To understand the tremendous upheaval that the death of Christ caused in the lives of the disciples we must remember for a moment the days that led up to the crucifixion.
For three years they had left their homes, families and vocations to follow Jesus Christ. He had now become their Rabbi, friend and sometimes even Lord. They had watched him die on a Roman cross after a false trial and extreme torture. It had been a dreadful experience. They were filled with grief, overwhelmed with sorrow, disappointed, gripped by fear, doubting and full of frustration.
On what we now call Easter morning we read these words in Matthew 28:8-9:
8 The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. 9 And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Matthew 28:8-9 NLT
The words I would like to focus on today are simply these three words: Jesus met them.
Following His death and resurrection Jesus went intentionally to find certain people that had certain needs. He has always been in the business of seeking those that have needs. Today we are going to look at five encounters Jesus had with people in need.
Mary Magdalene: Overwhelmed with grief she was given restoration
This conversation took place three days after his death.
Who was this Mary Magdalene? This is a woman that Jesus encountered
early in His ministry and the Bible says he cast seven demons out of her
when He first met her. She was a wreck and a mess. Her life was in
ruins when she met Jesus and He healed her in a way that would change
her life forever.
Now the one who gave her life and hope and a purpose is dead and she is grieving. Even three days later we find her going to the cemetery. She is weeping and can’t stop.
11 Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, and as she wept, she stooped and looked in. 12 She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying. 13 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” the angels asked her.
“Because they have taken away my Lord,” she replied, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” She turned to leave and saw someone standing there. It was Jesus, but she didn’t recognize him. 15 “Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who are you looking for?” She thought he was the gardener. “Sir,” she said, “if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get him.”
“Mary!” Jesus said. She turned to him and cried out, “Rabboni!” (which is Hebrew for “Teacher”).
17 “Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”
18 Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message. John 20:11-18 NLT
Mary felt as though her life were over. Jesus was more than just a pastor or rabbi. He was the One that had given her life back. He had made her life worth living. Jesus was her life and now she had watched him die. Her world was crumbling all around her but Jesus met her there in the garden on the day of His resurrection.
He gave her a restoration of faith.
He gave her a restoration of hope.
He gave her a restoration of love.
He gave her a restoration of sight.
When you encounter Jesus your life will completely change. He will help you overcome your grief.
Two Disciples: Sad and disappointed they were offered rejuvenation
13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles[ HYPERLINK "http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke 24&version=NLT" \l "fen-NLT-25970c" \o "See footnote c" c] from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
19 “What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them.
These two followers of Christ were really discouraged. They were men of faith but right now they were disheartened and disappointed. They were confused as to what to do next.
But then Jesus walked their road with them. He went home with them.
30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. Luke 24:15-21 NLT
Jesus brought rejuvenation back to their lives.
Jesus rejuvenated the fire that had burned within them as followers but that had nearly gone out.
He rejuvenated their confidence.
He rejuvenated their physical strength. (they turned right around and walked seven miles back to Jerusalem so that they could tell others about their encounter.)
Sometimes our faith can weaken and we need to take a walk with Jesus. We need to spend some quality time with Him. Sometimes the most sorrowful times of our lives produce the best in us. We spend our lives trying so hard to find enjoyment in pleasure and perfect living but God often speaks the loudest to us in our pain and sorrow.
Robert Browning understood this concept.
"I walked a mile with Pleasure;
She chatted all the way;
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow;
And ne’er a word said she;
But, oh! The things I learned from her,
When Sorrow walked with me."
Are you disappointed in something or someone? Allow Jesus Christ to walk with you and rejuvenate your life and faith.
The Original Disciples: Gripped by fear they were given revelation
19 That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. 20 As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! 21 Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” 22 Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven. If you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” John 20:19-20 NLT
They saw Jesus!
These guys had made the biggest commitment to Jesus Christ. They had forsaken everything and followed Him for three years. They gave up their businesses and jobs. They left their families. They were all in and now He had gone and died. They were reeling. They were trying to figure out what to do next. They were fearful that they might be hunted down and arrested and killed in similar manner.
Then they saw Jesus!
He gave them peace instead of fear.
He gave them joy instead of fear.
He gave them a job to do and the Holy Spirit to help them accomplish it.
In the 1800’s Edwin Hatch penned the words of this hymn.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, fill me with life anew,
that I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, until my heart is pure,
until with thee I will one will, to do and to endure.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, till I am wholly thine,
till all this earthly part of me glows with thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, Breath of God, so shall I never die,
but live with thee the perfect life of thine eternity.
Having a revelation of Jesus will take away your fear. Get close enough to Him to feel His breath of life.
