“He is not here…”

The words of the angel were astounding. I imagine that the women standing there at the breached tomb, mouths gaping, absolutely speechless, in utter shock. Indeed, Matthew couldn’t even describe how the angel departed from their presence, I suspect because none of them could recall. They were too busy processing the revolutionary message which it had just delivered: “He is not here! For He has been resurrected.”

It was probably several moments – minutes, even – before any of them were able to even move, and then, as though by some inescapable, irresistible force, they were drawn to the open entrance of the grave, where they peered into the gloom and confirmed that, indeed, Jesus was not there. Which was probably followed by several more minutes of trying in vain to connect all the dots and figure out what it all meant. And then, one by one, the facts all coalesced into an unprecedented revelation: the angel was right. Jesus was not there. He was once more alive.

As I contemplate the words of Matthew 28 leading up to verse 8, where I read, “So, departing quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, they ran to tell His disciples the news,” I find myself confronted with a crazy situation. These women had just experienced the two worst days of their lives: Jesus had been tried and convicted on trumped up charges and crucified. Now, though, they learned that despite all of that, He was once more alive. And suddenly, their emotions surged.

I can understand that they were afraid. Frankly, if I was in their shoes, I’m pretty sure I would have been like the soldiers who Matthew tells us “were so shaken from fear of [the angel] that they became like dead men.” Yes, that would have been me. I mean, the sight of an angel, in clothes gleaming brighter than lightning, descending like a lightning bolt, removing the stone, and flopping down on top of it triumphantly would have terrified me to the point that I would have needed a shower when I got back to the hotel room. So fear I get.

But joy? I’m not so sure about that one. I mean, let’s face it. Jesus still wasn’t there with them. They still weren’t rich. And there still were plenty of people out to get Christ-followers. They didn’t have big fancy houses, hot cars, or fortunes of any size to which they would return. Their situation was, other than an empty tomb, unchanged.

Except that it wasn’t.

Suddenly, they had what Jesus had called the good news: He had died on a cross as the penalty for our sins but then rose again to life so that they too could have eternal life.

He was not there in that tomb anymore. And simply put, that was the single greatest tidbit of information that anyone has ever received.

I shouldn’t need a big house or fancy clothes, or even a great car to have joy. I shouldn’t need an excellent job or a perfect family to have joy. The gospel in and of itself should be sufficient to fill me with great joy! All I have to do is, like these women did, latch onto the fact that the tomb is empty, everything that Jesus said is vindicated. He has the power to fulfill all His promises and the authority to issue all His commands.

So today, I need to work on making the simple gospel message the primary source of my joy. And I would suggest that, if you really want to be a joysful Vhircian, you need to too.

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