"We've got the family covered if you croak, Dad," one of my sons told me a few days ago, flashing his phone calculator in my face, showing what he and his brother could earn every month if they quit school and went to work full time. Nothing quite so comforting as knowing that I could die and the family would be just fine.
I think it was his response to a grieving friend and his personal awareness of mortality. I well remember my own fear of death as a boy staying with a great-grandmother—a fear that she might not wake up from her afternoon nap--and throughout childhood, that closer fear that dad or mom could die and I'd be bereft of the love and security that was the center of my universe.
During the three terrible days following Jesus' crucifixion, the disciples could see only that the cross was the hideous weapon of Satan. From their vantage point in their darkness and grief, they assumed that evil had triumphed, that death had won the day. They could not hear that Jesus' cry, "It is finished," was the first note in an anthem of triumph. For all the world it sounded like the final note in a dirge of defeat.
Jonathan Edwards observes, "Christ came into the world to destroy the works of the devil. And this was the very thing that did it, viz [namely], the blood and death of Christ. The cross was the devil's own weapon; and with this weapon he was overthrown, as David cut off Goliath's head with his own sword."
Satan rushed at Jesus with the cross as Jesus Himself reached out to take it, so that with it He might deliver the death blow to the enemy.
But in those three dark days, the disciples didn't understand. Unlike my son, they knew that they couldn't go on, they couldn't support the newly-fledged family of God if Jesus was dead.
So they mourned Jesus, but more (and as is so often the case with death) they mourned for themselves. As two of them told the unknown Jesus on the road to Emmaus, "...we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel" (Luke 24:21). The death of Jesus killed their hopes. No Redeemer meant no redemption. They couldn't do this thing on their own.
So they waited—waited without knowing what they were waiting for. They were immobilized by grief, captive to their own shame, and blinded by their ignorance. They waited without having anything worth waiting for. They just waited.
Then came Sunday morning. It was early, and some of their women arrived to care for Jesus' body with spices they had prepared. The massive stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb was mysteriously rolled back and when they looked inside, there was no mangled, bloodied body. Instead, two men in dazzling apparel stood and asked, "Why do you seek the living among the dead?"
The womens' minds must have whirled as the angels announced Jesus resurrection: "He is not here, but has risen." The women told the other disciples, but to them it seemed like an "idle tale." These were just grief-stricken women with overtaxed minds and shattered emotions. They were seeing things.
It was no figment of imagination. Jesus "presented Himself alive after His suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). During the days following His resurrection, Jesus commanded his disciples to go and make more disciples of all nations. To say it another way, "Carry on." And then Jesus ascended to heaven.
Things were bad after Jesus died. He was gone and life seemed useless. After the ascension, the disciples experienced no such uncertainty. That's because Jesus said something else: "Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." You aren't going to do this thing alone. You aren't left to care for the family with your impossibly small resources. Wherever you go, as long as you go—I Myself will go with you.
Because Jesus is alive, we have hope. Because Jesus goes with us, we have confidence. We have the work of the kingdom to do, but we don't do it alone. The Lord who wrested victory from the grave--the Master who turned the enemy's weapon against him and with it crushed him--this God goes with us forever. We'll never have to support the family on our own.
"...He has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'" (Hebrews 13:5). Working together with such a King, our kingdom work cannot fail. It may mean a cross—and for many it has—but that which is meant for evil by our foe is designed by God for good. "In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." Nothing is "able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:37-39). He's got us covered.
© Copyright April 2017 by Robert G. Robbins