The resurrection changed everything, turning skeptics into believers and mighty guards into wimps. Let’s see where Jesus showed up. Wouldn’t it be cool if he paid a visit to Pilate or crashed a Sanhedrin meeting? That’s not the way God operates. The sun shines on the just and unjust. When Jesus returns, he will clean house. In the meantime, he focuses on his team. He goes to those broken by his departure, with one exception–his younger brother. Here are his appearances in order:
Who is the first? Not one of the twelve, but clearly one of the most dedicated. While the disciples hid behind locked doors, three women braved the guards to pay tribute to their dead Messiah. The sight of angels and an empty tomb sent two women back to report. One lingered. Jesus had revolutionized her life, and she would forever praise his memory. He delivered her from seven demons, from total bondage to freedom and adoration. His death would not change her focus. Some depict her as formerly immoral. We don’t know that, only that she had been invaded by darkness, and the king had set her free. Now love consumes her. How kind of Jesus to honor what the disciples do not–profound faith and gratitude. Women then had less regard from men, even the chosen disciples–but not from the son of Joseph. When he said, “Mary,” she knew. Maybe he’s calling your name today!
THE OTHER WOMEN
Jesus is making a statement. He comes to the broken, the despised, the second stringers. He affirms their devotion. The disciple showed how much they revered the women by not believing their report. Jesus does not come to the high and mighty but to the low and meekly. Sidelined women–take it as a compliment. Even if the men don’t see it, Jesus does! Give him your heart. He makes it easy to love him.
No one expected Peter to flinch under pressure, and certainly not Peter. Fear and doubt take strong people out, and Peter now saw himself as a deserter. Were it not for Jesus turning losers into winners, nothing would have changed. How merciful of the Master to make a personal appearance to the one who would give his all when brought back. Jesus came not to rebuke but to rebuild. It took. He knows that you care for him, too, even if you have turned your back in a time of weakness. Let him restore you. The angels told the women, “Go tell his disciples and Peter…” (Mark 16:7). The fisherman had failure on his mind–Jesus had Peter on his. He has you as well, even if you have gone against him. How compassionate can you get!
As they walk with eyes blinded to the stranger, they say, “We had hoped…” Past perfect tense, action from the past that continues in the present. The traveler who joined them rebuked them for unbelief and gave them a “Walk Through the Bible” seminar, and their hearts burned, but they weren’t sure why. The Bread of Life changed that when he broke it in their presence, then vanished. They hotfooted it back to Jerusalem, a 10K, to give their stirring report. Once again, doubt had turned to resurrection faith! He will do the same for you!
THE DISCIPLES MINUS THOMAS
It was the evening of the resurrection. The disciples were hiding in fear. Jesus walked through the walls and said, “Way to go, brave soldiers.” No! He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he followed with, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” They weren’t expecting a commission– maybe a court marshall. He was still believing in them to get the job done–and they rose to his level of expectation. Jesus believes in you when you cannot believe in yourself. Take courage and keep on keeping on. (A longer blog than normal).
THE DISCIPLES WITH THOMAS
One week later, doors still locked. Same greeting. Jesus sure is proactive rather than reactive, believing in people too afraid to go for it. Then he went after Thomas, the man who would die a martyr’s death preaching the gospel in far away India according to good tradition. He, too, needed a lift from doubt to faith, and when it returned, he was the first to call Jesus God, proclaiming with confidence, “My Lord and my God!” Way to go, Saint Thomas! Jesus can transform your doubts as well.
SEVEN AT THE SEA
Jesus chose to confirm the faith of those who would represent him after he is gone, rather than going to those wallowing in the skeptic tank of unbelief. Spending a night on the lake with nothing to show for it was neither productive nor fun. Fishing with Jesus put a big catch in the boat, a picture of what would be happening in their world a few weeks hence. They had celebrated the Last Supper. Call this the Last Breakfast, with Jesus the cook. Then he again goes after Peter to reverse a three-fold denial with a strong three-fold affirmation of love. It was so strong that no threat from the enemy could silence his proclamation. Jesus can help you move from fear to faith.
From one woman to three and one man to ten–now over a half thousand. What a commissioning service. Most would never see him again this side of eternity, but they would bear strong witness to his death and resurrection wherever God sent them.
Had you been raised in the family of Joseph and Mary, do you think you would have believed that your older sibling was the Messiah? James didn’t, until his resurrected bro paid him a visit. Once in the new family, he never turned back, and he served as leader of the Jerusalem church, wrote a strong letter that bears his name, and died a martyr proclaiming his earthly brother–and his Lord.
THE APOSTLES AT ASCENSION DAY
They saw him lift off after final words of commission and comfort, including the promise of his presence. It was the last time they would see him. Hard to think of him gone. When the Spirit came ten days later, they never wished him back. He was home–they were filled!
People were afraid of Saul. Then he encountered someone more powerful, who put him on the ground and struck him blind. He had met his match. The person said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The voice spoke back, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Saul must have thought, “Oh, oh.” Then he was told to go into Damascus for instructions on what to do next. Thus started the call of the greatest apostle who ever lived. Faith turned a murderer into a missionary. Confess it with me: “I believe in the resurrection of the body and live everlasting.”