There’s a spot in Jerusalem where you can walk inside a tomb from the time of Christ. As you walk in, you can imagine what it must have been like for those who walked into Jesus’ tomb on that first Easter morning, when the angels greeted them with these words:
“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay” (Matthew 28:6).
If you’d like to take a minute (well, about a minute-and-ten seconds), you can walk into the tomb with me and see it for yourself. Then read on to see why the story of what happened that first Easter morning is perhaps the most significant event that’s ever taken place in the entire history of Israel.
What I love about the Easter story is that just when it looked like all hope was lost, God showed up and showed the disciples that the death of Jesus wasn’t the end—it was just the beginning of something even better.
In a matter of days, the disciples went from thinking that their hopes and plans and dreams for the future had been dashed forever, to seeing that God had bigger hopes and plans and dreams for them than they could have ever imagined!
You can almost see their faces light up as God opens their eyes to the truth. Watch what happens as Jesus reveals Himself to two of the disciples as they walk along the road:
Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing Him.
He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked Him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
“What things?” He asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed Him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified Him; but we had hoped that He was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find His body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said He was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see” (Luke 24:13-24).
Take a look at the disciples’ faces when Jesus first walks up and starts talking to them. The Bible says, “They stood still, their faces downcast.” I don’t know how exactly Jesus was able to hide His true identity from them, but I do know that it’s hard to see when our faces are downcast. But look at what happens as the story continues.
He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if He were going farther. But they urged Him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So He went in to stay with them.
When He was at the table with them, He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him, and He disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when He broke the bread (Luke 24:25 -35).
The disciples went from downcast to delighted, and as they did, their hearts began to burn within them. They were eager to learn everything they possibly could from this Man who was walking with them, so much so that they “urged Him strongly” to stay with them. Then, when Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them, their eyes were opened to the Truth. Even though Jesus disappeared in that moment, their excitement about what they felt didn’t disappear. They got up at once and ran to tell the others the good news: This wasn’t the end at all, but just the beginning of something new!
There are times when you may feel like God, or people, or life itself has pulled the rug out from under you. It may seem like all your hopes and plans and dreams are crashing down around you. You might wonder how you’ll ever be able to get back up again. But I want to encourage you to do what the disciples did as they walked along the road. They stopped looking down and they started looking up. They looked up to the One who held their life in His hands—the same One who holds your life in His hands—the One who gives each one of us “life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:25b).
What may look like an ending to something in your life may in fact be just the beginning of something entirely new, something even bigger and better and more remarkable than you ever could have imagined. And if you think that’s just wishful thinking, just remember the Easter story, and remember the God who specializes in turning sad endings into new beginnings!
Father, thank You for the reminder that You can take the sad endings in our lives and turn them into new beginnings. Open my eyes that I may see just what you have in store for me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.