“Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene
So You Were There
By Chantal J. Klingbeil
“Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons” (Matt. 27:55, 56).*
Why were you watching from a distance? Were you afraid to be involved? Was it all just too much to take? I think I know what it’s like to watch from a distance. I’ve grown up in an Adventist home. I’ve been following Jesus for some time, and yet time seems often to add to distance. Keeping up with Jesus is hard work, besides the fact that it’s dangerous. No, I’ve never had to face the threat of a cross, but it’s so easy just to slip into a routine, to put my walk with Jesus on autopilot, and then the distance sets in.
“As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away” (verses 57-60).
You just suddenly burst into the story. Your entrance is unexpected, and at such a dark moment so hopeful. All the disciples—those who have shared with Jesus most intimately—are hiding in fear, and here you are willing to step out of the shadows. Throwing off your secret double life, you step forward and bravely ask for Jesus’ body. You choose Jesus at a moment when He can’t offer you anything. But you offer Him something: your new tomb. What if choosing Jesus meant stepping away from my friendship circle? What if I couldn’t see any returns on my choice to follow Him? Am I following Him for what I can get or what I can give?
“The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. ‘Sir,’ they said, ‘we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again’?” (verses 62, 63).
So you remembered. Strange that His disciples seemed to have amnesia on this point, even though Jesus had been preparing them for this moment for some time. You knew, you had connected the dots, but it made no difference to your hard hearts. You thought you were right—you were defending truth—yet you had just killed the Man who was God!
Sobering . . . I know a fair amount too. I think I can prove from the Bible that Sabbath is Saturday and I know about the sanctuary and the state of the dead, but all this knowledge will not do me any good if I haven’t learnt to know the Master personally. Without that relationship with Jesus I could wake up one morning to find that I’ve been fighting God all along.
“‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard” (verses 65, 66).
Come on, Pilate! Do you really think a seal on the tomb and a guard will do the trick? You have no idea whom you are dealing with. He is not just the King of the Jews. He breathes out stars and forms entire galaxies.
On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on Pilate. I think I have more pieces of the puzzle of history and a clearer picture of God than Pilate did, and yet I often find myself treating God as if He were very small. In prayer I find myself telling Him what to do and how to do it. Maybe it’s about time I stopped trying to restrict, manipulate, or dictate to God and rather let my Creator do with me what He lovingly does best.
“The angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified’?” (Matt. 28:5).
You were afraid. I suppose that’s entirely normal. Almost every time that we humans meet holiness we are afraid. That paradox of being drawn to holiness and then repelled by it when we realize how foreign it is to our makeup as humans. It is that daily tug-of-war in my heart—the war over what I am and who I would like to be. Perhaps you women at the tomb were onto something. You realized that all hope was lost unless you could find Jesus.
“Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘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’ ” (verses 16-20).
You saw Jesus. Yet some of you doubted. I’ve sometimes thought that if I could just catch a glimpse of heaven, see something supernatural, have an angel visit me, then I would never doubt again. You doubting disciples show me that seeing is not believing. Faith is not a destination. It is a part of the journey. It begins with a choice to believe God’s Word and, move forward. All of you, even those who had had their doubts, took Jesus at His word and fueled by His authority, turned your world upside down.
I don’t need to wait for my church to initiate an outreach program that I feel comfortable with. I don’t need to be dependent on initiatives or a guilty conscience to get me witnessing. I don’t need to stand and observe from a distance. What I need is to claim His promise that He is with me always, and that includes today and tomorrow. I can say with confidence, “My Jesus is not dead. He’s alive. Look how He is changing my life. Come, I want you to meet my Jesus.” n
*?All Scripture quotations have been taken from the New International Version.
Chantal J. Klingbeil serves as an associate director at the Ellen G. White Estate of the General Conference. She is married to Gerald and has three teenage daughters who keep her on her toes.