The General’s Easter Message – Jesus Came

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General John Larsson

Jesus came! It was evening of the first Easter Sunday. And the impossible was happening before the eyes of the disciples. Some of them had been at Calvary on Friday and they had seen him die—seen him, with those very same eyes, die on the Cross. Jesus was dead. The story was ended and, with it, all their hopes and dreams.

But Jesus came! Could the disciples really believe what they were seeing? They had met together to draw strength from each other. They were sad, demoralized—and afraid. They were so fearful that they had locked the doors. They were afraid of the authorities who had crucified their master. Perhaps the persecution was to be extended to his followers.

It is true that word had been spreading through the day that Mary had met Jesus that morning. “I have seen the Lord,” she kept saying. But could she be right? It did not add up. How could she have seen a dead person? And yet a grain of hope had been implanted. Could it after all be true that Jesus had risen from the dead?
Then Jesus came! No locked door could keep him out. Suddenly he was there. The story of his first appearance to his disciples and their reaction is told in graphic detail in John 20:19-21. They were utterly amazed. The Jesus who had been dead was alive again and there he was, standing among them.

Had he come to upbraid them? Every disciple present must have wondered—and feared the worst. They were all feeling guilty. When it had come to the crunch they had all deserted their master. They had run away, and left him to die. They had let him down—badly. And now, here he was. Perhaps the followers of Jesus were not only afraid of the authorities. Perhaps they were afraid of their master. They knew that they deserved words of rebuke.

But when Jesus came his first words were words of reassurance. “Peace be with you!” he said. Never have the words of that traditional greeting sounded more like music to any hearers. He showed them the imprints of the nails in his hands and the wound in his side where he had been speared. And then he again spoke those same words of comfort to them: “Peace be with you!”

The disciples were overjoyed when they saw—and heard—the Lord. They were not just joyful. They were overjoyed! As one translator puts it: “Their joy knew no bounds when they saw the Lord.” He was alive! Mary had been right—she had seen the Lord that morning. Jesus had risen from the dead! And he had come not to condemn, but to reassure. No wonder that the disciples could not contain their excitement and joy.

That scene is enacted wherever and whenever Jesus comes. And that is good news for us. Fear can make us put up the shutters and lock the doors of the house of our personality. Fear of not being accepted by God as we are—faults and all. Fear of not being able to cope with life’s demands. Fear of not being enough to meet expectations. We feel that we have let him down. And we are, therefore, fearful of an encounter with the divine—and brace ourselves for the worst. But we need not fear. For when Jesus comes it is always to reassure and to encourage! “Peace be with you!” he says. And when he comes to us, we too can be overjoyed!

When Jesus came on that Sunday evening, he came not only to encourage, he came to challenge. He came to entrust his disciples with a mission. He had spent three years preparing them for the time when he would no longer be with them. The outworking of God’s plan for the salvation of the world depended on that group of followers. And here they were, huddled together in a room with the doors barred and the windows shuttered. That is not where they were meant to be and in their hearts they knew it.

With that note of authority in his voice that they had learned to recognize, Jesus said: “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” As the Father had sent him from Heaven to earth, he was now sending them to continue the great task. They were to go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. On the Cross God in Christ had reconciled the world unto himself, and now the disciples were to be co-workers with him in that ministry of reconciliation. Jesus had come to challenge them to fulfill the task for which he had prepared them.

Whenever Jesus comes, he comes not only to reassure but to challenge. He comes to call his people to fulfill God’s intention for them. Every disciple of the Lord has been entrusted with some part to play in the outworking of God’s plan for the salvation of the world. Every Christian is called to help to make this world a better place. God knows the potential within everyone—he planted it there. And if Jesus sees us hiding behind locked doors, he challenges us. “Don’t be afraid,” he says. “Get out of the room of your fears. Just as the Father sent me, so I am sending you. Go and be a partner with God in the most wonderful ministry of all—the ministry of reconciliation.”

The challenge Jesus gave to his disciples could have left them more frightened than ever. Who were they to go out from that room and set out on the mission of proclaiming the good news to all the world? But when Jesus came he also gave them the power that they needed to accomplish the mission that was to be theirs. In a foreshadowing of the later day of Pentecost, “He breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’.”

When Jesus comes, he always comes to empower. Jesus does not send us out from the locked rooms where we are hiding without giving us the grace that will enable us to face up to the challenges ahead—whatever they might be.

Paul once exclaimed: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” (Philippians 3:10). When Jesus comes that is exactly what happens. Through the Spirit we experience in our own lives the power of his resurrection. This is the power that brings new life, that releases potential, that equips us for all that God has planned for our lives. And in that power of his resurrection we step out of the room of our fears to abundant living—and to a life of adventure in his service.

The risen Jesus still comes. He comes to reassure and challenge and empower! That is the good news of Easter. And we too can experience the joy that knows no bounds.

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