Jesus' Appearance to the Women

 

(This meditation by Rev. James Slopsema first appeared in Vol 88 Issue 13 of the Standard Bearer.)

And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.
Matthew 28:9-10

In the 40 days after His resurrection Jesus appeared ten times to His disciples. The purpose of these appearances was especially threefold. First, they were to prove to the disciples that He had truly risen. Secondly, they were to instruct the disciples concerning the nature of His resurrection. Finally, each appearance taught something different about the resurrection.

Jesus’ appearance to the women as they returned from the sepulchre to Jerusalem on Easter morning was Jesus’ second appearance. He had appeared to Mary Magdalene at the sepulcher just before this.

Let’s join the women to whom the risen Lord appeared that glad morning.

A reassuring appearance!

Early on Sunday morning a group of women left Jerusalem for the sepulcher of Jesus to embalm His body. In this group were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, Solome the mother of James and John, Joanna, and other women. These same women had been present at the cross scene on Friday to witness Jesus’ crucifixion. Sadly they had followed the body of Jesus to the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea. Either there had not been enough time on Friday to embalm Jesus’ body properly, or in their great sorrow the women were not aware that it had been done. And so, after waiting out the Sabbath day, these women went to the sepulcher of their beloved Master at dawn on Sunday to perform this last labor of love.

At the sepulcher these women received the surprise of their life. At a distance they discovered that the stone that had been set to seal the grave had been rolled away. In their grief they had forgotten about it. Mary Magdalene concluded that someone had stolen Jesus’ body, and without further investigation she returned to Jerusalem to inform the disciples. But the other women proceeded to the sepulcher. And they found the sepulcher empty! If this was not enough, an angel appeared to them to explain the empty tomb. What a message he gave to them. Jesus is risen, as He said. Go tell His disciples that He is risen and that He goes before them into Galilee.

What astounding and joyful news!

Quickly the women departed from the sepulcher to tell the disciples the joyful news.

As they were approaching Jerusalem, Jesus appeared to them. We ought to understand what it means that Jesus “appeared.” Through His resurrection Jesus was changed. His resurrection was not a return to this present earthly existence. It was advancement. His body was glorified, being made heavenly and spiritual. The result was that Jesus’ resurrection-body was invisible to the earthly eye. He literally had to appear to be seen.

As He appeared to the women Jesus greeted them with a customary greeting, “All hail.” This means, “May it be well with you.”

How glad the women were to see Jesus! In their joy they fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him. Their hearts were also gripped with the fear of the unknown. And so Jesus assured them, “Fear not.” But their joy of seeing Jesus was greater than their fear. How they needed to see Jesus! The angel had shown them the empty grave and proclaimed to them the resurrection of Jesus. They had believed and were glad. But they needed something more. They understood nothing of what had happened—neither Jesus’ death nor His resurrection. They needed something more. Jesus must appear to them and explain it all. And when He did, they fell at His feet and worshiped Him.

A comforting gospel!

Jesus proclaimed a most comforting gospel to the women by referring to His disciples as His brethren.

The Scriptures speak more than once of Jesus’ brethren. Jesus identified those that do the will of the Father in heaven as His brothers and sister (Matt. 12:49-50). In the Day of Judgment Jesus will proclaim to the righteous that they had shown mercy to Him by showing mercy to His brethren (Matt. 25:40). In turn, God did predestinate those whom He foreknew, to be conformed to Jesus’ image, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).

We ought to understand the significance of this term. It suggests a family, in this case the family of God. In that family God is Father and Jesus Christ is the eldest Son. All those that belong to Jesus are by Jesus’ saving works also sons of God the Father. This also makes them brothers of each other and especially of Jesus, who is their eldest Brother. As sons they are all heirs of God. A son is an heir of all that his father has. This is true also in the family of God. God has an inheritance for His sons—eternal life in glory. This inheritance
is earned by the eldest Brother, Jesus Christ.

