Which Way Lord? – Chapter 10 – By Dr Chandrakumar
While It Was Still Dark
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb looking for the dead body of Jesus to preserve it with carefully prepared spices and perfumes (Luke 23:55,56). This is what the majority of the so-called Christian churches are doing today – preserving the name of Jesus with their carefully prepared methods and messages rather than proclaiming the risen Lord and the hope of eternal life we receive through him. Are we preserving or proclaiming the name of Jesus?
The early disciples were fishers of men, while some modern disciples are like aquarium keepers. Mary found a living person instead of a dead body and she proclaimed, “I have seen the Lord.” You cannot experience or enjoy the presence and power of Jesus in your life until you have an encounter with the risen Lord.
1. While It Was Still Dark
Mary arrived at the tomb “While it was still dark.” Mark says that the women came to the tomb “After the sun had risen” (Mk. 16:2). So according to John, Mary Magdalene arrived alone and made the discovery of the empty tomb all by herself.
It was dark and she could only see the stone rolled away. But she rolled back her faith and was optimistic that she would see the Lord. She ran into the city to inform the disciples and came back to the tomb. Peter and John too came to the tomb, saw the linen wrappings and the face cloth rolled up in a place and went back to their homes. But Mary had determined not to leave the tomb without seeing Jesus and was standing there weeping (Jn. 20:9-11). She did not know that the tomb had erupted with the power of God. The earth shook as Jesus entered the grave; and it quaked again as he left it. The crucified Son of God had risen, triumphantly conquering death and bringing new life to a human race encased in sin.
God does not wait to act until the light comes. He has been acting in the dark. It is just that Mary and the disciples had to wait until the light came before they could see what He has been doing while it was yet dark! Perhaps it is yet dark in your own life just now. Patiently wait on him he is working in the darkness and you will soon bring it to light. Dark and distressing circumstances will bring us into new discoveries of the riches of his grace and glory. The Psalmist has a precious message for the night watchers. He says, “My soul waits for the Lord more than the watchmen for the morning.” (Ps. 130:6).
How do men who wait in the night hours for the dawn, watch for the morning? The answer is fourfold:
i) They watch in darkness.
ii) They watch for that which comes slowly.
iii) They watch for that which is sure to come.
iv) They watch for that which when it does come brings the light of day.
While it was still dark, the joy of Easter was not found in any one. But it was already Easter while it was still dark. Often our perplexity is so extreme that we seem to be waiting in total darkness. But our night of uncertainty is sure to end in the dawning light of God’s guidance.
2. Why Are You Weeping?
“…She stopped and looked into the tomb; and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying. And they said to her, ‘Woman why are you weeping?’ She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” (Jn. 20:12,13).
“My Lord,” makes a characteristic difference from “The Lord,” of whom she had spoken to Peter and John a while ago (Jn. 20:2,13). She did not know at that instant that her Lord was the Lord of angels. The “I know,” rather than “We know,” shows unquestionably that now she is alone, there in the garden tomb. The other women had by then left the tomb to report all these things to the eleven and to all the rest (Lk. 24:9).
3. Doubt And Disbelief
“When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.” (Jn. 20:14). She could not recognize Jesus. Disbelief and doubt had blinded her eyes. Many so-called disciples of Jesus also could not recognize the risen Lord. The eleven disciples… when they saw him they worshipped him but some doubted (Matt. 28:17). On the very first Easter day, two of his disciples, one of them named Cleopas, on their way to Emmaus were discussing about Jesus. The Lord himself joined them and walked and talked with them and even explained the scriptures to them especially the prophecies concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus. Still their eyes were prevented from recognizing Jesus. Their eyes were opened only when they invited Jesus into their house, surrendered everything into his hands including the bread, especially when he broke the bread and gave it to them (Lk. 24:13-31).
4. Tears Of Anxiety
She could not recognize him as her tears blinded her eyes. When we lose a dear one, there is always sorrow in our hearts and tears shed or unshed in our eyes. When sorrow comes, we must never let tears blind our eyes to glory; and we must never fasten our eyes upon the grave and forget the heavens.
Though, what her heart desired was right there beside her, Mary was weeping her heart out. There was no need for her tears and her anxiety. It is the same way with us. We weep when there is no cause for anxiety. We reach out and borrow trouble from tomorrow. Our worries show a lack of faith in God. Only if we had more faith, we would realize the presence of Jesus near us. Look to Jesus. He is just as close to you as he was to Mary.
5. Whom Are You Seeking?
Jesus said to her, “Woman why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” He knew that Mary was sincerely seeking Him. Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said, Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.” Jesus revealed himself to her by calling out her name. He spoke just one word, “Mary!” No one else could have spoken in the tone of voice that He used. The familiar voice, and tone clicked in her mind and opened her eyes and she recognized Him. Her Saviour was not dead. He was alive again. No grave could hold Him. Here He was before her. And she fell down at his feet and cried out, “Master!” In an instant she became convinced of the resurrection not by the eye but by the ear. The shepherd who had laid down his life and taken it up again knows his sheep by name and the sheep hears his voice (Jn. 10:3). Jesus called to her and she heeded his voice and responded, “Rabboni!” or “Teacher!”
Since that morning so many had called her name, but it never sounded so beautiful to her when Jesus said it. Now her heart was happy, her joy was full her tears were washed away. No one else can change life so completely as Jesus.
