(Reading time: 3-4 minutes.)
We’ve been looking at the resurrection of Jesus over the past few weeks and it is now I time to put on our wide-angle lenses. Survey the big picture. Eve’s son would crush the serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15); God himself would provide a lamb for sacrifice (Genesis 22:7-18); the LORD would make his servant’s life a guilt offering (Isaiah 53:10). Remember the law Moses gave, and the festivals he instituted that pointed to Christ, especially Passover and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).
According to the Law of Moses, on the Day of Atonement (and only on the Day of Atonement) the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies carrying the blood of the one sacrifice to make atonement for the people. Before doing so, he would make atonement for himself, for to go into the Holiest Place with one’s sins unforgiven was to invite instant death.
The people would gather outside the tabernacle or temple and wait for the High Priest to emerge. When he did, they would rejoice, for it meant that God had accepted the sacrifice and their sins had been atoned. But if he did not come back from the Holy of Holies, then the offering had not been accepted and their sins had not been forgiven.
We talk so lightly of accepting Jesus (as if we possess a kind of veto power over him. It is not so. By rejecting him, we only manage to veto ourselves). But in the dim light of that early morning outside the rich man’s tomb the real question was not would people accept Jesus, but would God? As our High Priest, Jesus had entered the Holiest Place (Hebrews 9, especially verse 12). Would his offering be accepted, and our sins forgiven? Or would it be rejected, and all hope lost? The resurrection was God’s proclamation that Christ’s offering was accepted. The High Priest had returned from the Holy of Holies, and all was well. By the resurrection, God declared with power that Jesus was The One—that he was his very Son (Romans 1:1-4). No wonder Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised. . .you are still in our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17).
Now look at the rest of the angel’s message (verse 7): “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him. Now I have told you.” His message to them was, “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you.” What words of comfort those are! Ahead of you into Galilee – that was true. He would meet them there, just as he said. But he would go ahead of them from now on. Think of where these men went: to prisons, to exile, to beatings, to trial. Jesus went ahead of them and met them there. They would go to Rome, and he would go before them. They would stand before kings and emperors, and they would die ignominious deaths. He would go before them and meet them there.
And still the message to us is, “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you.” Wherever he leads you, he will go before you. If he leads you into marriage, he will go ahead of you and meet you there. If he leads you into a new city, he will go ahead of you and meet you there. If he leads you to a new job, to the mission field, to a ministry, he will go ahead of you and meet you there. You can count on it! And, if he calls you to follow him into death, then know this: he has gone ahead of you, and he will meet you there, Our Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. That is the confidence we have.
In a previous war, a British soldier was mortally wounded. A corpsman, seeing that he was going to die, and wanting to call a chaplain, asked him, “What is your religion?” The man answered, “I belong to the church of Jesus Christ.” Well, that didn’t tell the corpsman whether the man was a Catholic or a Protestant, so he asked again, “I mean what is your persuasion?” And this is what he whispered: “I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).
He has gone before us, through death and beyond. In his great love, he will meet us there!