Joy. Assurance. Peace. He is risen indeed!
On Easter morning, our family always greeted each other with these words: The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!!! We were happy because we knew what the day would bring. We would join our congregation in a most festive service. Resurrection white had replaced Lenten purple. The altar, no longer bare, was adorned with spring flowers. The scent of Easter lilies filled the air. Triumphant hymns. Voices joined in heartfelt alleluias. Scripture proclaiming joy and victory. Our Savior had won the battle! Life eternal is assured! Hallelujah! And to top it all off, an Easter breakfast waited in the fellowship hall. It was a day of joy!
But what about that first Easter morning? It was a day of what? Perhaps mixed feelings? The disciples were not sure what the day would bring even though Jesus had prepared them for his resurrection. He had raised people from death and had promised that he would rise again on the third day, hadn’t he? It was now the third day…
Mary Magdalene had ventured out while it was still dark on that first Easter morning. Seeing the stone rolled away, she assumed someone had moved the body of Jesus. Weeping, as if still in mourning, she bent over to look inside the tomb. Why? To confirm her fears? She saw and spoke to the angels seated where Jesus had been, and she still believed the body had been moved. Turning, she saw Jesus, but didn’t recognize him. Only after the Lord called her by name did she finally experience the JOY of knowing that her Savior was alive!
Later in the day, two dejected disciples were heading out of town. While they were discussing the events of the past few days, Jesus came up and walked with them. Cleopas and his friend explained how sad and confused they were about the crucifixion and the recent news that the women had seen an empty tomb. (The disciples were kept from recognizing him because their first Easter experience was going to be a lesson from the Master.) What they heard from Jesus must have surprised them. “How foolish you are and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken”(Luke 24:25). Then Jesus, the master teacher, reviewed the teachings from the Old Testament that were fulfilled with his life, death, and resurrection. He was assuring them that the work of salvation had been completed by his victory over death. When the Lord finally revealed his true identity, the disciples marveled at how their hearts were uplifted as Jesus opened the Scriptures to them. They experienced the ASSURANCE that their living Savior was victorious!
As evening approached on that first Easter day, the disciples were gathered in a locked room. They were frightened of what the Jews might do to them. They were troubled by the conflicting news. Was Jesus alive? Was his body taken? Did the Emmaus disciples really talk with Jesus? Doubts were swirling in their minds. Their loving Savior knew just what they needed. Suddenly he stood among them. “Peace be with you.” But the disciples weren’t at peace. They were both frightened and amazed at what was happening. They couldn’t believe their eyes. Jesus assured them that he was not a ghost by showing them his sacred wounds and eating a piece of fish. Then he repeated the message that he had shared with the Emmaus disciples. He opened their minds so that they could believe the Scriptures had been fulfilled. Jesus had triumphed over sin, death, and the devil. They were redeemed and forgiven. True PEACE came to the disciples that evening. They had no need to fear! With joy-filled hearts and minds they could proclaim that message to all nations.
Songs of praise, joyful Alleluias, festive celebrations surely carried the disciples forward as they shared the resurrection story. Mary Magdalene had experienced the joy of Easter—the joy that the living Savior “calls his own sheep by name” (Jn 10:3). She could tell of the love that Jesus has for every single person. Jesus’ assurance to the Emmaus disciples was that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled, and that the Scriptures hold the message of eternal life. They knew firsthand that “faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Ro 10:17). The fearful disciples experienced lasting, spiritual peace from the one who reconciled us with God. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”(Co 1:19-20).
Jesus made that first Easter very personal. He sought out his sad, confused, and doubt-filled followers. He comforted and strengthened them with his words. He prepared them for sharing the victorious good news of salvation. The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!! Alleluia!!!
“Christ the Lord is risen today!”
Saints on earth and angels say;
Raise your joys and triumphs high;
Sing, O heavens and earth, reply. CW 149