As a young pastor, Easter sunrise services were memorable occasions, especially when our children were young. We have four children within two and three years of one another, so many preparations were made the day and night before Easter. My wife laid out what everyone would wear, and food was prepared for a meal following the service. Many Easter mornings were cold, even freezing, as we departed into the darkness of the early morning. We packed the children into our small car with blankets, along with my guitar and other things prepared ahead. Although the early disciples didn’t drive their car to the tomb, I tried to imagine what it was like that first Resurrection Day as we drove to the service. I was excited to celebrate and remember the day that changed history.
Many of our sunrise services were held on a hillside in the southern California desert, somewhat similar in terrain and weather to Israel. Arriving as the first rays illuminated the sky, my heart anticipated the moment the sun broke the horizon. Waiting for the sunrise seems to take a long time, but when it appears it bursts above the earth as a new day begins.
Hope Lost and Restored
The first disciples didn’t know what to expect that early morning. It was a long night of despair, perhaps sleepless, for it seemed all hope was crushed. The One they believed to be Messiah was crucified and buried on the day Israel celebrated their annual Passover feast.
He who would deliver them from oppression and obscurity had died, and their confidence died with Him. The One to whom they devoted their lives—believing in Him, leaving all, and following Him—was gone. The night might have dragged on, but when the sun rose things happened fast and unexpectedly.
The women were the first to know about the Lord Jesus’ resurrection (Luke 24:1-12). In accounts from another Gospel, we are told they met Jesus in person after His resurrection (John 20:11-18). Women had very little status or standing in Jewish culture in those days. Concerning spiritual or religious matters, women were considered unimportant. Yet, these women were the first to know and believe the truth about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. This alone is extraordinary.
Everything about Jesus defied the expectations of others and went against conventional wisdom. He began preaching the Kingdom of God in the region of Galilee, far from Jerusalem where the Temple and religious leaders were. He chose men as His closest followers who were not inclined nor equipped to study the Law and its many interpretations. Some of these men were uneducated fishermen, some religious and political zealots, and one was a hated tax collector. And one betrayed Him.
Instead of resisting an unlawful and unjust sentence of death by crucifixion, shameful and deemed a curse by the Law, He willingly submitted to it. On the day of His miraculous resurrection from the dead, He didn’t appear first to those closest to Him, nor to the important Jewish leaders, but to a few women, even one with a shameful past.
The resurrection of Christ caught everyone involved by surprise, even those who stirred up the crowd and called for His execution. Yet, Jesus spoke of His future resurrection from the dead often and in many instances. Three written accounts are recorded in the synoptic Gospels (Matt 16:21). Most likely He spoke of this at other times, since the women knew of this when reminded by the angels (Luke 24:6-8).
Following the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus taught that He was the Bread of Life (John 6:35-40). He used a metaphor of eating His flesh and drinking His blood, which caused many disciples to quit following. As He taught this, Jesus made four references to the resurrection related to the eating and drinking of his flesh and blood. And yet—both His death and resurrection caught everyone by surprise.
What about you? What surprises you about the Lord and His resurrection from the dead? Is His resurrection a living hope in your heart? Have you experienced His resurrection power in your life? May you have a blessed Resurrection (Easter) Day!
This is an excerpt from my book, The Mystery of the Gospel, except for the questions at the end, which I've added for this post.