W W W W World Wide Web Witness Inc. Home Page Contents Page for this Volume What is New
BEWILDERMENT, BEDAZZLEMENT, BEDEVILMENT
OR THE BEAUTY OF
THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST:
THE KEY TO THE AGE AND TO THE AGELESS
DEPARTED AS BODY ARRIVED
Two cases are clearly possible, though not mandatory as the actual sequence.
Firstly, perhaps the women halted, troubled, telling none, while Mary rushed off from their morass, and told Peter and John, the others, temporarily stricken with fear, not proceeding again until they went*1. WITH Mary to confirm with her, this tomb event. In this case, Mary, having seen the Lord, the other women would be fortified through her, and so proceed quickly to tell. This could have been the stimulus for action. The account of meeting Christ then may not have been told at first by Mary on arrival with these women, the latter not being at this stage direct witnesses of Christ (Luke 24:23). Thus, this would become their joint testimony, and even that seemed as idle tales (Luke 24:11). Possibly Mary may then have said more, without being credited, or taken seriously. We KNOW that when she DID speak, at whatever point that may have been, her testimony was not credited (Mark 16:11).
Her words about a personal meeting with Jesus Christ, indeed, IF she did add them at this time, may have been dismissed out of hand (cf. Rhoda's case as in Acts 12:13ff.): she at this point being the only one to have seen Him. Peter and John on first hearing about the tomb, raced off. The other women coming and going, met Jesus, as Mary had done earlier, and gave the message concerning meeting Christ at Galilee, thus fortified on that.
At home base, however, by this stage, an aura of uncertainty might have hung like a cloud on the combined feelings of fear and sadness among the rest. Like Thomas, they might have needed convincing by a personal, physical meeting with Christ, as happened that night for them (Luke 24:36ff.), more than from a testimony first of His being absent from the tomb, then of His having been met outside it. Sorrow can tend to blind imagination, and duress to numb the feelings.
In this state, it may have been for them, that the extent of the marvel blinded them to the fact of the testimony, selectively received and interpreted.
Secondly, perhaps the women did not reach the disciples, until they also had met Jesus, following Mary’s initial meeting, but only their testimony of the tomb, agreeing with that given first by Mary, was received. The idea of angels may have lodged firmly in the disciples’ minds, and even this being received as idle tales, their further testimony may have been merely a source of wonderment, incorporated with the idea of angels.
These things, whichever way they occurred, show the shock and surprise, the doubt and the trouble of mind in the disciples who had just witnessed the most horrendous thing, seeming to deliver their hopes to the death of the Cross, with Christ. It took nothing short of a direct meeting, with the most physical scope for eating and touching, to convince them. Thomas typified this. However, no one of His disciples doubted who had personally consorted with Him after His death, and Thomas was so overcome that He at once spoke of Christ as his Lord and His God (John 20).
Just as great as was the doubt, so was the certainty. Just as slow was the coming to believe, so was the confirmation into an overwhelming and fearless confidence. Just as much as it took to convince, so was the conviction immortal, robust, flaming into any situation like a bushfire. Now they could confront those who confronted, abort those who sought to abort, overturn the intransigence of the deadly priests by the life-enhanced certainties that death was itself no barrier, and its most evil sentence, a merely temporary thing (cf. Acts 4:19, 5:29ff.). In the latter case, we find that not only did they overturn the authority of the inquisitorially inclined priesthood, they TAUGHT them there and then, on trial before them, on the basis of their faith, and on the topic of their guilt in so treating the Lord.
This pattern did not change (cf. Acts 2-3), though it tended not to be recriminatory, but rather revelatory! If the resurrection of the body of Christ wrought a kindred transformation in the thoughts of the apostles, then the coming of the Spirit of God to superintend them in Pentecost, as promised (Luke 24) transformed their actions.
The doctrine of Christ is transformative of thought, of attitude, turning bewilderment to belief, dazzlement to sight and the evil one's attempts to bedevil, into sharp rebuke.
