(61) Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! – Luke 24:5-6

Jesus was crucified on the day before the Sabbath and the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to ensure that those being crucified were removed from their crosses before it began. He sent his soldiers to break their legs which hastened death as they could no longer push themselves up to breathe. The two criminals who were crucified with Jesus suffered this fate but the soldiers saw that Jesus was already dead and pierced his side with a spear just to be sure.

Joseph of Arimathea, one of the religious leaders who had secretly followed Jesus, went to the Roman Governor, Pilate, and asked him if he could take Jesus’ body away for burial and Pilate granted his request. Joseph took the body and hastily placed it in his own tomb as the Sabbath was starting.

The chief priests and Pharisees knew that Jesus had claimed that he would rise from the dead so they posted a guard of soldiers to prevent Jesus’ disciples from removing the body and claiming that he was alive. But although they were worried about Jesus rising from the dead it seems that this was not on the minds of his closest followers.

Two of the women who had followed Jesus, Mary Magdalene and another Mary, wanted to pay their respects to Jesus by preparing the body for burial properly. No work was done on the Sabbath so it wasn’t until the dawn of Sunday that they went to the tomb with the spices they had prepared. When they arrived they were puzzled because, “They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus” (Luke 24:2-3). Then two angels appeared to them to ask, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:5-6). Still baffled they went to the disciples to tell them what had happened.

Mary Magdalene returned to the tomb weeping and encountered a man she thought must be the gardener. When he asked her why she was weeping she asked him if he knew where the body had been taken. It was only when he said her name that she recognised that it was Jesus. Later it took the disciples some time to recognise him too, although once they did, they were completely convinced as to who he was.

Jesus had a one to one meeting with Peter, although we know nothing about what was said. Peter had boldly sworn that he would never abandon or deny knowing Jesus but when questioned by onlookers during Jesus’ trial he denied ever knowing him. As Jesus left the trial Luke records that “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter” (Luke 22:61) and the knowledge of what he had done left Peter devastated. With Jesus dead he felt that he had no opportunity to ever make it right. Now Jesus had risen from the dead he had to face him again. Their meeting must have been an emotional encounter but we know that Jesus forgave him and Peter played a leading role in the early church.

Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples, but on the first occasion Thomas was absent and he refused to believe the others until he saw the marks of the nails and the spear mark in his side. When Jesus reappeared he told him to put his finger in the marks but Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Doubting Thomas believed.

Luke records Jesus’ meeting with Cleopas and his companion, a couple who are not mentioned elsewhere in the gospels. They were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus, a journey of about seven miles, when they were joined by a man they didn’t recognise. They told him all about the events of the previous few days and the man responded by explaining from the Old Testament how the Messiah had to suffer. They invited him to stay with them but it was only when they sat down to eat together that “their eyes were opened and they recognised him” (Luke 24:31). Rushing back to Jerusalem they found the disciples who confirmed, “It is true! The Lord has risen” (Luke 24:34).

Jesus’ death made it possible for us to be right with God, but his resurrection makes it possible for us to have a living relationship with him as well as giving us assurance of life beyond death.

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