The record of the time between Jesus’ death and His resurrection appearances shows us the darkest days of the church. The women and disciples were overwhelmed with grief and fear, doubt and despair. No doubt the mockery of the crowds and of the one thief on the cross echoed in their minds: “He saved others; let him save Himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” (Luke 23:35). They did not remember, understand, or believe the things that Jesus had told them before His death on the cross. In some cases, like Thomas’, former faith seemed to have given way to empty cynicism. While Mary Magdalene and the other women made their way to the tomb early Sunday morning, none of them understood that these dark days were actually days of the greatest display and accomplishment of sovereign love.
The Lord had promised His people that He would “not leave [them] or forsake [them]” (Deut. 31:6; see Heb. 13:5–6). He had told His disciples that He would be killed and would rise after three days (Mark 10:34). The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is not only a marvelous seal of His finished work of atonement but also a confirmation that His words always come to pass. John reminds us that even when we do not understand, our Lord is always true to His Word. He always does what He says He will do. His Word is rock solid, even when we are slow to believe.
The resurrection accounts emphasize Jesus’ devotion to His sheep. Rather than appearing in the temple or centers of earthly power, He shows that His first priority is ministering to His people. He comes to His weak, beleaguered, doubting ones, bringing them back to Himself. Mary Magdalene, initially unable to see or hear in her grief, has her ears and eyes opened as He comes to her and calls her name. The Good Shepherd calls His sheep by name: they “hear my voice, and . . . follow me” (John 10:27; see also John 10:3).
On Sunday evening, the disciples gathered in a locked room, fearing the Jews. The men had abandoned or denied Jesus while He was pursuing the great work that would bring them forgiveness and eternal life. Instead of coming with rebuke and condemnation, Jesus said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). He revived their faith, reaffirmed their calling, and sent them to be His witnesses. They were filled with joy and gladness in His presence. The next Sunday, Jesus returned, pursuing even cynical Thomas, reviving and restoring him.
Today, our Lord Jesus Christ is ascended and reigning in heavenly glory. He remains the same, continuing His great work of saving, sustaining, reviving, and recovering His people. While we cannot see Him now, He preserves us for the day that our faith will also be made sight: “I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, . . . that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:24–26).