20.4.14 – Losing Jesus – Peter Cheyne

Think of the women and the disciples on Easter Sunday. They must have experienced all sorts of emotions. But do you think one of them might have been embarrassment? They had lost Jesus. They didn’t know where He was and that is pretty serious. “Sorry God, we’ve lost Your Son!”

Think of the women approaching the tomb. All of their dreams had come to an end. The person who had loved them more than anyone else and who had promised so much, had, all of a sudden been arrested and killed. What an incredible shock!

In their grief and their hopelessness, they come simply to do what they ought to for Him – wrap His body in spices. Beyond this act, who knows what their lives contained?

But they got to the tomb and, lo and behold, the stone had been rolled away. What on earth did this mean?

They went into the tomb and the text says “they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus”. Can you imagine them searching all around in that tomb? Where is He?

The disciples didn’t have Him. Had His enemies had taken the body? Were they adding to the shame and horror of crucifixion?

They’d just lost Jesus! All of the gospels have some reference to looking for Jesus on Easter Sunday. (Mt 28:5, Mk 16:6, Jn 20:3, 4-8, 13, 15) For example, in John, the women say, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put Him.” Peter and John run to the tomb, looking. Mary explains to an angel that she is crying because: “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have put Him.” ‘The gardener” asks her, “Woman, who is it you are looking for?”

Going back to Luke’s account: the women were looking around the tomb. Angels appeared. Terrified, the women fell on their faces. The angels said, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?”

That is a gentle rebuke, isn’t it? “Why are you looking for the living among the dead? How stupid! Why look here? You are looking in completely the wrong place. Don’t you understand?”

The problem was, of course, that they hadn’t understood. The angels said, “He is risen! Don’t you remember that He said to you that the Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again?”

Then the penny dropped. “Oh… yes… He did say that!” Everything that had happened in the last few days, He had predicted, including that He would be raised again. Goodness, gracious me! I imagine them struggling to comprehend what this all meant.

Why had they been looking among the dead for a man who was alive? Because their thinking was all wrong. They hadn’t understood Jesus so, with a wrong mind-set they were looking in the wrong place.

They went back and told the disciples what had happened. The disciples didn’t believe them. It sounded like nonsense. Their thinking was all wrong as well. Their thinking didn’t allow for a resurrected Jesus. So Peter went looking for Jesus. He couldn’t find Him and he went away wondering what had happened.

This is very serious! They have just lost the Messiah? You get frustrated when you lose your keys. Can you imagine how embarrassing it would be to lose the Son of God? They were searching around in a tomb and He wasn’t there. He should have been! He was there last time they had looked.

If we had read further in Luke 24, we would have heard the two people on the road to Emmaus saying, “Some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body… then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see.” We’ve lost Jesus.

The irony is that it was Jesus that they were talking to. They were telling Jesus that they had lost Him!

Jesus’ response was: “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter His glory?”

That is exactly the same response that the angels had given the women. There is a rebuke. Why don’t you believe what you have already been told? You have already been told that these things must happen and you have been told that it ends in victory; resurrection; glory.

This made me think of other people who lost Jesus or, at least, were searching for Him.

“Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” Who said that? The wise men came searching for Jesus. What was the answer? Herod consulted the chief priests and the teachers of the law because they knew the scripture – the prophecies. They reported that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and they quoted the prophet Micah. Where will we find Jesus? What does the scripture say? Are you seeing a pattern here? Every time the searchers are pointed back to what God has already said.

Who else lost Jesus? His parents lost Him. Again, how embarrassing! You have been entrusted with God’s Son and you lose Him! How incredibly irresponsible is that? They searched for three days for Him and when they found Him, Jesus said, “Well, why were you searching? Didn’t you know…?” Again there is an element of rebuke. They should have known. God had already told them. Did they not understand?

In this instance, Jesus said, “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” They should have known that He would be communing with His Father. Or, it can also be translated, “Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Where will we find Jesus? Doing the Father’s business.

The disciples also lost Jesus. Look at Mark 1. Very early one morning, Jesus got up and went out to a solitary place to pray. When the disciples got up, they couldn’t find Him and they went looking for Him. When they found Him, they exclaimed, “Everybody is looking for you!” They all wanted more of the miracles that they had experienced the previous day. Where was Jesus? In prayer; with His Father.

