The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples…” So the women hurried away from the tomb… Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.
Matthew 28:5-7a, 8-9
News of death is a two-stage process. Perhaps some of the closest family members are present as their loved one is passing. They are filled with immediate grief as the reality sets in. They know that their loved one is gone, but they feel compelled to share their first-hand knowledge—this sad news—with as many as possible, and as quickly as possible. They make phone calls, send text messages, even post to Facebook.
But for everyone not present, there is the first stage of hearing the sad news, and probably believing it. Then the second stage of traveling to the funeral, experiencing and processing the loss—knowing it personally. The second stage is required, so that the second-hand experience becomes first-hand.
But this Easter story is not about news of death; this is news of life! And it’s a parallel two-stage process…
The women coming to the tomb Easter Sunday morning receive very clear news of Jesus’ resurrection from the angels. Along with it, there is the evidence of the empty tomb. The stone is rolled away. The guards lying on the ground, apparently immobile. Something has happened… but can he really be alive? They get death. We all get death; we’ve all encountered it, been touched by it in some way. It feels inevitable. Life, then death—in that order.
But this…! Death, then life? How can this be?
A second stage is necessary. Leaving the tomb, the women suddenly meet Jesus, and what they knew, what they kind of believed, is now verified. It’s completely real. Absolutely true. In this second stage, a personal encounter with the living One, there is no longer room for doubt or questioning. They know. They believe. It’s overwhelming. They rejoice, and they worship him.
For us today, there’s this first stage of hearing the Good News: Jesus has died for your sins and risen to life again. You hope it’s true, you want to believe it. And then there’s the second stage, the personal faith encounter with Jesus Christ. Yes, it’s true! It’s no longer just a story; it’s a person who knows you and loves you. It’s a new relationship, that gives you life.
Rev. Brent Juliot is Contributing Editor to Faith & Fellowship magazine, and serves as Pastor of Living Hope Church in Menomonie, Wisconsin.