To Recap the Historical Narrative of that first Easter Weekend, it was on Good Friday evening that a wealthy Jewish Disciple of Jesus named Joseph of Arimathea along with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and member of the Jewish Sanhedrin wrapped Jesus’ lifeless body in clean linen and laid him in his own new tomb which he had cut in the rock and rolled a giant stone down a slope to cover the tomb’s entrance. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary sat and watched with great emotion. Later several Roman soldiers would be posted to lock down and seal the tomb to prevent body theft and resurrection fraud.
As the sun rises on that first Easter Morning, the women emerge from the darkest 30 hours they have ever experienced, an empty void, a Black Sabbath. The gospel writers give us few details about the day between Good Friday Sunset and Easter Sunday Sunrise it is just empty space and dead air. After a Good Friday of despair, darkness, defeat and hopelessness and before an Easter Sunday of joy, light, victory and hope, the women and the disciples endured the longest day of their lives. A day of stark emptiness. A day of dead intermission between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ when His body lays in the tomb. A parenthesis when they reflect on reflect on their cowardice, their denials, and their desperate flights in fear.
For the disciples it would be a dark season of emptiness, wondering what would become of them as they hid from the authorities. The women, not feeling the same guilt as the apostles, would still feel empty, lonely, grieved and without hope. They would spend the better part of these two nights laying on their beds soaking their pillows with tears. And so the story continues in Matthew’s Gospel, “Now after the (Black) Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.” And what they would find was completely unexpected…
We’re familiar with Jesus interaction with the man known to us as the Rich, Young Ruler (RYR) who comes to Jesus looking for Jesus’ seal of approval for a life well lived. The RYR asks the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Then, in an attempt to challenge the man’s entire Life Program of human and moral goodness, Jesus gives a surprising answer regarding the one thing that the RYR lacks in order to inherit eternal life, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
What do you think about Jesus’ answer to the man’s question? How would you answer the query of your neighbor who asks, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I would answer my neighbor by pointing him to Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. That He died to pay the penalty for our sins and to satisfy The Father’s holy wrath that was due to us. I would say you must repent and believe the gospel. In fact, in all of my years of sharing the plan of salvation, I have never told anyone that they needed to sell everything they have and give it to the poor.
There is also no record of Jesus giving this same salvation plan to another. He tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born again, but doesn’t mention money. He tells the woman to go and sin no more but fails to mention the poor. He tells money-loving Zacchaeus to give half of his money to the poor before announcing that salvation has come to his house, but he doesn’t have to give everything to the poor. Jesus certainly doesn’t command everyone to give it all away in order to inherit eternal life but the RYR must give it all away in order to go to heaven. Christ tells THIS man that he must give up his earthly inheritance to receive eternal inheritance.
So does Jesus create a customized salvation plan for each individual? Kinda Sorta! Looking back, the bare recital of the law had no effect on the RYR, so Christ employs other words for detecting the hidden disease in the man’s heart. He places his surgical finger on the precise place of self-rightness in the man. The RYR is not just self-righteous about his morality, he is self-righteous about what he has. His confidence, trust, security and identity are wrapped up in his money and possessions. So, with crisp, clear and steely vision Jesus sees through the projected image of moral rightness and exposes the man’s true savior! No man can serve two masters and Jesus will not be your savior if you have another.
Think about it this way, the call of the gospel is never just start Trusting Christ. The call of the gospel is stop Trusting Other Things and Start Trusting Christ. Repentance and Faith are the twin sisters of our gospel response which lose their meaning and context when seperated. Jesus’ customized salvation plan for individual people is always this: “stop trusting in your false savior and start trusting in Me.” Because Jesus knows our hearts, he sees through our false piety to the place where our basic spiritual justification and identity originate.
So what is the one thing you lack? What is the one thing that you trust in to make you feel RIGHT in your heart, in relationships, in the universe, before God? What is the one good thing about yourself that justifies your Life in the universe? Repent and Believe!