The Third Case
This, being the least addressed,
the simplest and most direct of the ways of following the text,
is for that reason preferred.
a) The women arrive, and as dawn hits the skies, stone is removed by angelic force. They are addressed by this same celestial body, and told that Christ was no more in this mortal premises, that He had risen on the third day as He said, that He would meet them in Galilee as He said, that they should give this information to the disciples. They were shown that their whole perspective on this case was mistaken. CHRIST was the eternal, the living, and no death could possible contain Him. To find Him, they should therefore look among the living, not among the dead, for which as a tomb would indeed, be suitable. He being alive as foretold, this was no longer the place for a meeting. Galilee was. It was all a matter of what He had said, and THEN DONE! and what THEREFORE they should do.
This information is gained with the four Gospels as source.
b) The women concerned all told the disciples in Luke 24:10-11, of the message that Christ was risen from the very dead (without any mention of the transcendentally important personal meeting with Christ being recorded (Matthew 28:9), because quite simply, they had not at that time seen Him in this way, but received report from the angels only. This was phase one, not the next, when the message gave way to the News Centre Himself, Jesus Christ, not described, but seen, felt and touched, indeed held (Matthew 28:9).
c) Mary returned, unable to vacate the site of her original expectation, of the angelic visitation (as with the shepherds at the birth of Christ, Luke 2:8ff.).
d) Christ then met Mary who perhaps because of her profound need, and sense of it, went back more quickly following the race of Peter and John (cf. John 20:11ff., Mark 16:9). She, truly concerned and deeply moved, addressed the One she thought to be the gardener, through her tears, the mist of eye compounded with the fog of heart, saying, "If you have carried Him from here, tell me where you have laid Him" - John 20:15.
e) Then, like Mary in fact (John 20), the other women went back*1, drifting perhaps and drawn irresistibly, pondering, wandering, attracted like moths to light, seeking more in the face of the disbelief of the disciples.
f) Later, in this same vicinity, He meets the women, meandering back unsated with anything new to provide the disciples, and gives to them also, this direct confrontation and confirmation. They also held His feet, in worship (John 20:17, Matthew 28:9). Rising from the dead without even a prophet as intermediary was no small divulgement*1, like the transfiguration (Matthew 17, where the divine voice punctuated the divine light), unique in all recorded history; but in this case, it was also unique in fulfilling the unique prediction.
Incidentally, John 20:17 more literally has "cease clinging to me", a more informative translation, since this particular (present) imperative holds the concept of continuity. Hence its negation is a CESSATION of that which was continuing: i.e. a ceasing of clinging. In accord with this, in Matthew 28:9, we find that the women held Him by the feet.
In this case, Mary reaches the disciples first (John 20:2), but the others follow, so that all present the same message (Luke 24:9-10). In that case, stricken with awe, hope, fear, amazement at such power, the meeting with angels, the others may conceivably have pause; paused, but recovering, they go. It may be that Mary, reaching the disciples individually first, gives to the others courage and so they follow.
However, the not telling anyone, stated of the amazed women (Mark 16:8), may well imply no more than this, that they had no slightest wish to declare this to anyone, but only as directed to the disciples. Thus as in Hohn 20, Mary was the first to tell, but the women did not share these things (any of them) with any passing, any social body, rather moving to tell the disciples only, obedience to the angelic injunction their wish, as stunned, they moved along the track of communication, as if enclosed in a ski-lift, going down to tell. You have the same sensed of a sealed, of a dedicated, a consecrated communication licence, in such scriptures as Luke 10:4, and II Kings 4:29. It is not that nothing is said, but nothing outside the point of the exercise, because of the immensity of the pressure of the duties involved and the sense of absolute significance within them.
ON THE WAY, then, NONE should hear of this. It was at this stage, a specific to the internal work of the Church, a matter for investigation, delight and awe, out of the realm of worldly hearts and hands, almost too holy to contemplate, death killed! in its guilt clamour as a master for man! Such thoughts may well have circulated (in view of such texts as Hosea 13:14, cited by Paul in I Cor. 15), though not necessarily with verbal definition, in their minds.