He replied, “Let us go somewhere else – to the nearby villages – so that I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” Where will Jesus be found? In communion with His Father and engaged in mission.

There are other occasions too when people lost Jesus. He seems to have had a habit of going AWOL.

But think back to the women and the disciples on that first Easter Sunday. They were confused. They were looking in all of the wrong places but Jesus appeared to them. He met Mary at the tomb. He met the other women as they hurried away. He met Cleopas and his companion on the road to Emmaus. He appeared to the disciples in the upper room. The angel at the tomb said, “You are looking in the wrong place but tell His disciples to go to Galilee. There you will meet Him.”

Clearly the best way to find Jesus is to know what God says about Him. The scriptures will lead us directly to Jesus.

Unfortunately, many people are seeking Jesus just like the women and the disciples not knowing, or not believing, what the scriptures say and they are looking in the wrong places. Some are looking for Jesus but they don’t know that it is Jesus they are looking for. They are looking for forgiveness or a sense of purpose or the love that they would find in Jesus, but they are looking for it in their work or relationships or synthetic cannabis or possessions. For lack of knowledge people perish.

Wrong thinking, makes it harder. If the thinking is wrong, the search might be long and hard when it needn’t be. God actually want’s people to find Jesus. God has provided information that will lead directly to Jesus. If Jesus is hard to find, it is only because we are looking in the wrong places.

The women and the disciples on the first Easter were a little confused but they were genuine and one of the really noticeable things is that while they were searching in the wrong places, and yes maybe they should have known better, even so, Jesus revealed Himself to them. They were struggling to find him but He found them. That is grace, isn’t it? God comes to us despite our confusion. God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

God says, ““You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:13-14a)

The women and the disciples were confused but they were seeking with all their hearts. When the angels reminded them of what Jesus had said, the light went on. Oh yes. When Jesus revealed Himself in the Old Testament scriptures the hearts of the two on the road to Emmaus burned within them and when Jesus broke the bread, God opened their eyes. They didn’t find Jesus. Jesus revealed Himself to them. It was grace. Even the fact that God gives us a trail to Jesus in the scriptures is grace.

But what do we learn from these incidents about where we will find Jesus? Firstly, in the scriptures. The Bible will lead us directly to Jesus.

Secondly, not among the dead. Don’t go looking in a graveyard. Jesus isn’t there. Don’t just look in history as if Jesus is no different from Julius Caesar or Mohammed. Jesus isn’t just a great leader or teacher of the past. Jesus is alive now. He is active in the world now. It is about a relationship with a living person. Don’t go looking for some dead person. Why would you look for the living among the dead? How dumb! He is not there. Look for a relationship with the living Jesus. Jesus is alive.

Thirdly, the Jesus the scriptures reveal maintained a strong relationship with His Father – in His Father’s house; early in the morning in prayer. As we draw close to the Father – as we also deepen the relationship through worship and prayer and meditation, we will find Jesus. Jesus said, “Remain in me and I also remain in you.”

Fourthly, the Jesus the scriptures reveal is on a mission. He had to be about His Father’s business. He had to preach in other villages. That is why He had come. He was utterly committed to being obedient. He would do what the Father had sent Him to do – including going to the Cross to pay for our sins. The more we too are in that space of obedience and mission, the more we will find Jesus to be with us.

Jesus said that in the Great Commission. “Go and make disciples… and I will be with you.”

That is why we will find Jesus among non-Christians and among the poor and the sick and the victims of injustice. Jesus is on a mission to rescue lost and broken people – to rescue people out of the kingdom of darkness and bring them into His glorious light. Jesus is alive and He is active in our world. When we are close to Jesus in mission, we will find Him more and more.

Think of the relief and joy when the disciples and the women understood what was really going on – understood that Jesus had actually risen from the dead – when they found Him. That is the relief and joy of every Christian who discovers the living Jesus, in the scripture, in worship, in mission.

For reflection

  1. Other examples of people searching for Jesus
    1. His family came looking for Him, thinking He had gone mad. Jesus refused to entertain them, saying that his disciples were His real brothers and sisters.

i.      What do we learn from that?

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