John 20:19–22 19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
It was the first Easter Sunday … Sunday night to be exact … and the disciples were hiding. Jesus had been crucified two days earlier and then buried in a tomb supplied by Joseph of Arimathea. As far as the disciples were concerned, he was dead, he was buried, and he wasn’t coming back. In the days and weeks to come, they would be hunted down by the religious authorities, arrested, and killed. It was over.
Except that it wasn’t. As they gathered together behind locked doors … suddenly the disciples saw Jesus himself standing there! “Peace be with you,” he said, and then offering him his hands and his sides as proof that they weren’t seeing a ghost, he breathed on them and they received the Holy Spirit. It was the greatest reunion in the history of the world! Jesus was reunited with his best friends on earth, and they were reunited with the Son of God, the King of Kings, their Savior!
This month I’ve been thinking a lot about reunions. In March, I was reunited with my old pastor Charlie Drew who came to Pinewoods to preach and teach at our annual Missions Encounter Weekend. It was a great time! We talked about Jesus, our families, the church down here in Pensacola and the church up there in New York. We laughed a lot. He asked good questions, the kind of probing, heart-level questions an older pastor asks a younger pastor he loves. When he went home, I was thankful for the time we had together, but I found myself wishing we had more time. We immediately invited him to come back … in large part … because we didn’t want him to leave.
Then last week, one of my friends died. Her name is Pamela and she was Kate’s roommate in New York City. She was in her 40’s. She had an amazing husband named Erik and four little boys. She died of brain cancer. Back when we lived in New York, Kate and I used to go on double-dates with Erik and Pamela. (We once had lunch together at a
Hawaiian-themed restaurant called “Waikiki Wally’s” on the Lower East Side, which was one of the most surreal things I’ve ever done! Outside the doors there were gritty streets, tall buildings, and huge piles of gray snow. Inside? Hawaii! Like I said … it was surreal.) Sometimes when I think back on those times, I can still see Pamela’s face with my mind’s eye. I can still hear her voice. She was the one who picked up the phone when I called Kate to ask her out on our first date. (Afterwards, she said to Kate … “Did Joel just ask you OUT?!” I’m laughing as I write this … with just a few tears in my eyes. All these years later, I can still hear her voice!)
Someday, I’m going to see Charlie again. We’ll see each other at General Assembly. Kate and I will take a trip to New York and we’ll have dinner with Charlie and his wife. We’ll keep bugging Charlie until he comes down to preach at Pinewoods again. Somehow, some way, we’ll see each other again.
But what about Pamela? Because of Easter, I know I’m going to see her again too! Someday, Jesus is going to come again, we’ll both be raised from the dead, and it will be a glorious reunion! I’ll be there with Kate, Pamela will be there with Erik. Our good friends Melissa and Nick will be there too! (Melissa was Kate’s second roommate and Pamela’s best friend. Nick is her husband.)
For some people, the afterlife is just wishful thinking. I’ve buried enough people and spent enough time with grieving families to know that almost everyone believes that their loved one is “going to a better place,” whatever that means. But for Christians, we have so much more than wishful thinking! We have hope that’s based on something concrete. Our hope is based on something that happened in history. Our hope is a person … a person named Jesus of Nazareth, who came walking out of the grave on the very first Easter Sunday.
Here’s what the Apostle Paul had to say about it …
Do you hear what he’s saying? Jesus rose again on Easter Sunday therefore, we will rise again when Jesus returns! What a great and glorious reunion that will be! When Jesus returns, we’ll be with him, we’ll be our friends and family, and we’ll live in a world without goodbyes. In the New World, nobody ever has to has to go back home.
Why? The resurrection means Jesus wins. The resurrection means love wins. The resurrection means peace wins. The resurrection means life wins. Easter Sunday means death is swallowed up in victory … forever! (1 Corinthians 13:1-13; 15:54-55; Isaiah 25:8; Hosea 13:14). Sin doesn’t win. Death doesn’t win. Hate doesn’t win. In the New World, dividing walls of hostility will be torn down forever! (Ephesians 2:14)
This world is a beautiful place sometimes! (Sometimes, it’s not.) But the good news of the gospel is that we have a Savior – “Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrews 2:9)
That hope becomes your hope the moment you believe! Repentance. Faith. Resurrection. Reunion. Soon and very soon we are going to see the King! Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Come quickly.