If Christians had “holy days,” Good Friday to Easter Sunday would mark out the hallmark of faith. With the cross and death of Jesus, by believing, we are redeemed. By the empty tomb and the risen Jesus, our faith is confirmed, the victory and sting of death is defeated, and Jesus’ redemptive work is complete.
It is amazing to see that, for even those [men] who were disciples and followers of Jesus, they didn’t get it, until the very end. Such is the message of Easter.
1. Complete Desertion of Disciples, Despite Promises Otherwise – Temporarily. It is staggering to see the wholesale abandonment of Jesus by his disciples in this last week of his life. Matt 26:56. Then all the disciples deserted him. Yet after the death and resurrection of Christ, with Christ appearing to the disciples, they began to return to Him as followers of the Way. Matt 28:17. When they saw him, they worshipped him but some doubted. The lesson, of course, is for all of us. Jesus meets us at the level of our doubts and gives us the ability to continue in the faith.
James 1:55If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
2. Peter’s Denials Despite Promises Otherwise – Before his Recovery. Jesus predicted during this week that Peter would deny him three times, which he did, Matt 26:69-74. This despite Peter’s affirmation otherwise. Matthew 26:35. 35 But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same. But Peter also recovered, in his famous exhortation in Acts 2:36. “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.
3. Denials at the Cross, Until Turning to Faith. One of the most amazing turn arounds from fear and hatred to faith happened on Golgotha. The two thieves, being crucified with him, are recorded as Matt 27:44. In the same way the rebels who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him. Yet shortly thereafter:
Luke 23:40-43 40But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.”42Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
Do you see it? Even in the last week of Jesus’ life, those both closest to him, and strangers alike, turned from fear to faith, from those condemned to death to the promise of eternal life with Jesus.
What is the point? There is no failure or fear in life that removes you from the grace and forgiveness of God in Jesus. We are met at the very point of our struggle and led with love and grace to a new or greater walk of faith. And Easter is the hallmark of that message. It was this message – the death and resurrection of Jesus – that was the foundation of the first century church, of all of us who have since heard and believed, and are now counted among the followers of Jesus. This is truly the holy message of God to the world.
– John Moore