mad at a messenger who brings truth that they do not want to hear – but those who love and respect God will be humbled by the truth and will be thankful for a message of truth and conviction that shines light on things previously hidden in darkness. The faithful want to see their lives changing to be more like Christ, while the rebellious just want justification for their current ways of living and escape from any punishment or negative consequences. The faithful hunger not only for Jesus Christ as Savior, but as Lord as well.
But let’s not get sidetracked by religious measuring and comparing of ourselves to others or even to our own past. Because our faithfulness and obedience, or our lack of it, simply exists to remind us of His love. When we were rebellious in the darkness, His love was the bright shining light that we thought that we had to hide from. Because the lies of the enemy told us that the condemnation and destruction in store was for us and that we had no hope.
You see, the enemy will take a truth and twist it. Yes, the world is condemned already. Christ did not come to condemn the world but to save it. And not to surrender light to the darkness, but to bring light and life into the darkness. You see, there is a judgement ahead, and there is destruction ahead,but it is not hopeless for you, friend, because the wrath of God has been poured out upon Christ for the sins of the world, so that whoever believes may know life and may walk in light.
You see, He loves us. He is a loving and merciful and Good Father to His children. And He has, a will and purpose for our lives that aligns our gifts and talents with His love so that we can shine like peculiar greens hidden amongst the dust and ashes of this fallen world. Not because we are somehow working hard enough to increase our value – but because His hand on our lives is polishing us into a finished work. We are valuable because of His love poured out into us, not because of works, religious practice, or our own strength – but because of His loving presence in our lives.
And He teaches us His love so that the world might see and know and recognize His great handiwork. It is our grattitude for His work, our love for His ways, that shows the world the love of the Good Shepherd for His children. We are an undeniable testimony, a light shining in the darkness, love pouring out unexplainably upon both friend and enemy, lives laid down for our fellow man – so that all might know that they are called to receive His grace – and so that some might be chosen for His use.
Lord, thank you for your love that does not leave us where we were, but changes us and molds us to be more like you.