Letters to My Friend -

Thoughts for Resurrection Sunday

by Mary E. Stephens
April 2021

 Dear Friend,

A lot of thoughts come to mind as we remember the greatest day in history - the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. I'm not sure I can get them out in an orderly manner, but I'll make an effort.

There are a lot of new faces in heaven this year. So many people passed away since the beginning of 2020. I have lost count of the deaths that have touched us or people we know or care about. It's a crazy high number from my limited experience. Over a dozen, probably pushing more towards twenty. Of course, my mother was one of them. Most of these people we know about were born again, so they are in heaven now, and I just wonder how that seemed. Did the people there notice an influx of new arrivals? Or was it not more than usual? How do they respond to all the new people arriving - especially if they knew them or were even related on earth? It kind of boggles my earth-bound mind. The one thing I do know is that these events were precious to God. Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints. He was very happy to have them safely Home with Him, and there's something both moving and comforting about that.

Also, I have heard quite a bit about the rapture lately from a few people - several sermons and at least one conversation with a friend.

Our arrival in heaven is hard to even imagine. I don't think I can grasp the enormity of it. To be done with dealing with life in "the body of this death" forever is something so exceedingly desirable it's beyond words. So many "never-agains" one couldn't count them all.

Did you ever wonder what it will be like for those who have already died to re-enter their bodies in that resurrection? It makes me smile to think about it, but it is another indescribable thing. For one thing, we have no point of reference except Jesus Christ re-entering His physical body and rising from the dead. We know He left it because He told the thief on the cross ...Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43 There are other reasons to know this as well, but I'll not dig into that here. What we do know is that Jesus' resurrected body was a changed body, and we who are His are promised to have one like it someday. 1 John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.  

Do you know that the death of the Messiah was not what the disciples signed up for? They thought that the kingdom was going to be restored to Israel at that time. I mean, here was the Messiah in the flesh. This meant the good times were here to stay, right? Only they weren't. It's hard to imagine how discouraging and disheartening it was to see Him crucified and end up on a Roman cross instead of on the throne. They thought their nation was about to become the greatest on earth again, and instead Jesus was killed by those the very people they thought he was going to destroy and overthrow. It must have been frightening as well as completely confusing. They didn't know what might happen to themselves as well.

Ah, but then! He rose from the dead. It was almost too wonderful to believe. Well, it was too wonderful for some of them. They didn't believe it the first time they heard it.

And curiously, God chose to send the message of the resurrection to the disciples by a group of women. Luke 24:9-11 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. I know there are feminist influenced women who would get all sarcastic and snarky about this, but let's focus on the positive here right now, shall we? God sent the message by women. He is not afraid to send women to the men with a most important message from Him upon occasion. That must gall some of the so-called "biblical patriarchy" high-muckety-mucks who treat women as second rate Christians. I think it gives us a little glimpse into God's wonderful sense of humor.

These men were referred to as apostles here which was the highest position in the New Testament church a short time later. Also these men had the pre-crucifixion revelation that Jesus would rise again after three days, but they were nowhere near the grave when that time rolled around. It was the women who showed up to do the respectful duty of putting spices on the body. So, the women got the message and were sent to the men who should have been there to see what had happened. I find that so interesting. No, I'm not forgetting the biblical roles of women in the church age as prescribed by the later epistles, but I am saying that I think some things have been made into mountains that the Lord created as low lying hills. Just sayin'... :-)

Still they didn't know what was going to happen, even after they saw Him in the upper room. And then Jesus changed everything by giving them a new plan, one that they hadn't anticipated at all when they started following Him and were told they would be fishers of men. The Lord commanded them to go into all the world and preach the gospel. This was a tremendously different outcome than they expected. It wasn't just about Israel any more. It went far beyond that. It was bigger than they could have ever imagined or thought about as ordinary Jewish men. As far as we know not one of that group of 10 or 11 was a free Roman citizen by birth as Paul was. It would take an act of God for them to be able to do that. And that is exactly what happened when they were filled with the Holy Ghost.

We are so used to the way things are now that it's hard to get our heads around the idea of 11 men setting out, with an additional group of fellow disciples, to spread this glorious gospel all over the world. We who are born again sit or stand in our respective places, joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17), our sins forgiven (Col. 2:13), heaven assured (John 14:2-3), more than conquerors through Him that loved us (Rom. 8:37), members in particular of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27) and the family of God (Eph. 3:14-15) - all because Jesus Christ paid the price for our salvation and rose again for our justification. Romans 4:24-25 But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification. The power of His death, burial, and resurrection pours forth through us to this very hour. Truly it is an unspeakable gift. Words fail to describe it and thoughts fail to fully comprehend it.

As we remember the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and as we still may feel the pain of separation from our loved ones, we feel the essential need that He fulfilled for them and for us. The need for eternal life, not just this ordinary earthly one - miraculous as that may be. We needed something to take away the sting of death and give us, not only peace with God, but also everlasting life.

Revelation 1:18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

And because He lives, we have hope of seeing our dead in Christ again. Because He lives, we have hope for our own lives now and for eternity. Because He lives we know that death and the grave will, in the end, be destroyed. Because He lives we live too.

But, because the Son of God was dead He knows how hard it is to die. There is no other God who can offer us that - both an understanding of death and its pain and also the hope of eternal life and resurrection from the dead.

2 Corinthians 9:15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.

 

background and graphics by Mary Stephens
vintage graphic: unknown source