When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him and who were mourning and weeping. When they heard that Jesus was alive and that she had seen him, they did not believe it. Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. These returned and reported it to the rest; but they did not believe them either.
As we approach Easter Sunday, we are mindful that we come to this day through the Lenten season—we reach Easter by journeying with Jesus through the dust and ashes of the wilderness.
We walk with Jesus through Holy Week; singing in our hearts the Hosanna! “Blessed is He whom Comes in the Name of the Lord” along with the crowds who gathered in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; remembering and celebrating the Last Supper on Maundy Thursday, and hearing in our imaginations the cry of “crucify Him” on Good Friday.
Many of us may have rehearsed in our hearts, the saying “It’s Friday Now – But Sunday’s Coming”!
And while we waited for Sunday, we bore the silence of the tomb on Saturday.
We are traveling toward Easter! Resurrection Day! The Resurrection is good news to us! Because He lives, we too, shall live and have life more abundantly!
What joy fills our hearts today as we celebrate Resurrection Day!
We should celebrate!
And even as we celebrate the Resurrection, I would encourage us to give consideration to what happens in our lives “After the Resurrection”.
We may get a clue by taking a look at what happened after the Resurrection according to what is recorded in the 16h Chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
After reporting how Jesus rose and appeared to Mary Magdalene, Mark goes on to report that after that appearance, when He was clearly seen and recognized by Mary, He later appeared “in a different form” to “two of them as they were walking in the country”.
Here, Mark is referring to the two disciples who met Jesus on the Emmaus Road as recorded in the 24th Chapter of the Gospel of Luke.
You know the story: as they were walking, Jesus joined them, but they didn’t know who He was. As they walked, Jesus opened the Scriptures to their understanding, but they still didn’t know Him. It wasn’t until they sat at table with Jesus that the Bible says, “their eyes were opened” as He broke the bread in their presence.
Both of these sightings of the post-resurrection Jesus met with disbelief when reported to the disciples.
Mary Magdalene apparently saw Jesus as the disciples had seen Him and known for three years as He walked among them, taught them, led them and worked miracles in their midst. She saw Jesus “after the resurrection” and recognized him immediately. She recognized Him as the Jesus she had known and loved and with whose appearance she had become familiar.
When Jesus later appeared “in a different form”, however, the disciples he walked and talked with did not recognize Him. After the Resurrection, Jesus looked like a different person to them and they didn’t know who He was.
This makes me wonder how many times we miss seeing Jesus for who He is because He comes to us in ways that are not familiar to us. In ways that don’t fit with the Jesus we thought we knew.
For instance, I wonder how many times we miss seeing Jesus for who He is because we hear a testimony from a person who has seen Jesus, but who, for some reason, lacks credibility. We are tempted to think: “Surely Jesus would not reveal Himself to them!”
Mary was a woman, and during that time, women, as we know, were distinctly second-class citizens!
But Mary was allowed to Jesus! Jesus chose to reveal Himself to her in the way she had always seen and known Him.
And even though she could tell the disciples about seeing Jesus, and could describe Him in terms they had all come to know about Him, they still did not believe!
Maybe they didn’t believe the message because of the messenger.
I pray that we don’t also make the same mistake! Will we miss the Resurrected Jesus in the testimony of someone we have held in low-esteem? Will we miss the Resurrected Jesus in the testimony, not only of women in ministry, but also in the testimony of children because we think they are too young to know what it means to be saved?
Will we miss the Resurrected Jesus in the testimony of the former addict, the formerly incarcerated person, the liberated prostitute, or even the currently homeless person?
Will we, like the first disciples, question whether such persons have really seen the Resurrected Christ?
It also makes me wonder how many times we miss seeing Jesus for who He is because He sometimes appears to us in a “different form”.
Think about the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:35-40. When He separated the sheep from the goats. The sheep were accepted, but the goats were rejected. Jesus identified His sheep by these criteria:
“. . . I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Sometimes Jesus does appear to us in a “different form”. Sometimes it’s in the form of the poor and needy, and sometimes it’s in the form of a global pandemic.
That is not to say that we see Jesus as the cause of COVID-19. Far from it!
However, can we see Jesus even in the face of COVID-19?
Maybe “After the Resurrection” takes effect in our hearts and minds, during this crisis, we will be able to see Jesus in the faces of the elderly who can’t leave their homes; that have to remain isolated and alone. And, maybe, when we see Jesus in them, we will feel compelled to reach out to them in ways that let them know we see them and we care.
Maybe “After the Resurrection” takes effect in our hearts and minds, we will see Jesus in the faces of those who are working on the front lines ministering to the sick; those who are delivering our food and supplies; the individuals who are continuing to work in essential services, and helping to keep the rest of us safe.
Maybe “After the Resurrection” takes effect in our hearts and minds, we will see Jesus in the faces of our spouses, our children, our friends and our neighbors, and just maybe, we will begin to treat them like the precious gifts they are to us.
And maybe, “After the Resurrection” takes effect in our hearts and minds; after COVID-19 has come and gone and we are able to gather again in our sanctuaries and worship together face to face, maybe then we will see Jesus in the faces of those we have had the privilege of worshipping with Sunday after Sunday in close fellowship, and maybe we will begin to see them as the precious children of God that they are. Maybe we will begin to see them as our friends and not our enemies, as our supporters and encouragers, and not as stumbling blocks in our way, or detractors that keep us from getting our own way!
The day that we traditionally celebrate as Easter—Resurrection Day is because, in 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea established that Easter would be held on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon occurring on or after the vernal equinox.
But the truth is, we don’t need to wait until the First Sunday after the first full moon after the “vernal equinox” to celebrate Easter.
Easter should be celebrated every day of our lives! We can and should live Resurrection lives every day of the week, every week of the month and every month of year, because Christ is alive in our hearts, and He promised After the Resurrection that He would send the Holy Spirit to be with us and in us and to teach us and remind us of everything He taught while he walked on earth.
Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as ourselves; He taught us to be merciful, to be peacemakers, to be meek, to be pure in heart, and to hunger and thirst for righteousness.
“After the Resurrection”, we have the Holy Spirit to help us see Jesus and to love Jesus even as we show love, mercy and care for each other.
May God continue to Bless Us and Keep Us, even as we continue to seek His face in the days ahead.
And may the Hope, Love, Joy and Peace of our Resurrected Lord help us to daily live the Resurrected life!