30. Possibilities

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 30. Possibilities

Acts 2:36  “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

It is Easter Day – Sunday. It is probable in our churches we sing songs of praise and of triumph and victory but all that is so far from the truth of that incredible day in history. Yes, Jesus has risen and death has been conquered. Yes, it is a glorious triumph, but that is not what the disciples were feeling on this day.

They had been taken up to the heights of the roller coaster by Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem a week ago but as the awful events of the weekend roll on, so the roller coaster dives down. First, they flee when Jesus is arrested (Mk 26:52). Then Peter denies Jesus three times (Mt 26:69-75) and only the women and John attend Jesus at the cross (Jn 19:25-27). When it comes to Sunday the women see and struggle with what is happening but tell the men to whom “the story sounded like nonsense”. (Lk 24:10-12). On the road to Emmaus, two convey loss and misery (Lk 24). Back in Jerusalem in the evening, they are locked away behind closed doors for fear of the Jews (Jn 20:19), Jesus appears but they think it is a ghost (Lk 24:36,37), and so Jesus rebukes them for their ‘stubborn unbelief’ (Mk 16:14,15) for even when he shows them his wounds, “Still they stood there in disbelief” (Lk 24:40,41) and later Thomas exemplifies their unbelief in his own expression of it (Jn 20:24,25). It is a tale of chaos and confusion. Don’t think badly of them for we would have been the same in their place.

But the story doesn’t finish there. They are told to go up to Galilee to meet with Jesus there. Why he won’t go with them we aren’t told. Perhaps it was to allow the scene to roll out with some more lessons. I referred at the end of the last study to Peter, growing frustrated with waiting and going fishing, but I wonder what more went on in Peter before this? He had badly let Jesus down and he knew that Jesus knew it and now he knew there would be a longer meeting with Jesus. What would Jesus say to him? Guilt, shame, fear?

But what are the possibilities now? Jesus has risen! Surely he can show himself to the crowds and the authorities and thus prove he is who he said he was? This is an opportunity for the glorious kingdom to be revealed! But no, from, Jerusalem to Galilee for a number of weeks of teaching in exclusion and then back to Jerusalem. Surely this is it! But no, even greater confusion, he ascends and leaves them. Jesus rising from the dead is for us, it is to convince us and reassure us and now he sends us to carry on doing what he has been doing. Today is a day of new possibilities but they are all about what Jesus can now do in and through you and me! Dare to face that truth on this day.

Completed Task

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30
We come to the closing seconds.   There are two words in these final seconds that the Gospel writers record.  Let’s consider these first in the light of this Saturday.  Have you ever seen TV or a film that portrays the fight to keep a person alive.  Eventually after trying everything possible the heart monitor registers a straight line and death has occurred.  There is a moment of silence, a moment of shock, a moment when all acknowledge that the thing they had fought against has won.  Jesus dies.   For the followers who were looking on, the bottom of their world had just fallen out.  Perhaps, even to the very last minute, there had been the hope that having been through all this, he would suddenly triumph and recover and step down from the Cross.  This one who had spoken to wind and waves, who had spoken to blind eyes and deaf ears, this one who had spoken to dead bodies, surely this one could speak to his own body and revive!   But, “It is finished!
For the disciples who looked on, these must have seemed the most terrible words of resignation. It’s over, it’s the end, I’ve failed, there is no more! In their grief and anguish these are words of defeat. These are the words of failure. The whole glorious three year ministry of bringing heaven to earth has been terminated prematurely! Months back in the midst of the incredible healings and miracles, if they had been told this would happen (and they were!) they would never have believed it. That all of these wonderful things would be thrown back in his face and he would be smashed into oblivion, no way!   The following thirty six hours will be, for them, the blackest in their lives.   There is no future, no hope.    Our dreams have been shattered.   A Future? Who cares!   It is finished!
But that was the perspective of frail and weak and misunderstanding humanity.  It was not the perspective of the Son of God.  When he says, “It is finished!” he is saying, “The work is complete!   The plan from before the foundation of the world has been fulfilled.   The price has been paid on the earth.  The way is open for the salvation of whoever comes.  It is finished!”
But is it the end?  Definitely not!  He still has to be taken down and put into the tomb of a rich man.  He still has to rise from the dead, but those are things for men and God respectively to do.  Jesus’ part is finished here on the earth for the moment.  Yes, after the Father raises him up (Acts 2:24, 5:30) there is more to do, but for the moment, the plan has been executed faultlessly. He has completed the task of redemption, there is nothing more to do on earth that can add to that, and so it is time to depart.
So we then see he “gave up his spirit”.    Even in the last act he is in control.   He could have held on but the work has been finished so he releases his spirit from the body and it is over.  The body in front of the watchers is now an empty shell.  He has no more need of it for the moment.   Its function has come to an end.   The body was necessary to carry the Son of God through some thirty or so years on the earth, experiencing the things that human beings experience, and expressing the Father’s will in the three years of staggeringly wonderful ministry, but that phase has come to an end.    It is finished!
Father, this is, in a sense, an awful day.    From our point of view, a day of reflecting on our disgrace and a day of sense of failure, but as we realise the wonder of what has happened, we cling to the truth and praise and thank you, that the work of redeeming us was totally finished as Jesus died for us on the Cross, and it only remains now to receive it.   Thank you so much.