He Goes Ahead of You

The Message and Power of Easter
Father James Chelich, 1996

The first Gospel of Easter, the one the Church chooses to announce the resurrection at the Easter Vigil, reads: After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene came with the other Mary to inspect the tomb. Suddenly there was a mighty earthquake, as the angel of the Lord descended…. The angel spoke, addressing the women: “Do not be frightened. I know that you are looking for Jesus the Crucified, but he is not here. He has been raised, exactly as he promised…. Go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has been raised from the dead and now goes ahead of you to Galilee, where you will see him. That is the message I have for you…” Suddenly, without warning, Jesus stood before them and said, “Peace!” The women came up and embraced his feet…Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid! Go and carry the news to my brothers that they are to go to Galilee, where they will see me.” Matthew 28:1-11 “As the first day of the week was dawning” The Easter Gospel begins with a specific reference to time: it is dawn of the first day of the week, the day we now call Sunday — the Sunday immediately after Jesus death and burial. This detail about time, along with those about the place and his physical presence to the women serve to make it clear that Jesus actually, physically rose from the dead. It is the Christian witness that he was actually seen and physically touched. We can draw something more from the reference that, “the first day of the week was dawning.” Chapter 1:1 to 2:4 of the Book of Genesis describes creation as being formed by God in six days, with God resting from His labor on the seventh day, the sabbath. Chapter 2:25 to 4:16 describes the disorder human sin brought into creation and the resulting pain, suffering and chaos that touches the lives of all of us. Throughout his earthly life the Gospel shows Jesus drawing the pain and suffering of fallen creation and humanity to himself. In the last week of his life he confronts the sin at the root of this suffering. This week of awesome confrontation results in Jesus “resting” in death on the seventh or sabbath day (Saturday). Now, at daybreak on the first day of a new week (Sunday), Jesus rises in the power of a new creation, a creation free of sin and free from the distortion of sin’s terrible consequences. The risen Lord has a message, delivered first by the angel then by himself. For those who believe this message, the dawn of this “first day” of Jesus’ resurrected life becomes the dawn of a new day in their personal lives — the “first day” of a personal new creation. “This is the message I have for you” Both the angel and Jesus deliver the same two-part message: “Do not be frightened…” “Do not be afraid…” “He has been raised from the dead and now goes ahead of you…where you will see him.” “They are to go to Galilee, where they will see me.” Notice that while the first part of the message is not to be afraid, the second part is the reason not to be. “He has been raised from the dead and now goes ahead of you…where you will see him.” The life-transforming power of Easter can be found in these words if you open your mind and your heart to the truth in them. “He has been raised from the dead…” Jesus actually rose from the dead — not just spiritually, morally or figuratively — but physically. The presence of the risen Jesus affects everything in the “real” world, the physical included. Jesus did not just rise for himself. He rose so that “real” men and women living in a “real” world could rise out of an old existence into a new one: out of crippling dependencies and addictions into freedom and confidence, out of sin into virtue, from death to life. Because he really rose we human beings living in the real world now have a choice: We can wake up in the morning to one more day of the same old disorder with all its pain and suffering, or we can rise to the “first day” of an entirely new existence. What makes the difference? He does! The real presence of Jesus makes the difference. “He…now goes ahead of you…” The “real” Jesus, the Jesus who walked the streets of Jerusalem and the roads of Galilee, the one you read about in the Gospels, has risen and gone ahead of you. He has personally “gone ahead” to every time and situation in the day and week ahead of you, especially those that will be the most trying: those were you will confront the greatest hardship, that will bring you face to face with your most feared inadequacies, that will tempt you the strongest, and in which you will be the most anxious and afraid. When you arrive at these moments, He will have arrived before you. He will already be there, personally present and waiting for you. “You will see him.” If you acknowledge the presence of Jesus in any moment or situation, you will experience his presence and his power transforming both you and the situation you are in. Aware and connected to his presence, you will speak and act differently — breaking through fear and anxiety, resisting temptation, experiencing a peace and a confidence never known before. Aware and connected to his presence you will see things, hear things and understand things in the situation that you would otherwise have completely missed. Aware and connected to his presence you will be startled at the unexpected changes in people and events. He is alive! “There is no salvation in anyone else, for there is no other name in the whole world given to us by which we are to be saved.” Acts 4:12 Believe the message of Easter: Jesus is risen! Jesus has gone ahead of you! He had arrived and is present in every place and moment this day will take you! Exercise this message is your heart. Before everything you do today and when moving from one thing to another, stop, pronounce the name “Jesus” in your heart. Say his name and let the saying of it acknowledge that you are not in that situation alone. Let it connect you in a personal way to his presence. Let it remind you that he has arrived here ahead of you. Let it assure you that at some point in this moment and situation you will experience the transforming power of the resurrection either within yourself or in the unfolding of the moment or both. Do you have to literally pause, become mindful of His presence, and actually say his name? Absolutely, and with faith and conviction! “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

Jesus, You have gone ahead of me to each moment and situation of this day.
You are here now, in this moment and situation.
Let me see what You are doing and show me how I can contribute to it.