This, then, makes for the simplest and most direct of the possible understandings of the SEQUENCE of the events.
In all three cases, the points made re the disciples' reluctance to believe until personally meeting Christ, apply, the more obviously in view of Mark 16:11. In this event, we learn explicitly that He appeared to Mary, that she reported this, and that they still did not believe. They were far too hard headed, they had been far too empirically minded from the first, to follow what DID NOT WORK. The point about Christ, was this not least, that what He said, however amazing, apparently contrary to the normal limitations of nature, ALWAYS happened. When however you come to arch-enemies, motivated by pride and envy, seeking the SURVIVAL of themselves and their temple and their race (losing the first two in the end, and almost losing the third! such being the nature of spiritual crime), sacrificing the Messiah with crucial cruelty, as if it were an art form, and seeking to discredit Him with bold taunts and heartless thrust at the midst of His bodily agony, and spiritual grief as sin-bearer, then the concept of not STAYING DEAD, did not readily occur to them.
In a way, and the reference is weighty because the topic COULD NOT be more weighty, it is rather as if someone visited Auschwitz when it was in full force and despicable operation, and sought to assure the authorities that soon these souls slain, would arise; or spread this message to the world.
It was magnificence following the horrendous, mercy following heartlessness, competence following recklessness, sovereignty following shame, vitality after viciousness, life after death, body included, the Creator in control, with no charge, but a repentant heart, not to cover the case, but to receive the remedy!
As to these three possibilities, we know two staggering but still readily comprehensible facts.
The women did in the end ALL make the testimony of the tomb and the angelic testimony. THIS was held to be idle tales. The disciples confirmed the emptiness, John being one to believe the implication, that Christ had, as always, done just what He said. This however did not reach to the hearts of all the disciples. He BELIEVED without seeing, first of all. He KNEW the One concerned, and discerned the reality of the thing, consistent with all of Christ’s other powers and purity.
Secondly, when Mary DID meet Christ and clung to His feet, the disciples STILL DID NOT BELIEVE HER.
What happened when the other women conveyed the news, we are not told. Their chief mission was to confirm the site of the next meeting: Galilee.
The testimony of the Emmaus road disciples – if they were au fait (Luke 24:22-23 with its ‘us’ strongly suggests that they were), would imply that they did not even believe the testimony of the other women any more than that of Mary: angels only are even mentioned here. There may have arisen an air of stunned dubiety, as if their minds were incapable of receiving more after the first facts: UNTIL they received everything, and they classed it ALL as angelic stuff, needing commonsense and practical confirmation before securing the credentials of FACT.
The steadfastness of unbelief before being met with direct physical evidence seems definitely to have mirrored that concerning Peter escaping prison when 16 soldiers were guarding him behind closed doors (Acts 12:13-17). It is one thing to be the CHRIST, another just a rebuked disciple ()Luke 22:61-62), on his way, as might be imagined, to a death to follow in the wake of that of Christ. Herod (Acts 12:1ff.) had acted as politicians often seem to do, fawning on public popularity, seeking to stamp out this 'sect', this Christian affirmation. Peter was arrested ... what next!
After all, JAMES JUST HAD BEEN KILLED! (Acts 12:2). The concept of relay had to be grounded deeply, the point that the power of the resurrection is available in all kinds of escapes as well as in grievous styles of suffering, for the work of the ministry. The power of God in this flow-on fashion had to be tasted, tested, verified, vindicated. In Peter, used in several instances to help the right direction (as in the movement into Samaria with the Gospel, as in the movement to the Gentiles with the Gospel likewise and as to Paul's writings being scripture, II Peter 3:16), there was a place accorded. At that early time, there had been no opportunity for too much more than boldness following stunned denial of Christ. It was after all these things, that the testimony, thus spread, moved like molten lava, a bushfire, but rather more aptly, like a surging torrent of water alleviating a drought-stricken country, until the Church like a flood bursting, spread surging into Europe.
