RETURN JOURNEY

The disciples sat huddled together in their grief, in their fear, in their disappointment, in their despair. All of their hopes and expectations that centred on Jesus of Nazareth had been totally demolished.

They had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel – Luke 24:21.

They had recognized him as ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’ – Matthew 16:16.

They had affirmed ‘You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ – John 6:68, 69.

But now he was dead.

All of his claims about himself now seemed empty.

How could he possibly ‘give life’ – John 5:21 – when he has lost his own life?

How could he possibly be ‘the bread of life’ – John 6:35 – when he has been overcome by death?

How could he possibly give ‘the light of life – John 8:12 – when he has been overpowered by the darkness?

How could he possibly be ‘the resurrection and the life’ – John 11:25, 26 – when the coldness of death holds him fast?

All of their hopes and expectations were gone – pounded out of them even as the Roman hammer pounded the nails through the flesh of Jesus; sucked out of them, even as his blood dripped to the ground; dissolved into despair and desolation even as the breath of life ceased on Jesus’ lips.

Life was gone. Hope was gone. Death is final. Their three years following Jesus, learning from Jesus, serving Jesus, believing Jesus – it was all pointless, rendered valueless by this horrific death.

But then ...

Then came the women, breathless, confused, babbling out the incomprehensible ‘He’s not there! He’s not in the tomb! We don’t know where he is!’

Then came the sight of the opened tomb, and the grave clothes lying there empty, the burial cloth folded up.

And Mary’s joy-filled news ‘I have seen the Lord!’

And Jesus coming and saying ‘Peace be with you!’ and showing them his hands and his side.

Only then did things that Jesus had taught them earlier begin to make sense. Only then they began to understand that while this death was the purpose, the goal, of Jesus’ journey, it was not the end, as he had already taught them:

Matthew 16:21 – 'From that time he began to explain that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.'

Matthew 17:22, 23 – 'The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.’

Matthew 20:18, 19 – 'They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!'

Beyond his death, beyond his fulfilment of God’s eternal purpose of salvation, beyond his atonement for our sins, is a threefold return journey:

His resurrection: a return to life as we have seen above.

His return to his eternal glory: God ‘raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come’ – Ephesians 1:20, 21.

His future return to earth, not incognito masked by human flesh, but resplendent in his divine glory: On that day we will ‘see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory’ – Matthew 24:30.

And on that final journey, that return journey to earth, he will not come alone as he did when he came here to die. The angels of heaven will accompany him, but that is not all. When Christ who is our life appears, then we also, who believe in him, will appear with him in glory – Colossians 3:4.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2022