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How the first Easter shows us how to turn our despair into delight

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Dealing with despair? Many of us do from time to time, and some of us deal with it for a prolonged time like days, weeks, and even years. It may be comforting to know that Jesus’ disciples dealt with it at the time of His crucifixion and then even on the Sunday when He was raised to life. The good news is they didn’t stay in despair, but moved to a state of delight. What made the difference? Let’s consider the biblical account of the women who went to the tomb that Easter morning to get some insight how you and I might move from despair to delight.

It starts with despair and disbelief. What brought on the despair of the disciples and, particularly, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary who went to Jesus’ tomb that Sunday morning? Was it not the failure to believe the promises of Jesus? Over and over again throughout His ministry, Jesus promised that He would not only be put to death, but He would rise again on the third day (see Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:17-19). Sadly, it seems that none of His disciples remembered His promise of resurrection. We are told that the women who went to Jesus’ tomb on that Sunday morning brought spices to anoint His body (Mark 16:1). They obviously did not think they would see a resurrected Jesus, and so they mournfully made their way to the tomb early that morning. There’s a connection between the hope we have and the amount of trust we have in the promises in God’s Word. When you or I either don’t know God’s promises or don’t believe in them, we rob ourselves of the hope God wants to give us, such as His promise of eternal life for anyone who believes in Jesus (John 3:16); the promise of Jesus’ presence forever (Matthew 28:20); and the promise that when Jesus returns, He will take each believer to be with Him forever (John 14:2-3). God’s word is indeed a lamp for our feet and a light unto our path (see Psalm 119:105), but if we don’t believe it, we’re left to dwell in the darkness of our despair. Just think if the women did remember the word of Jesus; they would have joyfully went to the tomb on that Sunday morning expecting to meet a resurrected Jesus.

Next, there’s the decision and the disclosure. Despite the women’s despair, that didn’t stop them from seeking Jesus to serve Him. The women’s decision to go to that tomb that first Easter morning led to their encounter with an angel who told them the good news that Jesus had indeed been raised from the dead. The women loved Jesus and because they loved Him, they chose to get up very early in the morning and go and serve their Master, even if it was to seek His dead body to anoint. God blessed their sincere desire by allowing them to be the first ones to hear the good news. While God could have said, “These women don’t believe in Jesus’ promise, so I’m not going to reveal the truth about the Resurrection,” He’s a gracious God who “knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14, ESV). What about you and what about me? Our decisions matter; what’s in your heart and my heart matters too. What is truly in our hearts will affect what God discloses to us. In the story of the prodigal son, it wasn’t until the younger son decided to return home that he knew his father’s great love and mercy. It was only after the shepherds decided to go to Bethlehem that they encountered the Baby Jesus. What do my decisions and your decisions reveal about our hearts and our priorities? Do you or I have a sincere love for Jesus? Do we want to serve Him, despite what seems to be hopeless circumstances in our lives? He also sees what’s in our hearts, and if you and I seek sincerely seek Jesus, He promises “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37 ESV).

Finally, there’s delight in the declaring. The angel whom the women met gave them instructions to follow. They were to go and tell Jesus’ disciples the good news of the Resurrection. While they went to obey, Jesus met them on the way. This is true for us today too, for when we obey God’s Word, Jesus doesn’t merely come alongside us, but actually is within us through the Holy Spirit to do what He commands (see John 14:15-23). As you and I obey the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations, we too will know Jesus is indeed with us wherever we go, “even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Obedience to God will fill each of us with joy, for Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10-11 ESV). Not only does obedience bring us joy, but also declaring the good news about Jesus brings our souls delight as well. Remember again the shepherds who too were filled with joy as they boldly declared all they had seen, just as it had been told to them. The shepherds declared the good news of the Jesus’ birth; the women shared news that He, the Messiah and Savior of the world had triumphed over the grave. And because He did, you and I can be forgiven of our sin and we can have the hope that just as Jesus was resurrected, we too will one day be raised. So having come to the tomb in despair, the women heard the good news, met their resurrected Lord, and went to tell others. You and I too can allow God to turn our despair to delight as we decide to seek Jesus, receive the good news, and then obediently go and tell others.

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