In my last few posts, I’ve written about some of Jesus’ last words as he died on the cross. After Jesus spoke his final word, he breathed his last. His body was removed from the cross, and with Pilate’s permission he was buried. At last this man whose words had so angered and discomforted the religious leaders had been silenced.
But these words from the cross were not to be Jesus’ final words. The powerful and joyous message of Easter is that there were “words after that.”
In the Garden
Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross and hastily buried in a borrowed tomb. The disciples went into hiding. The Gospel accounts differ in some details regarding what happened next, but they all record that Mary Magdalene came to the tomb. She discovered the stone was rolled away from the entrance of the tomb and Jesus’ body was missing.
No one was prepared for what occurred next. As Mary stood weeping at the tomb, a man she supposed was the gardener spoke to her: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” (John 20:15). Then the man spoke her name, “Mary!” and suddenly she knew that the gardener was Jesus.
The first words Jesus spoke after the final words he spoke from the cross were words of compassion to a woman who was weeping at his empty tomb. He spoke first to a woman—a woman out of whom, as Mark tells us in his Gospel, Jesus had cast seven demons. In the ancient world demon affliction or possession could describe undiagnosed physical conditions, addictions, or mental illness in addition to some kind of actual demonic affliction. I mention this to say that Jesus not only healed this woman but also chose her to be the very first to receive the good news that he had been raised. Others may have seen her as a hopeless cause. Jesus did not. He had compassion on her, loved her, and honored her above all others.
In death and in his resurrected life, Jesus’ first impulse was compassion. It was as he tenderly spoke her name that Mary finally recognized that the gardener was Jesus.
Jesus’ next words, according to Matthew’s account, were addressed to Mary and to “the other Mary” that Matthew records was there: “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10).
Jesus appeared first to the women. They courageously had come to the tomb while the disciples were still hiding in fear. There he called them to be the first to announce the good news of his resurrection. I love this about Jesus. He took those who were not allowed to be rabbis and preachers, one of whom had been seen as “damaged goods,” and chose them to be the first to know that he was alive. Then he commissioned them to share the good news of the Resurrection with his disciples.
The women were to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where Jesus would appear to them. Galilee was a seven-to ten-day walk from Jerusalem. The women did as Jesus instructed them, but the men did not believe them.
The Very Last Words
As I’m sure you recall, Jesus said and did much more during the next forty days before he ascended to heaven. It would take more than a blog post to unpack them all. But we dare not close this series of posts on Jesus’ final words without at least mentioning what Matthew tells us were really his final words before leaving this earth:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
In his final words Jesus sent the disciples out to continue his mission to the world. The church has always understood that these words were not merely for those first disciples but for every generation since then.
As we do these things, Jesus continues to speak. He speaks through us as we live and teach what he taught about the will of his Father. He speaks through us as we tell the story of his death and how, through it, he sought to redeem us, save us, heal us, and forgive us. He speaks through us as we tell the world the truth that neither hate nor evil nor even death could ultimately defeat him—or those who trust in him.
Jesus’ very last sentence is a promise that has the power to change how you live each day. He said to them, “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
Lord, I do feel peace when I trust that you are with me always. I feel hope when I trust that you triumphed over the grave. Breathe on me your Holy Spirit, and grant me the power and courage to tell others of your love and to invite them to follow you. You are my crucified and risen Savior. Amen.
Today's post is an excerpt from Final Words From the Cross.
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