When Christ Jesus was taken into custody after Judas’ betrayal, all of his disciples besides John and Peter fled into the night. John, the youngest of the disciples, stayed by his side along with Jesus’ female followers. Peter trailed Jesus in the shadows but ended up denying him three times before the cock crowed thrice. By the time Jesus’ corpse grew cold, all of his followers fled to quarantine themselves inside, away from the certain death promised them at the hands of Christ’s persecutors.
Death was waiting outside. Safety was inside. And there, they stayed.
However, things changed that first Resurrection Day morning. The women took it upon themselves to go to the tomb to prepare Jesus’ already-decaying body. Jesus’ body had been tucked into a tomb three days (by the way the Jews counted the span of a day) earlier. But then, things changed.
And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? (John 20:14-15a).
Jesus was, in fact, risen.
Mary had already fetched Peter and John to report the tomb was empty. They ran to investigate. Jesus was gone.
The disciples then huddled in a home out of fear, probably in John Mark’s house.
Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you (John 20:19)
But can we really blame the disciples for a lack of faith? The Holy Spirit had yet to be given, for that time would come 50 days later. They were still largely unseeing and unbelieving. They could not adequately comprehend that Jesus would literally rise again from the dead, even though he couldn’t have been clearer. Surely, they thought, this is some kind of metaphor or misunderstanding.
The disciples were not waiting at the tomb to watch Jesus rise. They were frightened and remained in their home, something perfectly reasonable given the odds of death should they step outside their safe space.
However, within days, the band of believers that would one day in Antioch be known as Christians would be the most vocal, out-spoken world-changers as they testified to the risen Christ. Never again would Christians cower like they did that first Good Friday evening, Black Saturday, or the early hours of the first Lord’s Day. Jesus, after all, is risen.
If you fast-forward two millennia to the United States, again we find a terrible and frightening Black Saturday. Death, we are told, awaits us if we go outside. Safety is to be found inside. Just stay home, they tell us. So many Christians are eager to comply with these unconstitutional directives because they fear death.
However, the first Christ-followers on that first Resurrection weekend had an excuse…Christ would not be raised-again until the sun arose.
There are a thousand possibilities for your church to worship bodily in an assembly tomorrow. You do not need a building to be the church, but you do need to assemble to be the church (that’s what church is and what the word means, an assembly). This world is full of lots of open spaces like parking lots, open fields, and forests in which you can worship together as the Body of Christ. You do not need amplification to preach or sing. You don’t need microphones and fog machines. You don’t need PowerPoint and projectors. You don’t need the comfort of your church house. The great outdoors (with plenty of room to socially distance) will do just fine.
Jesus, after all, is risen. What is there to fear? Why seek safety when you can seek Christ? Why cower when you can stand? Why hide when you can march? Why hide your candle under a bushel when you can let it burn in front of the entire world?
Staying home on Easter morning, instead of coming together as the Body of Christ, places you in more contempt before God than any of the disciples who stayed hidden before his resurrection. You have the luxury of seeing in the rearview the full Lordship of Christ over life and death.
Jesus is risen. He is risen indeed.
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