Very early on Sunday morning, a group of ladies, led by Mary Magdalene, went to the tomb of Joseph. They had hopes of further anointing the body of the Lord Jesus. As they walked along, with pitchers and other containers of various spices and ointments, they “said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepluchre?” However when they arrived, “they seeth the stone taken away from the sepluchre.” And “as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold two men stood by them in shining garments.” “They said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?” “He is not here, for he is risen, as he said, Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead.” “And they departed, quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them.”
My theme for this morning revolves around that meeting between Jesus and those ladies. I won’t pretend to tell you that I can reconcile what each of the four gospels tell us about that meeting. Or was it – meetings? But I see a few points of application – applications which might apply to any meeting with Christ.
For example, we notice that the ladies were ACTING IN OBEDIENCE to the angel’s orders.
They were hurrying across town in the semi-darkness of the early morning in an emotional turmoil. Matthew mentions “fear and great joy,” and it might be permissible to add – “faith mixed with doubt.” Try to put yourselves in the shoes of those women – try to experience what they were feeling. They couldn’t get the image of that Heavenly spokesman out of their minds, as they scurried toward the place where they thought they could find the disciples. They were occupied with what they saw, and with what they would say to the others. They certainly were not expecting to run into the Saviour as they ran to carry out the orders of one of His angels.
My first point is that Christ initiates any meeting which we might ever have with Him. I don’t care if someone is an apostle, a priest, a prophet or the president of some country, no one has any inherent righteousness, character, history or future, to expect an audience with the King of kings. Old Testament records show us meetings between Jehovah and several godly men. I can think of Moses, Abraham, Isaiah, Elijah, Gideon and a few others. In not one of those meetings did any of those men stand before the Lord as peers or equals with God. Elijah shook in terror as the mountain under him shook under the power of God. Moses was ordered to take off his shoes. Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” In each of those cases, even as we find it here, the Lord made the appointments and initiated the meetings.
I remember the first contact which I ever knowingly had with the Lord. Now I know that God had often blessed me, protected, guided and helped me, but all of that was unknown to me at the time. I had been raised in church; I was relatively religious; I was moderately moral; I was generally good. Then one night I attended a special church service with a girl in whom I was quite interested. I can’t tell you exactly what I was hoping to get out my visit to west Denver, but I wasn’t looking for God. On the other hand He was looking for me, and I couldn’t avoid Him.
Now I know what the Bible says about us all, and what it declares about that particular occasion in my life. Romans 3:11 says, “There is none that understandeth. There is NONE that seeketh after God.” There is no natural human being who without the previous intrusion of God into his life, actually goes looking for Jehovah. The Apostle Paul shares with us several reasons why this is so – In one place he says, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” As has been so often said, the sinner doesn’t look for God for the same reason a criminal doesn’t go looking for the police. In another place Paul reminds us that we are spiritually dead – “dead in trespasses and sins.” Sin is one reason why no man seeketh after God. Sin is essentially rooted in selfishness which is diametrically opposed to God and godliness. No one simply decides that he or she wants the Lord, or wants to meet the Lord. The Lord may put that desire into someone’s heart, but it is initiated by God. No, it didn’t cross these ladies’ minds that they were going to join the Saviour that morning.
Not only did Christ initiate the meeting, He controlled the place of that meeting. When I go from my house to the Kjeldgaard’s castle in the woods, I basically direct my car to the west. But there may be a dozen different roads and routes that I could take in the midst of that little journey. I could take Prairie Ave, Seltice or I-90; I could join Trent at any number of junctions. Similarly, those ladies may have known where they wanted to go, but there could have been several streets they might have taken. But either the omniscient Christ knew exactly which road they would travel, or the omnipotent Christ directed their route. “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.” “The steps of a good (woman) are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in (her) way.”
I said a moment ago that the ladies were ACTING IN OBEDIENCE to the angel’s orders.
“And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.”
I will acknowledge that the Lord may do whatever He chooses, for whatever reason He chooses and under a variety of different circumstances. For example, when He met Moses, that man’s spiritual condition was less than ideal. I think that he had been raised by his mother to know the things of God. In the Old Testament sense of the term, Moses was a child of God, but he was backslidden, living in the flesh and doing his own will. When the Lord confronted him, Moses was not seeking Him, and he was not serving Him. And when the Lord Jesus met the two disciples on their way home to Emmaus, they were not living in faith or acting in obedience – they were fleeing in spiritual retreat. Certainly the same could be said about Jehovah’s meeting with Elijah at Sinai and Gideon at Ophrah. The Lord has every right to choose the time and place of His confrontation with us.
On this occasion, the Lord met these ladies as they were carrying out their orders. I’m not going to say that when they first gathered up their ointments and headed towards Joseph’s tomb, they were as bleary-eyed and half asleep, as I am when I hit the road each morning. But I will say that they were infinitely more awake and alert after visiting with the angel, and starting off in obedience to his commission. Were they carrying torches of some kind as they went “very early in the morning” towards Jesus’ burial place, or were they groping along in the dark? However it had been, their sight is now 20/20 in the growing light of the rising sun. They are more ready to meet their Master now than they have ever been before. They meet Him while in the process of serving and obeying Him. I can safely say that more blessed meetings with Christ come while in the path of duty. However….. there are exceptions.