She thought she knew the Lord well, she never had an encounter with the risen Lord. She knew the word of God, or in other words, the words of Jesus about his resurrection on the third day (Matt. 16:21). But in her business, her mind being pre-occupied with many things about preserving the physical body of Jesus she could not perceive the spiritual blessing she could receive through the resurrection of the Lord.
This is true of many of us. We know and are very familiar with the teachings of Jesus, we hear and read the word of God in church and at home, actively involved in the church affairs and are so pre-occupied in doing many things in the name of Jesus. But we need to stop for a moment and have a direct personal encounter with the risen Lord.
6. Risen Lord For A Dying World
She moved towards him. But Jesus drew back and said, “Stop clinging to me, for I have not yet ascended to the father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I ascend to my father, and your father, and my God and your God.” (V17). But later during the day, he allowed other women to embrace his feet. Why did he refuse Mary that privilege?
Maybe Jesus was saying, “I haven’t ascended yet to my father. I won’t ascend for forty days. There will be plenty of time later for seeing and hearing and conferring with me. But now don’t waste precious time; go and tell my disciples that I am alive.” This is the Easter message. We must be witnesses of the risen Lord and proclaim to the world that he is alive. The moral obligation of the resurrection of Christ is the missionary obligation. The resurrection of Jesus is an explosive event and we must shout it out.
The enemies of God have been too optimistic because they believe that they have conquered everything. At the close of the last century, Nietzsche boasted: “God is dead.” The Chief Priest and Pharisees final optimism was the setting of the guards, not to prevent the resurrection, but to prevent the apostles from stealing the body and saying he had risen from the dead. They rolled a great stone in front of his tomb, symbolically saying “He who called himself ‘the Rock,’ is now rock- bound in a tomb – never to rise again.” That is why Jesus commanded Mary, “Go and tell my disciples that I am alive.” Christ died to save us; now lives to keep us. He has taken the dark door of death and replaced it with the shining gate of life!
Mary came with the news, “I have seen the Lord.” This message contains the very essence of Christianity. A Christian should essentially be a person who can say: “I have seen the Lord.” Christianity does not mean knowing about Jesus; it means knowing Him. It means the certainty of experience that Jesus is alive. An encounter with the risen Lord gives us deliverance from the past, power for the present and hope for the future. What a sweet message, Mary carried to others. Three days back, the disciples had forsaken Jesus. Now Jesus wanted them to know that all of them were forgiven and He wanted to meet them again. He hitherto called the disciples servants and as friends (Jn. 13:16; 15:15), but now calls them brothers. It is a better relationship, because as brothers, they could have equal access to his transcending power and authority. Isn’t it wonderful that we still have such a Saviour?
She stumbled out of the garden, still blinded by tears, and ran to tell them. She would have wanted to stay with Jesus in the garden, as Peter wanted to stay with Jesus, Moses and Elijah at the mount of transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-4). But she obeyed the Lord in going and proclaiming to others the good news of the Lord’s resurrection. Mary’s mistaking Jesus for “gardener” reminds us that both death and resurrection of Jesus occurred in a garden.
7. The First Apostolic Commission
Because of the witness of her life, the risen Lord rewarded her with the first apostolic commission to announce the good news of Christ’s triumph over the grave (Jn. 20:17-18). No wonder the theologian Augustine said that the Holy Spirit made Mary Magdalene the apostle of the apostles!
When Mary reported to the disciples that Jesus was alive they refused to believe it. Jesus reproached them for their unbelief and hardness of heart (Mk. 16:9-14).
Be patient, as Mary was patient, hopeful, as Mary was hopeful; and your share in Mary’s tears will surely be followed by Mary’s joy.
The secret of her high distinction among the first and greatest of the servants of Christ is her love. “She loved much” – this had been the reason for the full and free forgiveness she received at Simon’s house. This was the motive power that associates her, more than any other human being, with Christ’s resurrection glory. Love is indeed the very muscle and fiber of moral force.
The risen Lord commissioned Paul. His speech before King Agrippa, in Acts 26, rejoins Paul’s own explanations of his calling (1 Cor. 15; Gal. 1:1) as a revelation by the Easter Christ equivalent to those he made to earlier witnesses. He asserted that, in obedience to the risen Christ’s direct instruction, he stands, bearing witness to small and great alike, about Christ’s resurrection. (Acts 26:22-23).
The hundreds and thousands who were healed and blessed through the ministry of Jesus did not go to meet him. Perhaps you may be like one of them not taking time to meet him through prayer. Jesus is waiting for you. He was available on the resurrection spot. Mary was the only person waiting there determined in her heart not to go away from that place without seeing the Lord. The Lord graciously appeared to her and she had a personal encounter with the risen Lord.
During his ministry Jesus often used the word “Come” but after resurrection he used the word “Go” The word “Come” is an invitation for the sinners. But the word “Go” is a command for believers to go and proclaim the Gospel. The last command of Jesus was not “Come” but “Go.”
8. God’s Irreversible Programme
How can we help ourselves to join in God’s irreversible programme? A practical obedience to the great commission is required. If you want your neighbor to know what Christ will do for him, let him see what Christ has done for you. The priority Jesus gave to the great commission after his resurrection simply reflected God’s priority for this world. It was a command to step into his heavenly programme. The best we can do for God is to step into his eternal programme for this world and proclaim the risen Lord to this dying world. Amen.
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