SUMMARY OF SEQUENCE
This has been asked for. In accord with the above, and drawing from the New Testament in Gospel and epistle, it may be put like this, in point form.
1) Women proceed to tomb, about dawn.
2) Angelic movement of stone, announcement of vacation of tomb by Christ, that He is not in the domain of the dead but in that of the living, that He has risen on the third day as foretold, that He is to meet them in Galilee as He had told them earlier, before the death, now broken, had occurred.
3) Mary departs running and finding at least Peter and John, relays the account.
4) These, practical men, run to the tomb to verify, the nearest point to the Christ they can find.
5) John arrives first, inspecting through the now disclosing aperture, Peter arrives next, but it is he who is the first to enter the tomb. It is he who ponders the data, while John entering second, seeing the testimony, believes in the resurrection of the body of Jesus Christ. With John, unlike Peter, his inner guilt perhaps did not close his inner eye to the realities of prediction, fulfilment, power in life, to heal, to raise the dead, just as power over death when it is His own - that of the format chosen for incarnation.
6) Mary returns irresistibly drawn to the tomb.
7) She meets Christ in person and clings to His feet to the point of being told to desist.
8) First, imagining the person to whom she spoke, to be the gardener, such was the common and normal look of Him, she asked if he had withdrawn, replaced the body. The answer was not in terms of topography, for after all the women had well marked the tomb (Luke 23:55), and the powerful and rich Joseph of Arithmathea was not about to revise his dedication of the tomb to such a purpose as this, for which he had personally approached the Roman governor, seeking the body of the crucified Christ, then carefully emplacing Him in this choice sepulchre of his. Privilege enough to have the body, and to have indeed a guard set over it in a flurry of red-tape (Matthew 27:65-66), and a seal placed upon it.
This is a real world, not a novel. With weight, the laboratory-style matter is laid; with weight unable to resist power, it is exploded as Christ arises. Power as always in His living, so after His dying, does not suffer frustration (Isaiah 14:27, Psalm 115).
9) To Mary's question, Christ's reply was in ONE WORD. It was personal, individual, and it was her name: "Mary!"
It seems that just as the people preferred the murderer, the 'notorious prisoner' Barabbas to be freed instead of Christ, at the annual governmental act of mercy towards the Jews, so Joseph of Arithmathea preferred that his tomb be used for the honour of Christ, rather than for his own! It was not the tomb which was the point, that place of death, but the womb of death, from which Christ had come in highest honour, as "the first-born from the dead" (Colossians 1:18).
10) Christ tells Mary that He had not yet ascended to His Father, being fitting with the ordinary appearance that He evidently had, in human terms, at this phase, one which had enabled Mary to mistake Him for a worker in that sombre field. She is however told to inform the brethren that He is ascending to the Father, the One for whom He now is the introduction, so that it is not only His Father but their own (consummating the position as in Matthew 11:27).
11) In this interval, the women with intense interest in the tomb drawn to this centre of action, Christ next appears to this group, who hold Him by the feet, and worship Him, being overcome by the reality of His physical power over the greatest enemy of mankind, death (Hebrews 2), as over all other impediments to glory in His presence, just as Thomas would be later and for the same reason (John 20:27-29), declaring to Him whom of whose physical resurrection he had been so doubtful, "My Lord and My God!" - literally, THE GOD of me and THE LORD of me!
12) As they worship, He instructs them, now that they have had this physical contact, to tell the brethren to meet Him in Galilee, where they too will see Him. It is all practical, geographical, a matter of people meeting people, of places for it.
13) Later this they do, but not with any triumphant faith, but rather because Peter had decided he would go fishing, and they felt they might as well go with him (John 21:3).
14) Fishing without success, as happened on occasion, they had a long and barren night. They had once before been watched as they fished by Jesus, when He had told them where to look in order to turn a useless seeming night into a worthwhile catch (which of course they then gained - Luke 5:5ff.).
15) This time, in the Galilee excursion, following the resurrection, once more they met this ... stranger on the shore, and once more He spoke to them. "Do you have any food ?" He asked. "No!" they said.
