As we have seen, Mary, Mary and perhaps even another Mary, went to Jesus’ sepulchre very early on Sunday. They were surprised to find the door to the tomb wide open. They were even more surprised to be greeted by an angel of the Lord. He said, “Fear not ye, for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 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 behold, he goeth before you into Galilee, there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you.” So off the ladies went towards wherever they thought that Peter, James, John and the others could be found. But as they scurried along, they heard a familiar voice – “All hail.”
As I pointed out last week the Greek word “chairo” (khah’-ee-ro) is translated nine different ways, from “all hail” to “farewell.” – from “hello” to “good-bye.” But nearly three quarters of the time it is translated “rejoice,” “joy” or “be glad.” “All hail” might be interpreted as a mere salutation – “Hello there ladies.” But for some of them the word was equivalent to “Peace be unto you.” 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 the Great Physician ordered –“rejoice and be exceeding glad.” Christ then only reiterated what the angel had said earlier, except that it was in the first person this time – the primary Person – “Be not afraid; go tell my brethren, that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see ME.”
Last week, I mentioned that in what Christ said there is a far greater blessing than in the angel’s version of the same message. I don’t know how well I will be able to communicate this to you today – But as I meditated on Jesus’ words, I was even more struck with those additional blessings. While the commission aspect of the message remains, the encouragement of Christ empowers and enlightens it.
Focus on the commission for a moment – “return to Galilee.” I won’t have time to develop this point, but it needs to be asked – why Galilee? The disciples were then in Judea, and the ascension will take place from Judea in a little more than a month, so why return to Galilee? Is this reminding us that our ministry should begin close to home? As new Christians our first thoughts should be of our brethren, children and friends. Paraphrasing Acts 1:8 – “Ye shall be witnesses unto me (at home) in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, (before reaching) unto the uttermost part of the earth.” Or is this command forcing the disciples to face their embarrassment and their fears? They will be accused of failure and foolishness by their neighbors and kin folk. Running from our fears will never eradicate them. Is this a test of their willingness to obey and to follow the leadership of the Christ whom they can no longer see with the eye and hear with the ear? Maybe they are commanded to return north in order to learn that wherever they go, they will find the Lord. I have not found a definitive explanation for the Lord’s command to return to Galilee. This isn’t my subject for this morning, although perhaps it should be.
After His greeting, Jesus said, “Be not afraid.”
Of what were the ladies afraid? Of what sort of things do YOU become afraid? I was listening to a woman last Thursday, who brings to me her prayer requests. You don’t need to know the details, but there was a long list this week, concluding with her sister. She says that the woman sometimes worries herself into serious sickness. There is absolutely no peace in her life. When the woman who was talking to me asked her sister where she got her worrying weakness, she said that she got it from their mother. She implied that some people are born to be worriers. In reality, that is not exactly true, but in a theological sense it is. Only Christ Jesus can say, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” So only those to whom Christ is speaking can have the Lord’s perfect peace. Only Christ can say “Be of good cheer; I have overcome the (problems of the) world; these things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.” That is not to say that Christians cannot become worriers, but we have access to divinely empowered peace.
Of what were these ladies afraid? Could they have been fearful of Christ? Is there any reason to fear the eternal Son of God? The One whose love is extolled in a great many churches every Sunday will one day sit in judgment over His creation. “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” There are millions of children in Sunday Schools around the world who hear the wonderful stories of Jesus’ life and acts of kindness, who have never bowed their knee to the Lord. Jesus himself once testified – “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Have you ever made some sort of decision and then began to second guess or question your conclusion? That might even apply to the decision about forsaking all to follow Christ. The Lord’s closest disciples apparently considered that a couple of times. To those people the Lord says, “Be not afraid.”
Did it cross the minds of these ladies that the being in glistering clothing might not have been what he appeared? What if they had been deceived? Have we been deceived about the deity of Christ, the resurrection of the Lord – about salvation by grace? How many people have taken a stand on some principle, idea or doctrine and later found out that they had been wrong. How many people have been afraid of embarrassment about such things? “What if the disciples don’t believe what we tell them about the empty tomb? What if they get angry?” “What if the world won’t listen to our witness of the living, loving Saviour?” Again the Lord Jesus says, “Be not afraid.”
Perhaps one or two of their group, who had so much confidence in Christ earlier, were now in doubt about salvation or of their future hope? Like so many, they incorrectly pictured the end of their salvation in the Millennial Kingdom with Christ sitting upon the throne of David. That hope has now been dashed by the crucifixion, and with it many other misconceptions. “Be not afraid.” “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” “Be not afraid.”
