After the risen Jesus had disclosed his wounds and given his word of peace, we read: “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.” (A.V.) We have to fit gladness in if we are to be faithful to this Easter day appearance and fit it in at the top. The NIV reads: “The disciples were overjoyed ….” (Jn. 20:20).
Is it small wonder that resurrection truth should stimulate abundant joy? For nothing can upstage the glory of resurrection, not only Christ’s, but also of every believer in due time. Already we have the spiritual resurrection displayed in the new birth. This is the first fruits. And we have yet more to look forward to. Salvation for us is the redemption of the body, but not an escape from it. Yet there is a full harvest, encompassing the new body, to come!
We rejoice because Jesus’ conquest of death is not just the conquest of sin’s penalty in death but also of the devil’s power to destroy. Jesus said: “When a strong man fully armed guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armour in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils” (Lk. 11:21).
There is a unique description of the death of Moses, the servant of the LORD. His death is described in a strange Hebrew word. We read that he died there on Mt. Nebo “according to the mouth of the Lord” (Dt. 34:5 “breath” N.A.S.B margin). We can interpret this as referring to the word of the Lord but there is an alternative rabbinic tradition, that death to Moses was the kiss of God’s grace on the cheek of his redeemed soul.
The Bible is honest in recognising the challenges that authentic faith has to face. But it is also clear that only trials can authenticate such faith, and it is because Yahweh evaluates such trust in Him as gold that He is concerned to purify it by trial. You do not bother to do this with tin (1 Pet. 1:7). Indeed, as Job declared: “when he has tested me I shall come forth as gold“ (Job 23:10). Moreover, it is God’s will that we should continue to experience joy in the midst of trials.
So, as believers, trials are there to purify our faith and prepare us for glory. And even death itself is not to be feared, but it is to be regarded as an event which unlocks the door that admits us to a brighter light, a nearer presence and a deeper joy. For us, it is a reason to rejoice for the dawning of a new and better day (Phil 4:4).
For reflection: At the resurrection appearances the disciples were glad when they met the Lord. Let gladness fill your heart today as you meet with Him and ponder what He has in store for you!