To shrivel is to become small, to shrink. The followers of Christ had the shrivels after he was buried, but had they had faith the first Easter would not have been a great fright, but a great joy.
6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (Mark 16:6-8–ESV)
Affection and fidelity
These three women were companions of Christ through the darkest times. They had been near him on the cross and wanted to be near him at his grave. They were prevented by Sabbath laws from coming any sooner to his tomb, but we can see how they acted as soon as it was lawfully possible. When that Sabbath had ended they went to the market and bought spices, and when the sun had begun its rise on that first Easter morning they set out for the tomb.
Matthew Henry says they were the first to come and the first to be served with the wonderful news. None of the disciples came to the grave in the manner of these women. Only three ladies went to the tomb their affection and fidelity being of the first magnitude.
“Go tell his disciples, and Peter…”
These women are given a charge by this angel. He had made it plain to them that Jesus had risen from the dead. That was a most unusual, shocking and unbelievably good event. The next thing was to get Peter and the disciples out their despondency.
Think of those disciples. They were huddling in fear. Their leader of three years and the embodiment of so many of their hopes had been slain in infamy. Dashed were their confidences, and fearful was their outlook. In their own view they were easy prey for the Pharisees who would surely come and mop up the resistance. The reason the Pharisees would give for the resurrection was that the disciples had stolen the body. The disciples, though, were of no mind to go near the grave.
God saw all these things and sent an angel as his messenger to alleviate their great fears. That messenger would start a renewed and most happy outlook of Christ crucified and risen to newness of life. The women were tasked with restoring the troubled troupe of Jesus. Now, Jesus had said some of these things to them, but they had not learned it. Even so God comes to help and minister and lead them where he would have them to go.
What does this say about Jesus?
Christ was not ashamed of his disciples
The angel had told the ladies to engage the disciples to this encouraging news. What does that say about Jesus? It says that he was not ashamed to own them, to still be their master despite their failings.
Jesus had entered into an exalted state. He had been raised to life and would soon sit at the right hand of God the Father. All things had been placed beneath him. Recall Jesus’ lesson that leaders should serve, and that style had not been abandoned by the risen Christ. His way of dealing with the saints was the same then as it had been before his suffering. Jesus the Christ had been preferred above all else, but was not ashamed to recognize the cowering disciples.
Christ was not quick to point out the faults of his disciples
Note that the angel does not spread any negativity about the actions of the disciples. There is no gossip to these women, that is but a human construction and one that comes of pride. Rather the ladies having been the first to be encouraged were given the task to carry this greatest news to those who had been chosen of Jesus and taught of Jesus. These disciples had been unkind having deserted Jesus in his time of need, but despite their desertion Jesus’ care for them had not shriveled. Their actions and their demeanor had, but God’s love had not.
There was a time coming where they would see Jesus
The women were to tell the disciples that Jesus was going ahead of them into Galilee. It was at Galilee where Jesus would meet with them. When the time and place was perfect there Jesus would meet them. Jesus would find time to make himself manifest to his followers.
How can we apply this to how we live?
What does your mind do when you fail? Does it make you shrink away, hide and disengage? God would not have it to be that way. The disciples had failed in not recalling the words of their master. Would be leaders were cowering having locked themselves up as in a safe room. Even so God sent a message to them and did so by those who would not intimidate or scare them.
God was not ashamed of his disciples and he will not be ashamed of you. You may be shriveled and withdrawn hiding from God and the world, but God sees you and is not ashamed of you. His grace is sufficient for your shortcomings. Remember these disciples had run from Jesus at his most crucial hour. The shape and manner of God’s message to them was perfectly attuned to their needs. The shape of God’s message to you will also be perfectly attuned to your needs. That answer will still somehow require acceptance by faith, but enough clarity will be given to you that you can say yes. Do so.
Jesus was not so quick to point out their faults. He did not castigate them for their weakness in these matters. Despite the most difficult straits he had found himself in those difficult times were for the disciples and for us. Their fear was natural and needed to be mastered by something supernatural. That was now available, but the disciples would need to bloom into it. That flower of faith was hardly even a bud at this point, but what Jesus sets out to do he does most excellently.
- Since Christ was not ashamed of his disciples we must not be ashamed of him.
- Jesus did not point out the faults of his disciples and neither should we point out the fault of those around us.
- A time is coming when we, too, will see Jesus.
See how Christians can be their own worst enemies?
Jesus had often told these men that they would see him again on the third day. If they would have given Jesus enough credit for that they would have gone to that tomb and been ready. They then would have received that news with the most joy and their faith would have been hugely assured. There would not have been the terror of amazement but the exceeding joy of faith fulfilled.
See also these women were afraid. While they had been loyal they had not expected resurrection. When that truth was displayed in power they ran with fear. The shepherds at the birth of Christ could hardly keep the news to themselves. They spread it as they ran through the streets. These women, though, did not behave in the same manner though a thing more remarkable had happened.
Matthew Henry’s take on this is as follows: “Our disquieting fears often hinder us from doing that service to Christ and to the souls of men, which if faith and the joy of faith were strong, we might do.” Do you have the shrivels? Pray for faith and the joy of faith.