34Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality,35but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.36You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ — he is Lord of all. 37That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.
39We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
1After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.7Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
8So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
Once there was a man named Jesus. God sent him to bring light and healing into a world full of trouble and pain. Jesus taught people about God’s kingdom and love. He healed the sick and welcomed people who were caught at the edges of society and rejected by religious people.
Jesus gathered huge crowds who were longing for God’s love. Many of them had been told all their life that they didn’t belong, that they weren’t righteous enough to please God, but Jesus welcomed them. It was obvious watching Jesus that God was doing something special. The power in his words, the warmth of his welcome and the strength of his healing set him apart.
At the same time, he didn’t fit the mold of a holy man. He colored outside the lines of social boundaries and religious tradition. He criticized the religious leaders and challenged the comfortable. Some people, especially powerful people, thought Jesus might be dangerous, that he was leading people away from God. They also worried that his radical teachings could upset the delicate balance with the Roman Empire that allowed Jewish people freedom of worship.
Finally, the religious leaders got fed up with Jesus and the challenge he represented to their authority. They found one of his closest followers to lead them to his hideout away from the adoring eyes of the crowd. They arrested him, condemned him of blasphemy for saying he was God’s son and they handed him over to the imperial governor of Jerusalem, Pontius Pilate.
After some convincing and a staged demonstration calling for Jesus to be crucified, Pilate agreed. Jesus was whipped and beaten and mocked. Then he was led up a hill outside the city and nailed to a cross. That afternoon he died a horrible death, was buried in a tomb carved into a rock and the tomb was sealed with a huge rock guarded by soldiers.
Even before his death Jesus’ followers had run away and hidden. In Matthew’s account none of his followers are there when he dies except for three women and a man named Joseph we never hear anything else about. The women went right up to the tomb on that Friday afternoon to see where he was buried so they could bring spices and ointments on Sunday morning to do one last kindness for Jesus.
Everything seemed finished. Hope had died; fear had won; and nobody knew who else might be arrested.
But God wasn’t finished yet.