After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent quake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white like snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay... (Matthew 28:1-6, NIV)
If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead! (1 Corinthians 15:17-20, NIV)
After these things, Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and He showed Himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered Him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask Him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My lambs.” A second time He said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love Me?” Peter felt hurt because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” ...After this He said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 21:1-19, NRSV)
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I wonder what that first Easter morning would have been like if Jesus were still dead? If His life story really did end with the tomb?
Scripture says that two days after His death, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Mary Magdalene hurried down to the tomb to “look at it.” In their hands were the extra spices and linens that they wanted to add to the grave.
But let’s imagine something crazy: let’s say that when arriving at the tomb, they see nothing out of the ordinary; the boulder is still sitting in place and the Roman guard is still at his post. After explaining to the guard that they are there to finish up the traditional burial process, let’s imagine that he rolls the stone aside to let them in.
Inside, there He is. Their Jesus. Their Rabbi. Their Lord. Things should not have ended like this. The people had no right to kill Him. And as they mourn, they work diligently.
After they each exhaust every bit of spice and cry every last tear, it becomes time to leave. Behind them, the stone is rolled back, the tomb is closed, and the body remains there as it continues to decompose. And as these women walk away - in complete loss of words - the only images in their heads are of death, a short-lived life, and an ill-treated defeat.
Just like every other man who displayed a “messiah-complex,” this one died the expected death. And now, both His words, His teachings, and His “truth” would slowly die with Him.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that our faith would be “futile” if Jesus’ story ended with the tomb; that sins would still define us and all the martyrs of the faith would have lived and died for nothing. It would be an empty, pitiful life.
No amount of church attendance, ministry service, or heart-felt worship would keep us from the grave. Days would be worthless, “good acts” would be in vain, and every bit of our work would be pointless. If Jesus could not beat death - then we certainty would never beat it.
That version of Easter would offer no hope; no miracle; no peace; no victory.
But Christ has indeed been raised.
These are six words that change reality. Instead of ending in death, Christ triumphed over the grave. His resurrection changes everything. The sting of death - which was once spread deep and wide - has become but a distant memory because of our Conquering Savior.
And the very day of His victorious resurrection, we see Jesus begin to reinstate, renew, and refocus the hearts of every one of His followers. And before He ascends to heaven, we read of an intimate conversation that He has with Simon Peter.
Apart from His ascension into heaven, this is the last written miracle of Jesus. And it beautifully mirrors the happenings of one He had previously worked; He catches fish, and a “boat-load” to say the least.
Yet what Jesus communicates in this act is extraordinary to every single one of us. His work with the fish is a miraculous reinstatement of His work with the disciples.
It is as if He is saying, “I am still here. I am still powerful enough to make the catch. And I still want you.”
I love that Jesus meets His disciples at such a familiar place. It is a grand reunion, one that offers forgiveness and so much validation.
And with Peter, He sits and talks.
In this moment, when looking at Peter, Jesus knows a couple of great insights. He knows of Peter’s residual fear, doubt, guilt, and shame. He knows that the weight of Peter’s denial has done more damage in him than he would have ever expected.
AND...Jesus knows Peter’s name. He knows that He is going to build His church - His body - from the leadership of this man. He knows that he will be the leader who will guide and develope so many of His disciples and soon-to-be ones.
So, Jesus needed to speak. “Peter, do you love me... Tend my sheep.” Three times, this dialogue is repeated, and every time, Jesus hits on Peter’s shame and then leads him into his calling.
But it took three times for Peter to recognize this.
Jesus was not here to condemn, He was here to mend.
Jesus was not here in anger, He was here with purpose.
Jesus was not here to guilt, He was here to call.
And the same is true for you and I today.
Easter Sunday reminds us why our lives have incredible value. It reminds us that Jesus overcame death’s sting so that we could daily experience His victory. And it points us to the Spirit at work in us; the One that redefines our life and transforms our actions into works of glory.
Today, Jesus stands before you. Yes, to talk about instances of the past. To meet us in vulnerability. But His purpose is always the same: to call us deeper.
Daily Prayer: Jesus, thank you for triumphing over death. Spirit, thank you for living and working in me. Father, help me to realize the victories that are all around me. Please teach me to think, act, and dream with you. Let my heart know that actions will only become works of glory when they are done with you. Today, call me deeper. Amen.
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Greg, Declare Glory