Was Balaam a child of God when he was on his way to meet Balak. I have serious doubts that he was. But he did claim to be a prophet of Jehovah – he made the claim of being some sort of child of God. Whatever his true spiritual condition, that man was in the midst of rebellion against the Lord. He yearned for the Moabite gold that Balak was promising. Then while on his way in obedience to the lust of his flesh, Balaam was intercepted by the Lord in a way somewhat parallel to these women. But on this occasion he was met by the angel of the Lord with his sword drawn and blood in his eye. Wouldn’t you rather meet Christ as the ladies did rather than as Balaam did – talking donkey not withstanding? It is infinitely better to meet the Lord in obedience than disobedience.
Would I be too bold in saying that if they had not begun hurrying east, the ladies would not have met Christ? As I say, the Lord can do whatever He chooses and for whatever reason. But logically speaking, the Lord was waiting for them on some street corner in the midst of the city. If they had melted in tears, plopping down amongst the roses or olive trees in the garden would the Lord have met them? Probably not.
Despite the Marys’ obedience and willingness to do as they were commissioned, the Lord met them while they remained in need of Him. “Go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead, and behold, he goeth before you into Galilee, there shall ye see him.” On a scale of one to ten, where do you suppose the faith of those ladies fell? Probably each had their own level of faith – some at 8 and one or two at a level of 3 or 4. They were like any little congregation of Christians – some babes and some grandmothers in the faith – Some had a deep theological foundation and others were filled with unanswered questions and genuine concerns. Some church members have strong faith while others still have their faith under construction. But yet as a church, the group is moving forward.
While in obedience, but still in great need, these ladies met the Master along the way. And they heard nothing new – there was no additional instruction or addenda to their commission. “Be not afraid; go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.” But despite the lack of anything new, the fact that the Saviour met them, added to their faith, joy, and even, to their report. The angel had said “Christ lives,” but they are now not basing their faith on the word of a mere angel of the Lord, their message became based on the testimony of their eyes, ears and even their hands. Our faith is founded in the Lord himself.
As the ladies went on their way – “Behold, Jesus met them saying, All hail.”
You are probably aware that the Hawaiian term “aloha” can be used either as “hello” or “goodbye.” Well, the Greek word “chairo” (khah’-ee-ro) is much, much more complicated than that. It is found 74 times in the Textus Receptus – the Received Text from which our King James is translated. And it is translated nine different ways, all the way from “all hail” to “farewell.” Nearly three quarters of the time it is translated “rejoice,” “joy” or “be glad.” Twice it is rendered “God speed” which leads us toward that “farewell.” If you stop and think about it, “farewell” is not the same as “see ya later” or a simple “bye for now” – it is “fare you well,” and perhaps even implies “God bless you.”
As the ladies hurried along, the Lord interrupted them with a shot of spiritual adrenalin. “All hail” might be interpreted as a mere salutation – “Hello there ladies.” But for one or two of them, the word might have been one of the most soothing they had ever heard. Their hearts were pounding with exertion and excitement – concern and confusion. But the familiar sound of Jesus’ voice, and His choice of words – “chairo” (khah’-ee-ro) was just what they needed. What He shared with them was a word of encouragement and blessing – almost a benediction – “rejoice and be exceeding glad.” And when they left that street corner, that is exactly what they were – exceedingly glad.
But before they completed their God-given task they drew near to the Lord – “they came” to Him. They threw themselves down at Jesus’ feet and they worshiped Him. I know that some people try to minimize this word “worship,” suggesting that it only means that they bowed before Him. While that might technically be the meaning of the word, that was not the meaning of these ladies. They bowed before Him AND they worshiped Him. (A few minutes before I put that last sentence into my computer, I greeted Judy for the first time that morning. Do you know what she did? She gave me a great big hug and kiss.) I won’t demean the ladies of our text, by applying the same emotions or motions, but when they held Jesus by his feet worshiping Him, they were expressing their love towards Him. They were releasing their battered emotions which thought that they had lost Him three days earlier. At this moment they were probably not expressing their faith in His deity and all that goes with it. They were just saying, “Lord, we love you and are over-joyed to see you again.” This was adoration – LOWLY adoration – not presuming to hug Him, but content to cling to His feet.
At that point, they became re-energized and empowered to carry out their responsibility. And they were going to need this little shot of spiritual adrenalin. In a few minutes, when they reach the disciples, those “great saints” are going to scoff and disbelieve them. The reaction of the disciples might have cut some of those women to the quick. But they were much stronger now than they had been – because they had met the Saviour. With this brief meeting in the midst of their obedience, they were strengthened sufficiently to face any opposition, even if it came from other Christians.
Most likely this meeting with Christ probably didn’t last more than a few minutes. One of the things of which this reminds us is that our worship is not meant to be an excuse not to serve. There must be a blending of Mary and Martha in us – only one and not the other is not God’s way. God intends for us to be worshipful servants – not Christian robots and not Christian suicides either. After their brief encounter the Lord reiterated their commission – “Go tell.”
Isn’t that still our job – our commission. Isn’t that the way that this chapter is concluded? “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” We have joyful things to share with the brethren. Doctrinal things like the second coming. And then we have the more practical blessings of the Lord’s presence and grace. And we have the joyful message of the gospel to share with the Lord’s as yet unsaved brethren – the elect. We might liken this church service, any of our church services as the ladies’ worship meeting with Christ. But we still have to carry out our commission after the service is over and we are dismissed.
This surprise meeting between Christ and the ladies is filled with instruction. We see our need of this kind of spiritual contact. We see how such a meeting might inspire, motivate and empower us. And we continue to see our duty.
Have you ever met truly the Master? He is with us here today. Why not fall at His feet now? Why do you wait dear brother?