Unbearable grief, unspeakable joy

By Don Locke guest columnist*

April 2011 – Christians appropriately think of Easter as a time of joy and celebration. However, the first Easter morning did not begin that way. In Matthew 28, we see two grief-stricken women coming to Jesus’ tomb in the early morning. The last three days had been a nightmare for them. The One they loved so much, the One who had given them hope, whom they knew to be the very Son of God – dead?

To get a sense of their feelings, try to remember for a moment how you felt when someone very close to you died – the shock, the disbelief and the reality of death. Remember how the grief and loneliness set in as you began to try to cope with the situation. This is how these women were feeling as they came to the tomb that morning.

In the early dawn there was a slight chill in the air, the birds were singing. It was a beautiful day, a great day to be alive – except for the grief that weighed heavily on their shoulders. Suddenly their grief was turned to joy as the angel spoke to them (vv. 5-8). Imagine how thrilled they must have been when they were told, “He is risen!” They looked into the tomb and, instead of finding Jesus’ body, they saw only His grave clothes.

“And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy” (v. 8). The pendulum swung from grief to great joy. But there was more yet to come: Now they had the evidence of the empty tomb, but they saw Jesus with their own eyes, touched Him with their own hands and worshiped Him. In a matter of moments they went from almost unbearable grief to unspeakable joy.

What does this mean to us today? Because Christ rose from the dead, if you have received Him as Savior, you are a child of God. Scripture assures us that 

“to all who did receive Him, who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, ESV).

In the resurrection Jesus defeated death, not only for Himself, but for any child of God. John 14:19 assures us, “After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also.”

Because of that, the day of your death is not the end of life, but the door to eternal life – a great day of homecoming. Because of the resurrection, the child of God can face even death itself with the assurance of God’s care and with the assurance that he will experience indescribable joy in the presence of our Savior for all of eternity.

This provides great comfort not only as we contemplate our own death, but also when a close friend or family member dies and we know they had trusted Jesus as Savior. Oh yes, we will grieve, but not like those who have no hope because we know that they have gone home. Not only that, but we know that we will see them again when we go home.

Paul writes about the end of the world and the resurrection of the dead which is made possible by the resurrection of Jesus – what a glorious day that will be for those who have trusted Christ. Read about it in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.

He is risen, and we shall rise!  undefined

*Don Locke is community relations coordinator of American Family Radio and pastor of Houston (Mississippi) Presbyterian Church (PCA).