Day 1

Encounters with Christ: The Unbelieving World

from the reading plan

Matthew 27:57-66, Matthew 28:1-15

It was a cold, damp, and uncomfortably windy Chicago night. I was walking home from the Gold Coast Starbucks where I worked. It was only a few blocks, but man, at that time of night and during that time of year, the chill could cut you to the bone. I was less than pleased by the entire situation.

To top it all off, John Cusack had visited our store that day, and I had missed him. I don’t know if I was taking out the garbage or cleaning our back room; either way, by the time I came back to the front of the store, I discovered all my coworkers clamoring about our recent celebrity guest. What a bummer. So many questions about High Fidelity and Say Anything that I never got to ask him. Probably never will.

Now, I’m fairly certain that a chance encounter with John Cusack wouldn’t have fundamentally changed my life, but it would’ve been a great story. Definitely a better story than the one I’m telling you now: “The Time I Didn’t Meet John Cusack.”

Disappointing? Sure. Life shattering? Not so much.

On the other hand, missing an encounter with the resurrected Jesus—now that is a big deal. For the life of me, I cannot understand the reaction of the guards at the tomb in Matthew. Let’s quickly recap: an angel shining like lightning appears, he rolls away the stone covering the tomb, the guards are so terrified that they completely pass out.

So far, I don’t fault them. Admittedly, that would have been a startling experience.

Here’s where I do fault them though. When they came to, instead of looking for the resurrected Jesus, they decided to try to help the chief priests cover up the resurrection. WHAT?! Why?

Instead of responding to this divine encounter, they chose to pursue temporal comfort and safety. They knew that not only their jobs, but also their lives were on the line. So they decided to collude with the powers that be instead of pursuing the only power that truly matters.

I missed a chance to meet John Cusack; the soldiers missed an encounter with the resurrected Christ! When they awoke, they had a choice to make. Though they had witnessed an intensely powerful and spiritual series of events, they chose not to pursue spiritual awakening.

What a sharp contrast to the centurion who was witness to the crucifixion of Jesus a few chapters earlier. “When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified and exclaimed, ‘Surely He was the Son of God!’” (Matthew 27:54).

On my best days, I like to think I’m more like the centurion at the cross, who sees Christ and can’t help but utter a confession. However, I know there are times when I walk in the way of the guards at the tomb, who have encountered the power of God, but prefer to pursue earthly comfort and safety.

The temptation we all face in the wake of those encounters is to seek comfort or familiarity rather than seek Christ. When we do this, it makes us temporarily comfortable, but spiritually numb. Don’t make the same mistake the guards at the tomb did! In this season of resurrection pursue hope and life. Draw near to the resurrected and risen Jesus. He alone has the power to set us free.

written by Andrew Stoddard

Post Comments (54)

54 thoughts on "Encounters with Christ: The Unbelieving World"

  1. Adam says:

    Father, thank you for the resurrection. You possess power over death and we do not have to be afraid. Help me see you at work today and offer you praise for what you are doing.

  2. Brian Becker says:

    That God reveals himself to all creation – that even unsuspecting soldiers had opportunity from God to decide how to respond.

  3. Brian Becker says:

    I think of Jacob – wrestling with God. I don’t want to run from God and avoid his presence, and miss out on him changing me. I want to stay in his presence – intentionally.

  4. Brian Becker says:

    It the good and true news that Jesus is alive – and that changes everything. That if we embrace the resurrected Christ he can make all things new regardless of our current state.

  5. Brian Becker says:

    That our sinful, default mode is selfish ambition. That we need a power greater than ourselves to free us from the chains of apathy, greed, and selfishness.

  6. Brian Becker says:

    Thank you Jesus for making all things new. Thank you for the power of the cross and resurrection. May I be changed by your grace and mercy. Holy Spirit use these moments to to fill me with new life. Renew my mind, and empower my steps to follow after you.

  7. Mark says:

    It is the message that God Uses. To change the eternal destiny of people. It’s importance exceeds all our selfish desires.

  8. Mark says:

    His power and knowledge are far beyond our understanding. His actions through history are far more important than we usually think them to be.

  9. Mark says:

    Try to keep eternal perspective every day.

  10. Mark says:

    Our perspective is skewed. We need to continually try to see things through God’s eyes.

  11. Mark says:

    Lord I need you every hour. Help me to be the man, husband, papa and witness you want me to be.

  12. Wes says:

    Man is susceptible to poor decision-making when we act on our own will. With God, however, we seek the truth.

  13. Wes says:

    The Gospel is the one reliable truth in life. Nothing else satisfies.

  14. Wes says:

    Response is a means to answering God’s call to go… So, I will go.

  15. Wes says:

    His power and purposeful relationship with me is so much greater than the worldly comfort I idolize.

  16. Wes says:

    I will pray for strength to pursue the truth that is found in God, not fill myself with inferior comforts the world gives.

  17. Matthew Reeves says:

    That there he has risen and that gives me the free opportunity to meet with him daily, because he is alive!

  18. Matthew Reeves says:

    It all pivots on this moment!!

  19. Matthew Reeves says:

    We can be hardheaded toward the power and reality of the resurrection

  20. Matthew Reeves says:

    Ask to see and receive the power and prescience of the risen Christ daily

  21. Matt Rouse says:

    God gives us chances to respond and its up to us as to how we respond. He is powerful enough to conquer death!

  22. Matt Rouse says:

    We naturally gravitate towards those things that make us comfortable and safe. We don’t like things to interrupt our routine.

  23. Matt Rouse says:

    Jesus interrupted our routine and came into my life. He interrupted the natural course of things when he rose from the dead. When we allow Jesus to interrupt our lives we go from death to life!! We may think we’re losing comfort now but we are gaining long term joy, comfort and security in Jesus!!

