FROM DESPAIR TO JOY .
Casting back your minds to the triumphant entry of our Lord Jesus Christ into Jerusalem: From the excitement of entering into the ” City of the great King ” with the crowds shouting ‘ Hosanna ‘ , the praise and admiration from the people in the City , to the agony of those hours waiting while the Master was being tried , and then watching him die in agony on the Cross . Now his body was in the tomb , waiting for it’s embalming for it’s permanent burial .
The steps were no doubt heavy as the women approached the tomb , eyes would be red with crying , and there would be concern at having to deal with corpse of the Master and the spices were so heavy . Yet as they came nearer the tomb , there was another surprise for them _ the heavy stone which they had wondered how it would be removed , was rolled away and the entrance to the tomb was open .
There must have been an apprehension ( anxiety ) as they stooped down and entered the tomb and yet it was full of light and there were two men there – the Angels . No wonder they were afraid . Having been reminded of the words of Jesus , Luke simply tells us that they returned from the Sepulcher. Imagine the size of their steps as they ran as fast as they could with with the Good News _ the import of which they would not fully understand . How quickly their sorrow would have been turned to joy ; ” Sorrow may endure for the night , but joy cometh in the morning “
May the sorrows of the night of this Gentile system of things ( world – KOSMOS , Grk . ) be soon turned into our glorious and joyous morning. Yet they must have been somewhat demoralised by the attitude of the disciples when they told them of the news . It appeared to them to be purely idle talk and they did not believe them .
We need , of course , to see the challenges to our discipleship in these accounts of very real men and women . How often does a brother or sister come to us with good news and we disbelieved them or perhaps more particularly someone has what they think is good idea , say for preaching and we quash it immediately and deflate our brother or sister . ( Peter was ever was the one who sees for himself ) . Luke then recounts for us the story of the two on the road to Emmaus .
The conversation they were having was certainly not a happy one . The things they had worked so hard and hoped for was now but a distant dream . They had been looking forward for the redemption of Israel , the removal of the Roman power , a time when Israel would be great in the nations again and there would be a righteous King sitting on David’s throne .
The dream had ended when the master died on the Cross of Calvary . The last person they expected to see on their journey was the Master _ with eyes that had been crying so much , it would had been difficult to see him , and his countenance would be different from the last they had seen him .
Jesus picks up on the sadness and let’s them tell the story . As he responded to them from the scriptures , they knew so well there was almost a sudden change which came over them . Their hearts began to burn within them . You perhaps have had the experience someone is expounding scriptures and there has been a shiver down the spine as the message has come home . Perhaps it was that for them
It was finally in the breaking of bread that the truth dawned upon them that they were with Master , Jesus . The time taken to return to Jerusalem must have been a fraction of the outward journey . Still the disciples had problems in believing. Slowly over the forty days Jesus convinced them that it really was him raised .
They must really have wondered what was happening when Jesus was taken up into heaven. The immediate reaction must have been one of depression and sadness . This time though the message of reassurance of the angel was immediate and clear ( ” ye men of Galilee ….Acts 1 : 10 , 11 – ) . With joy and yet anxious they returned to Jerusalem .
WHY HAVE WE LABOURED THIS STORY ??
Firstly if we experience the ups and downs of life fluctuating between depression and joy then we are not the first , not the last who will go through those experiences . Secondly , the story illustrates that the Master saw first-hand the difficulties that human flesh has in coping with these situations and as such understands our problems .
We can understand the reaction of the man in Acts 3 who had been born lame . He had never walked and now through the power of the Holy Spirit exercised by Peter and John he was completely and totally healed . No wonder he walked , leapt for joy and Praised God .
He attracted wonder and amazement from all who saw him .
Perhaps we have more difficulties in understanding Paul and Silas in prison in Philippi . If our backs were raw with a whipping and we were black and blue from beatings , would we be singing hymns and praising God ?
In adversity Paul was showing a joy in the things ( though not pleasant then !! ) . When Paul later wrote his epistle to the Philippian Ecclesia , one of the recurring themes of that letter is one of joy . He tells them that they are to in the Lord always , again he says rejoice ( chpt. 4 : 4 ) . Some of them would remember that the Ecclesia was born because of the manifesting of joy in the face of adversity .
But what was this joy based on ? . Paul tells us in Hebrews that ” Jesus endured the cross for the joy that was set before him ” ( Heb. 12 : 1 – 3 ) . What was set before the Lord ? In Revelation we are told that when Jesus comes back he will have his reward with him , and Paul writing to the Thessalonians says that they are his glory and joy ( 1 Thess. 2 : 20 ) .
So for Jesus the joy was centred on a redeemed people , redeemed because of what he had done . So our joy has to be centred on that inner peace which comes from our knowledge of Salvation and the utter conviction that God will fulfill His promises .
We live in a very troubled world . People all over the world are frightened by fear of terrorism and other vices ( our own Boko- Haram , world-wide hunger , failed economies , kidnapping , banditry , armed robbery , etc . ) No nation in the world is exempt .
From our human perspective this is a very depressing picture . Yet it is against this background that Jesus tells his disciples that they are to have the Attitude of joy _ lift up your heads _ why ? _ for your redemption is near . So we have to manifest joy which is one of the fruits of the spirit in our lives .
It is not an academic exercise , But in the way we think , talk and act it has to manifest itself . Not always easy , but easier if our minds are focused on the kingdom of God and His righteousness knowing that the God whom we serve does and we keep His promises .
So , when we come to break bread and drink wine , we remember a death not in sorrow but with joy for it speaks to us of the means of our sins being forgiven ; ( and if Christ did not die and resurrect , our hope would have been in vain , and we would have been of all men most MISERABLE) . But it also reminds us that the Lord promised that there would come a time when he would eat and drink anew in his Father’s Kingdom .
Here is the reason for our joy in life ( This life has nothing for us ) .
However , we might feel sad or depressed , but let us take Confidence , for we remember a living Lord who wants to share with us his JOY IN HIS FATHER’S KINGDOM .
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