From sorrow, shame to joy and hope
When I was a young boy, on Easter Sunday, at dawn, the women of the Church would march through the streets of the town into the Church cemetery singing, “Christ is risen! Hallelujah, Christ is risen!!”
And so, each year, they freshly announced the resurrection of Christ to the town.
They were following the footsteps of Mary Magdalene and the other women in the first Resurrection Sunday story in the Bible.
At Easter, we celebrate the climax of God’s plan for saving humankind. This plan began way back in the Garden of Eden.
The awesome story of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is captured in all four Gospels of the New Testament.
The records in the Gospels on the life and works of Jesus Christ end on this climax - His resurrection story! We want to share this resurrection story in three parts:
• Jesus has risen from the dead. His tomb is empty. (see John 20:1-10)
• Jesus reveals Himself to Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene is the very first person to see the resurrected Jesus. (See John 20:11-18).
• Jesus reveals Himself to His eleven disciples. (See John 20:19-22).
The story of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is one of the greatest stories in the entire Bible. We must place this story in its proper context of the Holy Week (The Octavia). It is a story of moving from the deepest sorrow and shame into joy and hope.
This indeed is, first and foremost, the story of our Lord Jesus moving from the greatest humiliation, pain and broken body into a glorious resurrection body and the highest glory.
When we read the story in the Bible, we must pause and reflect on the fact that it is supremely the story of Jesus Christ moving from sorrow and shame to gladness and glory. And then it is the story of the women and men who were His closest followers. It is very much the story of Jesus’ mother moving from broken-heartedness, great shame and disappointment, to the amazing joy that nobody can measure!
Please come with me to Holy Thursday, where Jesus is having the last supper with His disciples and reveals the terrible betrayal, disloyalty and greed, in its ugliest form, to hit him from one who has dipped his hands into the same bowl (like a bowl of ‘fufu’ and soup) with him!
Come with me to Gethsemane, where the Lord Jesus was overwhelmed with the terror, pain and shame awaiting Him. His intense prayer sweats were like drops of blood. Scary! But in the supreme level of prayer, He re-ordered His will to agree with the will of the Father.
There must be a perfect sacrifice for sin on the cross. And in Gethsemane, initially, Jesus had painfully shrunk from embracing the absolute shame, humiliation and pain of the cross.
Come with me to Golgotha. In those days, death by crucifixion was probably the cruelest and most bitter way of putting criminals to death. And the crucifixion of Jesus was not only cruel, but unjust. He was innocent of any crime. It was also a great shame, disgrace and humiliation. He was lifted on the cross and crucified, “taflatse”, naked. Jesus died for us naked on the cross - but for public protocol, we cover Him in the pictures of the crucifixion!
In John 19:25 we read: “Standing with Jesus at the foot of the cross were Jesus’ mother, His mother's sister; Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdalene”. The grief and pain and shame for them were deepest!
It is important to note that the women mentioned in the Resurrection Day story were the same women who stood at the foot of the cross and saw Jesus die. Glory to God! – On Resurrection Sunday, the deepest, heartbroken, compassionate and caring women would be the first to see the Resurrected Jesus - the Living Jesus!! What a move from the deepest sorrow to the greatest joy and hope!
Here is the core of the Easter story. Jesus’ love for humanity (for you and me) sent Him to the cross and kept Him on the cross till He, the Lamb of God, finished the perfect sacrifice for sin, with His blood.
Jesus died for the forgiveness of our sins. He was raised from the dead to bring us back into the right relationship with God. (See Romans 4:25).
Indeed, the Hymn writer says, “Love so amazing so Divine - demands my soul, my life, my all!” Is that your response too? Jesus’ story from shame and sorrow on the cross to triumphing over death and receiving great glory is awesome: “He gave up his divine privileges. He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on the cross. Therefore, God elevated
Him to the place of highest honour and gave Him the name above all other names, that in the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:7-11 NLT).
(The author is a consultant in authentic Christian Spirituality and Discipleship and former CEO of Scripture Union)