What is the antidote to anxiety? What is the solution for fear? The little child is afraid of some simple thing – the dark basement; walking past a cemetery; the outhouse at camp. What is the solution to his problem? His older brother or mother leading the way. To put it differently – the presence of Christ can eradicate our fear. “Be not afraid; go tell my brethren, that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see ME.” Doesn’t the Lord suggest that He will precede the disciples back to their homeland in Galilee? Perhaps they were fearful and embarrassed as they thought about their reception back home after following Christ for three years. “Be not afraid.” Let me paraphrase I Corinthians 10:13 – “There hath no temptation (trial, problem, or set of scarey circumstances) taken you, but such as is common to man: but God (in Christ Jesus) is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape (by entering that problem with you), that ye may be able to bear it.”
Do you think all the sterilization in the operating room has somehow washed out the presence of Christ? As you face that den of lions next week, remember that Lord can close their mouths as tightly as he did the jaws of Daniel’s lions. And in your furnace of fire, the Lord will walk with you even more closely than He did with Daniel’s friends. Remember too that Jesus has even preceded you into death and the tomb, emerging as the first fruits of them that eventually sleep. “Be not afraid.”
I probably have not covered this thought or point as well as I could have done. But the truth is – I’d never be able to bring up every scarey situation – and I might miss yours. But it doesn’t matter….. doesn’t Psalm 23:4 – cover them all – “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” “Be not afraid.”
After that encouragement the Saviour said, “go tell my BRETHREN.”
I had to laugh when I noticed that one of my commentaries suggested this speaks of Jesus’ half-brothers. I need to assure you – while that I consult my library in preparing for my sermons, I am not so foolish as to believe everything that it tells me. I may consult with the opinions of good men, but I try to make sure that my messages come from the Lord and not from other people – who are often as confused as myself. No sir, the Lord was reiterating what the angel had said, “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:” My point is that the Son of God considered His disciples to be closer family than his siblings from the family of Joseph and Mary. In John 15 we have a lengthy discourse of Christ to His disciples
– not the enemy, but the disciples. We might summarize the entire discussion with the word “relationships” – Christ and His saints. “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends…. Henceforth I call you not servants……… but I have called you friends…….. Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you………” There are people with whom our friendship is an exquisite blessing – and of course Christ Jesus would have to be at the top of that list. I had an email just yesterday from a friend of mine, with whom my only contact is electronic. He mentioned the importance of that contact – He implied the importance of friendship. For him, and all of us, I quote Proverbs 18:24 – “There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” His name is Christ Jesus, and he says, “Be not afraid.”
As some of you were immediate aware I didn’t properly quote that verse from Proverbs. The full verse says, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” This brings up a question – which is more important – a friend or a brother? The answer depends on who the brother and friend are. But then again perhaps it is comparing apples to oranges.
Romans 8 is another chapter of relationships. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ…. We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Jesus told the ladies, “Go and give my BRETHREN this message……..” What is the more important relationship – to be a friend of Christ or to be a brother of Christ?
There is a much neglected doctrine of the Old Testament which applies to this question. It lays hidden in the shadows – until the sunshine of the Book of Ruth makes it blossom. It is the doctrine of the “gaal” (gaw-al) – the kinsman redeemer. Among Israel’s laws there was a rule that brothers had responsibilities toward the families of brothers. One aspect had to do with property, and another aspect related to their wives and children of the brethren. When Naomi returned from Moab with her widowed daughter-in-law, Ruth, the laws of the “gaal” (gaw-al) came into play. Ultimately, Boaz, a kinsman to Naomi’s family took Ruth under his wing, falling in love with her and marrying her. Years later one of the grandchildren of that family was King David, and ultimately came Jesus Christ. The Hebrew word “gaal” (gaw-al) is sometimes translated “kinsman.” For example, after Ruth gave birth to David’s grandfather, Obed, the “women (of Bethlehem) said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a KINSMAN, that his name may be famous in Israel.”
The word “gaal” (gaw-al) is used 85 times in the Bible, but only 13 times is it translated “kinsman.” The rest of the time it is rendered in some sort of form of “redeemer.” Boaz, as a brother, redeemed Ruth from her bondage. In Moses’ psalm of Exodus 15 he teaches us to sing, Lord, “Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed (“gaal” (gaw-al)) thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.” We read the word over and over again in the laws of Leviticus and the Psalms of David. The prophet Isaiah, loved the word – “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.” Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.
My point is – the saint of God – hopefully I am speaking about you – the saint of God has been redeemed. Christ Jesus bought us with His shed blood – that blood satisfied the demands of the law against us. Our redemption was purchased by the One with the legal authority to do so – our brother – our “kinsman redeemer.” Going back to Romans 8 – “for whom (God) did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
When Jesus told the ladies to return to Jesus’ “brethren,” that word carried countless blessings which I haven’t given myself time to recite. But, just as redeemed Ruth, became the wife of all the wealth of Boaz, those who have been redeemed by Christ are heirs of all that the Son of God possesses – including His eternal life. If we are brethren of Christ, we are children of God, “and if children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” “Being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” “As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.”
The question remains – Are you a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus? Have you been born again? Prove that it is true. Repent before God and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”