The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying” (Matthew 28:5-6).
He is risen!
Today is one of my favorite days of the year: Resurrection Sunday. Whenever I am telling the Gospel story, the part that this day celebrates is the part I am most excited to tell. Jesus did not just die. He rose from the dead to live again. It’s the part of the story where the bad guy – Satan – stands at the top of the mountain, screaming “Victory!” while the people mourn their Savior, dead and buried in a tomb. And then, suddenly, with the quaking of the ground, as the stone rolls away, heads turn to the grave in which the Savior has been sealed. And he’s not there. He’s alive. Satan stares in shock and screams a la Luke discovering Vader is his dad, “No, that’s impossible! He was killed! I won!” But that’s the best part. Satan did not win.
Jesus is alive.
Death has no sting, the grave has no victory, and Satan has not come out on top. Victory.
When the angel speaks to Mary Magdelene and “the other Mary,” he knows who they are looking for. But why are they looking where he was buried? Jesus is risen! Just as he said.
From the very beginning, when Jesus began to prophesy about his death, he never stopped with his death. He told the disciples he would not stay dead.
“Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19).
“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).
“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.’ But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s'” (Matthew 16:21-23).
Jesus promised from the very beginning that he was bigger than death, that he could defeat it. And in his death and resurrection, he would bring about salvation for all the believing ones. But the disciples and Jesus’s followers, in their despair, neglected to bring to mind the promise that Jesus made to them: he would rise again.
The irony here is that Jesus’s accusers – the Pharisees – did not forget what he had said. “Now on the next day, the day after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, and said, “Sir, we remember that when He was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I am to rise again.’” Therefore, give orders for the grave to be made secure until the third day, otherwise His disciples may come and steal Him away and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.” Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.” And they went and made the grave secure, and along with the guard they set a seal on the stone” (Matthew 27:62-66).
We may look at the disciples and shake our heads, wondering how they could forget such an important promise! They were in despair, they did not remember that Jesus was never going to stay dead. And Thomas, he was the most skeptical of all! He refused to believe the resurrection had occurred until he had seen the risen Jesus and touched his wounds. But are we not just like the disciples?
How many times have we been in despair, wondering where God has gone in the midst of our trials? How many times have we neglected to recall his promise to never leave us nor forsake us? How many times do we forget our soul’s security in his arms, no matter what the world may do to us?
Story after story in Scripture points us to a God that always keeps his promises. He has never once failed his children. On the day that he was crucified, he had not failed us. But in our pain, sometimes we forget that our God is a God of promises kept, never failing, never forsaking his children. We are just like the disciples – crying out, wondering where God has gone, and forgetting his steadfast, ever-sure promises. Promises to be with us in every moment – whether it be painful or joyful. Promises that he knows, he is with us, he has not abandoned us, and he will surely bring us through. God always wins, always has the victory, and has never once failed us.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ – that momentous occasion that we celebrate today – is the most glorious representation of promises kept. Jesus said that death could not hold him, and he was right. He said he would be raised up on the third day, and it happened.
Just as he said.
The keeping of this promise means salvation has been brought about to all the believing ones. And that is what we celebrate today. Promises made, promises kept, and the wonderful, beautiful Gospel of Jesus Christ, bringing salvation to all who believe. The greatest promise of all: the gift of restoration with God and eternal life with him.
He is risen, indeed.