16) He told them, as before His death, so now here, where to cast their net. In this case, it was simply "on the right side of the boat" This they did, and they could not contain them all, such was the flurry of fish.
17) Peter rushed to swim to find the Lord he had denied (though he had met Him after the crucifixion times - I Corinthians 15:5, even before Christ had met the twelve on that Sunday night).
18) Christ asked for some of the fish they had just caught.
19) It was so much (153 large fish) that it was strange that the net was not broken, perhaps symbolising, in terms of His explicit teaching (Mark 1:17), that the Church of the living God would catch ITS fish, without being broken!
20) Christ, who had a physical fire going, cooked the physical fish they provide, so that these, handed physically to Him, and then cooked, were physically handed back to them, and then physically eaten. You may ask in what other way they could be either handed or eaten: certainly, it was in no metaphorical way! Food was the question and hunger the impetus, after a long night's fishing.
21) Christ asked Peter THREE times concerning his love to Him (John 20:15ff.), just as Peter had thrice betrayed Him, pretending in disoriented fear, not to know Him, before the crucifixion. Peter is given special commission to look after the lambs and sheep.
22) Christ told Peter of the death he was to suffer, and asked regarding John,
But Lord, what about this man ? -
that is, what would be John's part in the great Christian, divine enterprise ? Christ then gave an answer of imposing significance.
23) "If I will that he should remain till I come, what is that to you ? You follow me!" In Christian service for the Lord, death is only one of the options: James had this one, Peter a much longer life, and John a far longer one still. As we all know, when reflecting on children as they grow to youth and then manhood or womanhood, it is not the quantity of life but its quality which counts.
Dr H.C.G. Moule*2 has an interesting little article on the four 'comes' of Christ: to incarnation, to glorification, indwelling by the Spirit (cf. I Cor. 5:17) and then in person to rule. We could add a fifth: it is that of His coming to collect one who dies in Him, before His return, for these (I Thessalonians 4) shall arise first when He comes for His wheat, His sheep (whichever image you prefer) and those still alive in Him, when He comes will join with them, before the entire body of Christ coming with Him (Revelation 19, Philippians 3:13, Zechariah 14:5) shines like a reflected light on this earth for a time, before its departure (Matthew 24:35).
John would wait long before Christ came for him, not as with Elijah with a chariot, but as surely, after a very long and valiant life, depositing John's Gospel on the way through the work of the Spirit of God.
For further treatments of the Resurrection of JESUS CHRIST, see such sites as:
Great Execrations ... Ch. 7;
Barbs ... Appendix 3,
Biblical Blessings Ch. 15, Extended Endnote 2,
Acme ... Ch. 11, With Heart and Soul, Mind and Strength Ch. 3,
The Magnificence of the Messiah, Endnote 1,
Dizzy Dashes, Heady Clashes and the Brilliant Harmony of Inevitable Truth
Ch. 2 (biblical contexts from both Testaments, meaning and impact)
Spiritual Refreshings Chs. 5, 6,
Ancient Words, Modern Deeds Ch. 8 (on resurrection and Lazarus, yes and both with Jerusalem); contrasting Greek bodily terms -
Let God be God Ch. 2.
EXCURSION ON TERRESTRIAL AND CELESTIAL MOVEMENTS
In the Greek, the imperfect tense is here used of the movement of the women, indicating a process, not just an event, something continuing! It is apparent that the women came to the tomb, went, that the apostles came, two of them, and sent, that Mary who had left to tell of the tomb evacuation and opening, returned at which she actually met Jesus, the first of those to do so, and that she had to be told to cease clinging to Him.
The other women, evidently, having also as in Luke, gone to tell the disciples of the celestial events in conjunction with the terrestrial absenting of the body of Christ, were soon back, as if particles drawn by a magnet at the tomb scene. Where, after all, there had been angels, a movement of a large stone by their power, a statement that He was not there but risen, that He would meet them as arranged in Galilee, having risen as arranged, on the third day, there would be focus of minds! This would make it like a nerve centre, until the disciples WENT then at a certain time, to Galilee as requested.
