“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:16-20)
We are living in very turbulent times and there is much uncertainty in how this COVID-19 crisis will continue. Will it end abruptly, or will there be a second or even third wave we don’t know. Many worldly things are being affected by this virus, but one thing we do know for sure is that Jesus’ last words to His disciples were that He would always be with them. That is true for us too and we must rest our weary souls in this promise from our Saviour. We are not alone although at times we feel isolated from the world, but it is here that we see the false gods of our age, how futile they really are. Is it not in the desert that we see who we really are? It is here that we realize we cannot live by bread alone, but by God alone. “And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” (Luke 4:4).
I discovered Bishop J.C. Ryle when he was quoted in a sermon at my church. I looked him up and found he had many good things to say about this time we are in and I thought his words would be better than mine to give us hope at this time. “John Charles Ryle (10 May 1816 – 10 June 1900) was an English evangelical Anglican bishop. He was the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool.”(Wikipedia) “Martyn Lloyd-Jones described Ryle’s writings as “a distillation of true Puritan theology presented in a highly readable and modern form.” “I am bold to say that perhaps few men in the nineteenth century did so much for God, for truth, for righteousness, among the English-speaking race and in the world as Ryle.” (Richard Hobson) Ryle’s writings on the Gospels are considered by many to be the best practical, devotional, and Christ-centered commentaries EVER written!”) These quotes are taken from his Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, Matthew 28.
“Let us not fail to see in the manner of our Lord’s Resurrection, a type and pledge of the resurrection of His believing people. The grave could not hold Him beyond the appointed time, and it shall not be able to hold the believing people. A glorious angel was a witness of His rising, and glorious angels shall be the messengers who shall gather believers when they rise again. He rose with a renewed body, and yet a body, real, true, and material, and so also shall His people have a glorious body, and be like their Head. “When we see Him, we shall be like Him.” (1 John 3:2.)
Let us take comfort in this thought. Trial, sorrow, and persecution are often the portion of God’s people. Sickness, weakness, and pain often hurt and wear their poor earthly body. But their good time is yet to come. Let them wait patiently, and they shall have a glorious resurrection. When we die, and where we are buried, and what kind of a funeral we have, matters little. The great question to be asked is this, “How shall we rise again?”
Let us notice in the next place, the terror which Christ’s enemies felt at the period of His Resurrection. We are told that at the sight of the angel, “the guards shook and became as dead men.” Those hardy Roman soldiers, though not unused to dreadful sights, saw a sight which made them quail. Their courage melted at once at the appearance of one angel of God.
Let us again see in this fact, a type and emblem of things yet to come. What will the ungodly and the wicked do at the last day, when the trumpet shall sound, and Christ shall come in glory to judge the world? What will they do, when they see all the dead, both small and great, coming forth from their graves, and all the angels of God assembled round the great white throne? What fears and terrors will possess their souls, when they find they can no longer avoid God’s presence, and must at length meet Him face to face? Oh! that men were wise and would consider their latter end! Oh! that they would remember that there is a resurrection and a judgment, and that there is such a thing as the wrath of the Lamb!
Let us notice in the next place, the words of comfort which the angel addressed to the friends of Christ. We read that he said, “Fear not–for I know that you seek Jesus, who was crucified.”
These words were spoken with a deep meaning. They were meant to cheer the hearts of believers in every age, in the prospect of the resurrection. They were intended to remind us that true Christians have no cause for alarm, whatever may come on the world. The Lord shall appear in the clouds of heaven, and the earth be burned up. The graves shall give up the dead that are in them, and the last day come. The judgment shall be set, and the books shall be opened. The angels shall sift the wheat from the chaff, and divide between the good fish and the bad. But in all this there is nothing that need make believers afraid. Clothed in the righteousness of Christ, they shall be found without spot and blameless. Safe in the one true ark, they shall not be hurt when the flood of God’s wrath breaks on the earth. Then shall the words of the Lord receive their complete fulfillment–“when these things begin to come to pass, lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.” Then shall the wicked and unbelieving see how true that word was, “blessed are the people whose God is the Lord.” (Psalms 33:12)
Let us notice, finally, the gracious message which the Lord sent to the disciples after His Resurrection. He appeared in person to the women who had come to do honor to His Body. Last at the cross and first at the tomb, they were the first privileged to see Him after He rose. And to them He gives commission to carry tidings to His disciples. His first thought is for His little scattered flock. “Go, tell my brethren.”
There is something deeply touching in those simple words, “my brethren.” They deserve a thousand thoughts. Weak, frail, erring as the disciples were, Jesus still calls them His “brethren.” He comforts them, as Joseph did his brethren who had sold him, saying, “I am your brother Joseph.” Much as they had come short of their profession–sadly as they had yielded to the fear of man, they are still His “brethren.” Glorious as He was in Himself–a conqueror over death, and hell, and the grave, the Son of God is still “meek and lowly of heart.” He calls His disciples “brethren.” Let us turn from the passage with comfortable thoughts if we know anything of true religion. Let us see in these words of Christ, an encouragement to trust and not be afraid. Our Savior is one who never forgets His people. He pities their infirmities. He does not despise them. He knows their weakness, and yet does not cast them away. Our great High Priest is also our elder brother.” Yes, He is always with us.
These are comforting words in these troubling times.