March 16, 2015
So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. –John 20:3-7
It was the evening of the first Easter Sunday. Earlier that morning Peter and John had been to the tomb. They had discovered it was empty. They saw the strips of linen as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. It was a puzzling mystery. They knew something important had happened but they were not sure what. So they returned to the house where they were staying.
Mary, however, stayed behind. And she had a somewhat mystical experience. This is from John’s account (John 20:19-31). Weeping, she bent over once more to look into the tomb and she saw what appeared to be two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. Then immediately afterward she had an encounter with a stranger that in her grief she mistook for the gardener. Then he called her name and she discovered it wasn’t the gardener at all. It was Jesus risen from the grave. She ran back to tell Peter and John and the other disciples about her experience.
That evening the disciples were still processing all this. John tells us they were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders. That’s interesting. We make a big deal about Easter Sunday morning, but Easter Sunday evening, the disciples were still cowering in fear. Obviously some questions still remained.
So, there they were, these followers of Jesus, behind those locked doors, speaking in whispers, confused, frightened, like sheep without a shepherd. Then, “Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’ After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.” Then John adds these words, “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (John 20:20) The Gospel didn’t end on Easter morning. If it had, the questions and confusion would still been with us. It was Easter evening that made it clear. Jesus came to his disciples and said, “Peace be with you.” He didn’t stop there, either. He went on to say, “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”
Jesus gave them a few hours to process what had happened, and then put them to work. He meant for them, and us, to spread the Word immediately, trusting that he would give them the strength and courage to do it. As we approach Easter, as we meditate on the last week of Jesus’ life, perhaps we should pay more attention to Easter evening. We, too, are often confused, but Jesus was very clear.
Prayer: Father, we are often in need of clarity, especially as to our role in your Kingdom. But you were very clear when you said we are to spread the gospel throughout the world. Strike from our minds and hearts all doubt and fear, and give us willing and hearts to serve you. In the strong and powerful name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
Pastor Helen Schindler
Bethel Baptist Church