Actually, that was no small matter, for the prophecy in Isaiah 8-9 (Light of Dawn Ch. 5), makes it clear that it is specifically in GALILEE that the light would shine, and that it was here as a focus, that the joy of the Lord would be unleashed in those who had been held in anguish.
Thus was the
resurrection, the most dramatic and amazing
of all the constructive works of God because
1) of the One involved (Hosea 13:14, Psalm 16, 40, Zechariah 12:10)
2) of the prediction that it would occur, up to a millenium beforehand,
a) in Isaiah
b) in the Psalms (2, 16, 22)
3) of the prediction when it would occur as a date, in Daniel*3, and
4) of the prediction after how many days of interment, it would occur*4,
5) of the point of the death of which it was an overcoming,
as predicted and confirmed by Christ (cf. Matthew 20:28),
6) of the significance of that particular resurrection,
in that the particular is here the Maker of ALL the created particulars, including this,
His own body provided for Him in His incarnational sending from heaven by His Father
(Psalm 40), as foretold in Isaiah 26:19, Psalm 2 with 16, 40 (cf. Isaiah 28:16),
7) of the defeat of Satan's seductive ruins, that it implied (Hosea 13:14), and
8) of the teaching that Christ for 40 days continued to make,
following this first known resurrection of a long interred body,
without visible agency, in history (Acts 1:3).
It had its foundation in the Cross, which made it apposite and necessary,
its meaning in authentication of that central act and fact of Christianity (Galatians 6:14),
the work of Christ and Him pure in sanctity, crucified in sacrifice,
so that what that provided in satisfaction for sin, the resurrection acknowledged
in power of life beyond such satisfaction, even eternal life, even that of God Himself
(cf. Acts 2:24, Romans 1:4).
THIS resurrection had its dénouement in Galilee, that predicted site for the GREAT LIGHT, DEFINED AS THE MESSIAH WHO WOULD BEAR THEIR SINS, COMING FIRST AS AN INFANT, THEN TO COME AFTER SACRIFICE AS RULER! (Isaiah 7, 8-9, 11, 22, 32, 42-55, 61).
The criteria of deity met in Him,
both to rule and to give,
to be effectually sacrificed
and to judge.
The aweful combination
of love and duress, this time suffered and not inflicted,
of tenderness and tragedy,
so to serve mixed in turmoil with the wilful savagery
of death and triumph, of agony and arising to bless,
of disaster and victory,
all measured, all deployed, all strategically in the domain and field of love:
these throb like the movement of arterial blood, but at the spiritual level, in Isaiah.
Of this book, much has been given, and to this the reader is now directed. See therefore in particular verses, the coverage in the Bible Translations area.
In particular, see the volume,
With HEART and SOUL, MIND and STRENGTH Chs. 4, 5, 6, 7.
Location of further treatments is available at Bible Verses.
It was in Isaiah 8-9 that this predicted stress on the focus of Galilee for the coming Prince was given, and how brightly and brilliantly was the case presented, the case of grace for that place!
There, in Galilee, then, it was to be, and it was when He lived and worked, and it was again when having risen, He taught them and gave them His company and shared with them anew. It was there that He met them and handed the cooked fish to them (John 21), just as earlier it had been in Jerusalem that He had eaten with them (Luke 24:43).
The adherence to all predicted details reminds one of a military campaign, such as that which moved from England to the beaches of Normandy, with provisions for all contingencies, except that in this case of the Christ, the commander for all men, these details were not only foreknown, but predicted in detail.
This, the greatest campaign of all time, gives to time its place, as a preparatory site for the incursion into eternity, for those who walk that way on the road granted. Which one ? It is that formed by this, Christ's own arising from the grave. It is in this, as in many another sense, that Christ IS the way!
This appeared in a little book of great value, Prayers and Promises.
*3 See Highway of Holiness Ch. 4.
See for example Matthew 12:38ff., 17:22-23 cf. Luke 9:44, and SMR Ch. 6,
and more recently Going with God ... Ch. 5.