  24. Matt Mitchell says:

    I ask for courage and closeness to the Lord so I can hear His voice. I pray for this type of proximity so that I can receive His strength when the moment comes for me to respond. I don’t want to choose what ultimately is for my comfort but what is essential for my eternal well being.

  25. Matt Mitchell says:

    I pray I may know the difference between what is for my comfort and what is for my soul. I pray that I will have the courage to choose what I know to be true, good, and pleasing to God. I pray that I may be all he intends for me to be and that my closeness to Him will bring about all that he put me on this planet to do.

  26. Matt Mitchell says:

    The gifts that God gives are far different in appearance than what we expect. We tend to be so consumed with what we want or how we feel that we essentially choose not to respond even when the evidence is overwhelming. This is why Jesus said, “those who are on the side of truth hear my voice” because it is often difficult to decipher even when he is loud. I think God asks for us to stay close to him so that when he does speak, our familiarity with him is far greater and we will get the message.

  27. Matt Mitchell says:

    We are a self preserving lot of sinners who are scared that a choice we make will lead to negative consequences even when we know they are true. The passage in Matt. 28 where the angel says “Don’t be afraid” is very profound. It takes courage to make many of the choices God asks of us and that strength only comes from being with Him. It is an interesting paradigm!

  28. Payton Sanislow says:

    This teaches me two things about man. One, when we are following God we go after him because he has risen. Two, when we are blind to Jesus Christ’s work we hide in the darkness of the world.

  29. Payton Sanislow says:

    This display of Christ shows how majestic he truly is. It teaches me that as a Christian it is time to step up and not ignore that little push we get and pursue Christ.

  30. Payton Sanislow says:

    I need to start pursuing the Lord and creating a statement in His name on others hearts so they know His true love.

  31. Payton Sanislow says:

    The Gospel teaches me how true these things are and how they happened. It shows all of the important cause and effects in the story. The fine detail it goes into makes Christ and the Angels so beautiful.

  32. Payton Sanislow says:

    I will pray for peace, strength, and comfort so that I stick to God so others will learn that I’m not finding my identity in this certain group. Instead I’m have already found my identity in Jesus.

  33. bjs says:

    His prophetic words on earth were fulfilled. He honored the faithfulness of the women before seeing the disciples.

  34. John D says:

    It is powerful and proclaimed by Angeles

  35. John D says:

    God’s power, once manifested in our life, begs to be examined. It is not forced on us.

  36. John D says:

    I will look for God’s power at work around me and try to follow it, investigate it, and embrace it!

  37. John D says:

    Man has the choice, and the pull of the world to conform is strong.

  38. John D says:

    Help me to do that

  39. Jason says:

    Man is weak and desires earthly comforts and is very selfish.

  40. Jason says:

    Lord, have your way in me. I want the resurrection to have a meaningful impact on how I live my life. Keep me close to you and protect me from the evil one. Thank you for the resurrection and empower me by your Holy Spirit to do your will.

  41. Jason says:

    Submitting myself to Christ and His calling in my life. I need to surrender my selfish desires and look to Christ to replace any selfish desire with things that align with his will.

  42. Derek says:

    I need to be strong and be a witness for the lord instead of turning my back

  43. Derek says:

    Jesus give me strength to stand up and confess your glory. Help me to not be persuaded by things of this earth. Your sacrifice is what truly matters. Help me to remove all doubt from my mind. Amen

  44. Jack Howard says:

    Father I pray that I listen to you when you tell me to speak. I pray that I trust you in times when I am scared to witness. I pray that I trust your call on my life no matter what I have to lay down. I pray that you show me that call. Father use me to glorify your kingdom. Use me to bring others to know your holy name. Use me to help others and give you all the glory. Father I love you. In Jesus name. Amen.

  45. Zac says:

    Often times we prefer comfort over spiritual growth. We can’t have both, and the way of the cross invites us into the uncomfortable. It’s much easier to follow the status quo than explore God.

  46. Zac says:

    That encountering Jesus requires me to step out of my comfort zone, often dealing with the unknown and uneasy questions that only Christ holds the keys to, not by knowledge, but through experience and intimacy.

  47. Zac says:

    Christ has risen, and even witnesses to His resurrection have difficulty wrapping their mind around this truth and it’s implications.

  48. Zac says:

    To lean into God, to walk with Christ, and to be aware of the Holy Spirit, abandoning safety and knowledge for intimacy with God.

  49. Zac says:

    God, help me to lean into you, to not let me fears and questions cloud my eyes from your glory. Help me to respond to you not out of logic and knowledge, but out of experience and intimacy. Draw me near, and hold me steady when I get in my own way. Let me not be foolish enough to think I can scientifically and logically explain everything, and let me focus instead on following hard after you.

  50. Sam Stoddard says:

    That it is logical, coherent, and for everyone. Even the guards, even the Pharisees. Jesus is truth, Jesus is life, Jesus is love. All my reality is wrapped up the events that occurred on a piece of wood and inside a stone room.

  51. Sam Stoddard says:

    That we are as birds and candles. We either flicker out, or fly and sign Christ’s message.

  52. Sam Stoddard says:

    The cohesion of the prophecies, the coherence of His love, and the beauty my Lord possesses.

    I am unworthy.

  53. Sam Stoddard says:

    I will run to Him. Father take me back. Forgive me for being like a Guard who ran from your resurrection. Forgive me. I long for the light.

  54. Sam Stoddard says:

    Truthfully, honestly, angrily, joyfully. I will pray as if into my father; which He is.

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