Now what is amazing is that at this time Jesus still referred to His disciples as His brethren. His disciples had just rejected Him. When Jesus was arrested, they had all fled. This was not so much out of fear, but because they were offended in Him. He was not the earthly Savior they had envisioned Him to be. By abandoning Jesus they had in effect rejected and repudiated Him. They no longer wanted to be associated with Him. He was no longer their Brother. Especially Peter had made that very clear, when later that night he denied Jesus three times. And by rejecting Jesus as their Brother, they had in reality rejected God as their Father. It was true that they were now grieved by their actions. Think of Peter running out into the night upon facing Jesus after his third denial. They had acted in haste. But it was too late to undo what they had done. Jesus was gone. And so it was of greatest significance that Jesus said to the women, “Tell my brethren….” Jesus still counted them as His brethren! They were still part of the family of God!

Here we find a most blessed gospel.

How could Jesus, in light of what had happened, still refer to the disciples as brethren? The answer is that Jesus had just paid the price for sin, even the sin of His disciples in repudiating Him. On the basis of the payment, Jesus had even publicly prayed for forgiveness not only for His disciples but for others of His own that had been involved in crucifying Him. This was His first cross word. And God heard Jesus’ prayer, so that He not only forgave them but also owned them as His own sons.

This blessed gospel Jesus now proclaimed as the resurrected Lord. God’s purpose in Jesus’ resurrection was to bring the blessings of the cross to His people and to do so by proclaiming to them the gospel of the cross. This is what Jesus did now to the disciples. They had abandoned Him and forfeited their right to the family of God. But by God’s grace they grieved over their sins. And so Jesus was quick to put their grieving hearts to rest. He would appear to them later on that evening. But first He appeared to the women with the message, “Tell my brethren….”
And Christ continues to do this as the risen Lord.

All we that belong to Jesus are His brethren. We have been adopted into the family of God on the basis of Christ’s perfect work on the cross. This makes us brethren to each other and to Jesus Christ. Together we are heirs of God.

But often we repudiate Jesus Christ and the Father, just as the disciples did. We do this when, for the praise and acceptance of men, we fail to defend Jesus’ name. We do this every time we fail to rely upon Jesus’ saving power, resulting in a sad turning away from the ways of God to walk with the children of disobedience.

We deserve to be disinherited, just as the disciples did!

But Christ has also removed those offenses by His death on the cross so that we are still members of the family of God and still Jesus’ brethren. And the risen Lord Jesus continues still to assure us of that. By the power of His Word and Spirit He leads us to repentance and assures us that we are still His brethren.

An important directive!

Go tell My brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see Me.

The disciples must go into Galilee that Jesus might bring His little flock together once again. The little flock of God, which numbered about 500, had been scattered as Jesus said it would be. But now they needed to be brought together again. Christ had work for them. He would use them to begin the great work of the new covenant of gathering the elect family of God from among the nations. In His death Jesus had laid the basis for this family and their inheritance. Now in the power of His resurrection He must gather them together. He would do that by the preaching of the gospel to the nations, effectively calling all those ordained by God the Father to be His brethren. But He would accomplish this through His brethren already on the earth. So Jesus called His brethren to Galilee. In Galilee they would be safe from the hostility that they had just witnessed in Jerusalem. There in Galilee Jesus commissioned them to go and preach the gospel. For by the gospel of the cross is the family of God gathered.

This implies a calling today.

The risen Lord is still gathering the family of God. He has already gathered many into the family. And He will continue to do so until the day of His coming.

Christ uses the family of God already gathered to gather still more. He will gather them from the generations
of those already gathered. And He will gather them from those raised outside the family of God. Jesus still uses the gospel of His death and resurrection for this purpose.

The calling of the household of faith is to be faithful in proclaiming that gospel.

Then she can also look forward in hope to the final gathering of the whole family of God in heavenly glory.

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