YOU GO FIRST
I have a wonderful big sister. Growing up, I always relied on her; probably a lot more than she even knew. I was shy and quiet- she was brave and outgoing. I was unsure and wary- she was confident and independent. Of course, at some point I grew up to find my own tenacity and I look back and laugh at how often I waited to see her do something before I was willing to do it myself. As children we’re often uncertain to take a step- apprehensive to speak up. A parent tells us to say “hello” to an unfamiliar face, but we cling to their leg until we know the stranger can be trusted. A friend jumps into the pool, but we’re only willing to do the same after they surface with a smile. A classmate steps out to star in the play and we’re only drawn forward when applause meets our ears.
Circumstances change as we grow older, but the desire to “wait and see” can certainly follow us into adulthood. Consider all the instances that would earn our enthusiasm if we could just be assured of the outcome. When we mature, we learn to create “contingencies." Stepping blindly into anything makes us feel irresponsible and when we do reach uncharted waters (and can’t get around them), we return to our most basic instincts...“wait and see.” We’d rather someone else go first if it can be helped. We want incentive; evidence of success or a likely reward. “Is this going to be worth it?” we ask ourselves. “What are the risks? I’ll wait to see how he/she fairs” The unknown is a powerful catalyst for inactivity. If someone else leads off then we don’t have to risk danger or disappointment. What can possibly make a difference? What can lend to our confidence? The answer is hope. Our souls yearn for it. Hope offers promise, even in the face of the most dire situation and there is none greater than that which is found in the empty tomb of our risen Savior.
Stop and consider the impact of the Easter story. This pinnacle of the Christian faith has implications for each of us and the narrative includes everyone. How? Well, what was done TO Christ was done by all, and what was done BY Christ was done for all. Does the resurrection fill a date on your calendar or do you wholeheartedly rely upon it? It’s not a tale for the optimist or a Sunday School story for children. Do you see Jesus, the man, the prophet, the Christ; fully God? Carpenter, conqueror, king, wrongfully accused- led to suffer- ridiculed, betrayed and forsaken- hung with criminals as a spectacle. Consider the innocent man and spotless Lamb who went first, so we didn't have to. Not only to bear the weight of a death we deserved, but also to reveal the new life offer of redemption from the sting of death itself. Jesus Christ brought hope. There’s nothing left to “wait and see.” The empty tomb marks His unmatched leadership and because of it we can faithfully follow Him through anything.
Christ’s resurrection celebrates His administration and authority. May it awaken you from spiritual slumber. May it roll open the door to every cold and stoney heart. The marvel of Easter is no “spring fling” to be tucked behind cheap milk chocolate, colorful eggs and terrifying shopping mall bunnies. Even churchgoers can miss the mark. We wear our brightest colors for the family photos; sing familiar hymns and cheerfully respond when the Pastor prompts us to say, “He has risen indeed.” When when the sermon calls our attention to the empty tomb, we clap like we’re watching a golfer sink his final putt. Deep down, many of us are thinking about how much time we have to get the meal ready before family arrives. Slow down! Witness the complete truth of Christ, King of Kings who walked the very dirt beneath your feet. He made promises that no heart could fully understand and kept promises that no soul could live without. Heaven's power became yours when the risen Christ flexed His might, moved the stone and robbed the grave of its prize. The empty tomb is a marker, but more importantly, a crushing blow to the devil and the message in it is even greater than the miracle itself. Christ is leadership.
“So we speak because we know that God raised the Lord Jesus to life. And just as God raised Jesus, he will also raise us to life. Then he will bring us into his presence together with you. All of this has been done for you, so that more and more people will know how kind God is and will praise and honor him.” 2 Corinthians 4: 13-15
Jesus leads in power. “After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men. 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.” Matthew 28: 1-6
Couldn’t He have walked out quietly? Perhaps just “poofed” through the walls? Did the Son of God need all the theatrics? Why set the scene this way? To remind us of the unstoppable power of the Savior. He may have died an earthly death, but rose with a ferocity that drew every eye to His fullness as God. He rejected the enemy with an ineffable display of might, triumphant to live forever.
Jesus leads with proof “Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.” John 20: 11-18
The Lord was dead and now He’s alive? I don’t know about you, but I would be the first to say, “show me!” The crowds had left. The disciples were scattered. Only mourners remained at the tomb of what now appeared to be another dead prophet. Can you blame Mary for her doubt or confusion? Disappointed (feeling abandoned). How often we forget that the Lord does proves Himself! He doesn’t have to, but He chooses to reveal Himself through His love. He always shows up for His people; according to His will.
Jesus leads with peace “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” John 20: 19-22
It was a war of spiritual realms, before the cross and beyond the burial. Christ had crushed the power of the enemy, but He knew the devil wouldn’t lay down forever. How would Jesus instruct His army? How could future battles “fought” become battles won? With peace. Sewn into His ministry- sewn into His ministers. Why? Christ could’ve burst from the grave as warlord; bringing with Himself perfect judgement. Instead, He chose to combat a destructive enemy with peace. Through the Holy Spirit, that same peace moves through us today.
Jesus leads with permission “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10: 19-23
“Blessed assurance” is yours and mine, permission granted to those who have put their faith in the Son of God. We approach the throne with confidence, passionate and unwavering. His blood tore the veil, opening to us the way of the Most Holy. He welcomes us in, walking us to the altar with a clear conscience and a clean slate; washed (as the scriptures say) to purity. The route has been paved as Jesus waves us in, saying, “come, my Father is this way and He wants to see you!”
Jesus leads as pioneer “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6: 3-11
Plainly… simply… Christ went first because He had to, making evident a path that was formerly unavailable. Can even a good man save his soul? Can a dead man rise again? Can a holy man unite their spirit with the Father? No. Christ died, “once for all.” Shoes that we could never fill. Because He will never die again and neither will we. “I’ll go first,” His love exclaims. “I'll kill sin so you don't have to try.” Dead to sin and alive to God.
Jesus leads to a promise “For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15: 52-56
“Without Easter Sunday, Good Friday would just be one more tragic death, one more tragic execution of one more poor Jewish man crushed by the Roman Empire. Easter Sunday is the vindication of what happened on Good Friday- the atoning death of the Son of God for the whole world.” -Brant Pitre- Notre Dame Seminary
The empty tomb is the finality of Christ’s power and peace, the proof, promise and permission. He is our pioneer.