Before God called me into the ministry I worked for a large cemetery in their pre-need sales department. The cemetery officials always did their best to counteract the grim reality of that place. As much as possible they tried to shield visitors from all suggestion or thought of the harsh finality of death. We salesmen were instructed to refer to the cemetery as a park, and we had a grounds rule that there must be nothing dead in sight. Fallen leaves had to be raked daily, dead tree limbs had to be removed immediately and flowers had to be kept blooming. Everything about the place was geared to the denial of what made our business possible—death.
Yet as a new believer with confident faith in the life to come, I was not troubled by what others might have deemed a very depressing job. I knew that I had eternal life because of Christ, and in the course of my work I often had the joy of telling others that the grave is not life’s goal.”
Certainly for those without hope of an afterlife, death is a grim and fearful prospect—a subject to be avoided. Yet we who have committed our lives to Christ can find comfort even in the thought of death. It speaks to us of the final victory over sin, pain and suffering.
Yeshua has promised that even as He triumphed over death, in Him we, too, will overcome this final enemy and rejoice in God’s presence forever. About to face the cross, He could still comfort Martha with, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…” (John 11:24-26).
This comfort is foremost in our thoughts as we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord. Indeed, at this time of year we Jews for Jesus try to be out as much as possible to proclaim the glad tidings that Christ, our Passover Lamb, was sacrificed for us and rose again. We are delighted to be able to tell everyone we encounter that all who believe in Him can have eternal life.
This message is certainly the best possible news a person could hear. Nevertheless, many do not like it or consider it good news. To them it is bad news. The proclamation that Jesus died for the sin of the world comes as an accusation of their own “sinmanship.” They would rather not be reminded of the implications: that by God’s standards all of humanity is enslaved by sin and constantly lives in sin; that all religions of human origin are inadequate; and that all of our good deeds cannot outweigh our sinful nature.
The world is full of bad news. Remember the good news/bad news anecdotes? They always let you down with a thud. For example, “The good news is that you have just inherited a huge fortune; but the bad news is that you will get only 20% of it. The other 80% goes to taxes.”
God’s news, on the other hand, is bad news/good news: The bad news is that we are all corrupt, worthless sinners deserving of eternal punishment; but the good news is that God has provided a way of forgiveness and the promise of eternal life with Him.
Unbelievers are often so intent on disclaiming the “bad” part of the gospel message that they forget the good news—that God has supplied the remedy.
If a person only gets part of the good news, and if his or her mind is still on self, the good news can, indeed, be bad news. Most people have defense mechanisms that enable them to deal with unpleasantness they don’t want to hear or consider. One such defense mechanism that enables many to dismiss the gospel is the claim that it is not relevant today.
Yet the gospel must be as relevant as its subject, which is life or death. Nothing ought to be considered with more urgency than a “life or death matter.”
The life or death issue is emphasized in the account of what transpired on the resurrection morning. The message in Matthew 28:7 and 10 was good news, indeed: “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He [Jesus] is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him… Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.'”
Though that was good news, it might have been interpreted by some overzealous followers as bad news because of what Yeshua did not say. He did not say to those at the empty tomb, “Go and tell everyone to meet us here with their weapons. Then we will all march into Jerusalem and set up My kingdom.”
Yeshua first entrusted His good news to only a few women with whom He had a relational intimacy—those who cared the most. They, in turn, were to tell only the select, the remaining eleven who had been with Jesus for three years. Indeed, when they obeyed and went to Galilee, they did encounter the Savior.
Yet when the disciples first heard Yeshua’s command to go back to Galilee to wait for Him, it might have seemed like bad news—like playing Monopoly and being told to go back to “Go.” Going back to “square one” and beginning all over again is always difficult because it puts a wrinkle in our carefully made human plans.
God’s plans are better than our plans, but we don’t always see things His way. Despite the disappointment of going back to Galilee, the message that resurrection morning was good news for the disciples. The good news that Christ had died as the atonement for the sin of the world and had risen again according to the Scriptures proved His messiahship.
But where did that leave the larger Jewish community of Yeshua’s day? The conditions of Jewish existence under the heel of Rome barely allowed survival and imposed upon them a Gentile culture. They were anticipating a messianic kingdom—looking for the coming of the Messiah to free them.
The good news, however, was there for those who were able to understand. The Resurrection demonstrated that the kingdom the Jewish people had hoped for—where Rome would be deposed and the Jewish religion would be purged and restored to its high and holy place by God—had been initiated, albeit invisibly at that time.
Though their earthly hopes were somewhat dashed, there remained a better hope. The best news was that God’s kingdom extended beyond earthly bounds and natural restrictions. As evidenced by Yeshua’s resurrection, even death could not bind the citizens of that kingdom.
“Go tell my brethren,” Jesus said to the women at the tomb. It was a limited commission. The greater commission came later when Yeshua commanded His disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel.…”
To tell the whole world would take special empowerment, and it came on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit energized, impelled and propelled the believers, so that with great joy and confidence they boldly proclaimed the atoning work and resurrection of the Messiah to everyone they met.
To me, Yeshua’s words, “Go tell my brethren,” spoken to the women at the empty tomb carry a personal mandate. The earthly brethren of Christ are the Jewish people. Without Him, my Jewish people, like all of humanity, are dead in their trespasses and sins. They need to hear; they need to know. They need to receive Him so that they may live with Him forever.
More than ever, as I rejoice in the Resurrection, I feel constrained to proclaim the good news to my Jewish brethren! Don’t you?