Thomas: Needed some evidence and was given recognition
24 One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin) was not with the others when Jesus came. 25 They told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he replied, “I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side.”
26 Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
28 “My Lord and my God!” Thomas exclaimed. 29 Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” John 20:21-29 NLT
There will be moments in this life when you just need to know that you know. Thomas is the poster child for a “glass half empty” kind of personality. All through the gospels He assumed this kind of attitude. Now he wasn’t going to believe some ridiculous reports of Jesus being alive without seeing Him. (and touching Him) :
Sometimes you just need to know. Paul wrote to a young pastor named Timothy these words:
“12For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. 2 Timothy 1:12 KJV
Daniel W. Whittle read that scripture and gave the gift of this song:
I know not why God’s wondrous grace
To me He hath made known,
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own.
I know not how this saving faith
To me He did impart,
Nor how believing in His Word
Wrought peace within my heart.
I know not when my Lord may come,
At night or noonday fair,
Nor if I walk the vale with Him,
Or meet Him in the air.
But “I know Whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that He is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto Him against that day.”
The apostle Paul didn’t have a perfect life but he wrote these words of devotion:
“What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us. . .
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39
Feelings come and feelings go
And feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God,
Naught else is worth believing. Attributed to Martin Luther, quoted in The Adversary, Mark Bubeck, Moody Press, p. 13.
Peter: Backslidden and filled with shame was given redemption
1 Later, Jesus appeared again to the disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. This is how it happened. 2 Several of the disciples were there—Simon Peter, Thomas (nicknamed the Twin), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples.
3 Simon Peter said, “I’m going fishing.” “We’ll come, too,” they all said. So they went out in the boat, but they caught nothing all night. 4 At dawn Jesus was standing on the beach, but the disciples couldn’t see who he was. 5 He called out, “Fellows, have you caught any fish?” “No,” they replied.
6 Then he said, “Throw out your net on the right-hand side of the boat, and you’ll get some!” So they did, and they couldn’t haul in the net because there were so many fish in it.
7 Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. 8 The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yard from shore. 9 When they got there, they found breakfast waiting for them—fish cooking over a charcoal fire, and some bread.
10 “Bring some of the fish you’ve just caught,” Jesus said. 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.
12 “Now come and have some breakfast!” Jesus said. None of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Then Jesus served them the bread and the fish. 14 This was the third time Jesus had appeared to his disciples since he had been raised from the dead.
15 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” John 21:1-15 NLT
Peter was lost. He hadn’t just forsaken and run away when Jesus was arrested. He first of all had made bold claims about how he wouldn’t deny that he knew Jesus. He had risen up in the heat of the moment and attacked one of the crowd with a sword but in the long run he had forsaken Jesus. He had run the other way. He had turned and gone away. He had given up his faith. He went back to his old job of fishing.
Do you know how much would have been lost if Peter would not have accepted the redemption offered by Jesus on this day? Peter turned out to be one of the greatest leaders of Christianity.
It was Peter that preached on the day of Pentecost with great power and 3000 were converted on that day.
It was Peter that spoke to a man in the temple begging for money.
“I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk! ”7 Then Peter took the lame man by the right hand and helped him up. And as he did, the man’s feet and ankles were instantly healed and strengthened. 8 He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk! Then, walking, leaping, and praising God, he went into the Temple with them.
It was Peter that years later would write these words, “12 Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. 13 Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.
14 So be happy when you are insulted for being a Christian,[ HYPERLINK "http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1 Peter 4&version=NLT" \l "fen-NLT-30420e" \o "See footnote e" e] for then the glorious Spirit of God[ HYPERLINK "http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1 Peter 4&version=NLT" \l "fen-NLT-30420f" \o "See footnote f" f] rests upon you.[ HYPERLINK "http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1 Peter 4&version=NLT" \l "fen-NLT-30420g" \o "See footnote g" g] 15 If you suffer, however, it must not be for murder, stealing, making trouble, or prying into other people’s affairs. 16 But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise God for the privilege of being called by his name! 1 Peter 4:14-16 NLT
What is it that you are wrestling with today?
Do you need:
So can you imagine for a moment that you are Mary in the cemetery or one of the disciples on the road or hiding behind locked doors? Can you imagine that you are a man or woman like Thomas and you really need some evidence?
Or maybe just maybe you can imagine yourself standing on the sea shore dripping wet and filled with shame because you know that Jesus knows about your unfaithfulness.
More importantly can you imagine that you stand today in front of a newly resurrected Lord. He is asking you the question, Do you love Me?
What is your answer? What’s that? You can’t afford to pay for your doubt or sins? You can’t overcome the obstacle that is in front of you?
Jesus overcame it all so that we might be forgiven and overcomers.
Would you pray with me?