This feels so familiar to me. The part of Jesus’ life which, ultimately, defines why those of us who choose to follow him do so.
All seems totally lost. Abandoned by the disciples at Gethsemane. Disowned by Peter outside the temple. Condemned by a crowd agitated by the religious leaders. Discarded to his fate by Pilate. Mocked, whipped, beaten, paraded through the streets and, finally, nailed to a cross and left to die the most agonising death you could imagine.
All seems totally lost.
Then, drama. The ground shakes. Rock splits open. The dead are raised to life.
And my favourite part. The temple curtain, the piece of fabric separating the holiest part of the temple from the masses, keeping ordinary people from God’s dwelling place, is torn in two.
We are no longer separated from God. Jesus’ death has seen to that. He has taken everything which was killing us, keeping us from God, and it has died with him. He has given us the ability to turn away from the evil which has found its way into the world, into our hearts, and be reunited with God.
But, there’s more. Much more. He beats sin and evil, but that’s not enough. He has to beat death itself.
So there, by an empty tomb, with unconscious Roman guards replaced by an angel, stands Jesus. Alive, as he said he would be.
He returns to the disciples. They react as the world has reacted for the last 2000 years. Some readily accept. Some seriously doubt. But he’s there, they can see him, so they all, eventually, believe.
Then he gives them what has become known as the Great Commission,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go 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 I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)
As a follower of Jesus (at least, I try to be) I believe that what we read in the last two verses of Matthew is the most important event which has ever happened, both globally and personally. I believe that it really happened, no matter how fantastical it seems. I believe that this gives me, not only the incentive, but the ability to get past everything which is bad about me as a person and to improve. To grow closer to God. To view and treat others with love and respect.
I am not perfect. I do things which I know are wrong every day. Some little things and some really big things, but I keep coming back to this moment at the cross and it helps me to move on. To stand up to temptation and refuse it. To recognise when I’m doing wrong and to do better in future.
I believe that Jesus will come back, because he said so. I believe that God’s kingdom will come to earth, because He said so.
And I believe that, in my own ham-fisted way, which may or may not make sense to people, that I should share the news that Jesus died so that we can all live.
Because he did. And because he said so.