15 December 2017

“… and finally.”

Put yourself in those women’s shoes just for a minute. They had followed the Saviour as He travelled the land, ministering to His practical needs. And then the unthinkable had happened, the One whom they loved, the One who had healed the sick, walked on water, even raised the dead, had been arrested, sentenced to death, crucified and His body placed in a cold, dark tomb. Three days ago they watched as the disciples fled, leaving Him alone; some had even denied they ever knew Him. But they had not abandoned Him, they followed Him to the cross, watching in horror as man did his worst to the One who had made such a difference in their lives. Now, this morning, with heavy hearts they had come to anoint His body.

Their first shock was to see the body gone and be told by an angel, “He is not here: for he is risen…” (Matt 28:6). And now a greater shock; here He stands in front of them. Matthew records the conversation in chapter 28 of his gospel. What was the first word the Saviour uttered to them after all He had been through? One simple word, “Rejoice.” (Matt 28:9).

Rejoice. It’s not a word we use today, though it’s been around for 600 years, but I think we all understand what it means – literally, be happy – why? Surely it was because the great plan of salvation had been completed. Conceived in eternity, God knew that sinful man would be doomed unless He intervened and so He made a way so that we could have our sins forgiven. It involved the gift of the most precious thing He had, His only begotten Son.

I will never know the depths of the suffering He willingly endured; the beatings, the mocking, the indescribable cruelty of crucifixion and then, for three terrible hours God poured on the One who knew no sin my punishment. Even the sun hid its face as God forsook His Son.

“None of the ransomed ever knew How deep were the waters crossed Or how dark was the night the Lord passed through ’Ere He found the sheep that was lost.”

But God so loved this world He allowed His precious Son to take my place, to bear my punishment that I might have pardon from my sin and peace with God and one day He will take me to heaven to spend eternity with Him. What love, what cause for rejoicing! Christians have every reason to be a happy people.

If the Lord could, in the aftermath of His suffering, tell those heartbroken women to rejoice then I must follow His example. My troubles are insignificant compared to His suffering. Our natural inclination is to want to share our troubles and difficulties and we need to do that with the Lord and with trusted friends who will help us, but isn’t the Saviour’s example amazing? Not one word of murmur or complaint. He is not a victim, He is our victorious Saviour.

So today Christian, be encouraged. Remember Calvary and the Saviour’s command. Be happy, He knows, He understands and He cares. Rejoice!

VI DAWSON

“…and finally.”