A Close Encounter Through A Post-Resurrection Appearance Of Jesus
Close Encounters Of The God Kind
A Close Encounter
Through A Post-Resurrection Appearance Of Jesus
Nearly one third of the people of this great nation of ours say they believe “somewhat” in UFOs. These statistics only corroborates my reasoning concerning this present series. Consequently, I felt impressed to use the subject of UFOs as a launching pad for our biblical discussion of “Close Encounters Of The God Kind.”
In first three sermons in this series, we worked hard to develop a technical definition for a “Close Encounter Of The God Kind.” That definition is
A “Close Encounter Of The God Kind” is a face-to-face meeting with God that cannot be totally explained, but which—when fully experienced—will bring about a response of genuine worship or celebration, which includes the remembrance of a redemptive past and/or the conviction of a liberated future that changes people forever; causing them to move and grow by over-recording the intuitive tapes of their core belief.
In the fourth message in this series, we explored one of the major barriers to experiencing a close encounter with God. We called that barrier: “The Brain Barrier,” i.e. how intellect keeps us from wholeheartedly worshipping God.
We then began to explore twelve “Close Encounters Of The God Kind.”
We have explored God encountering Abraham, Jacob, Moses, the woman at the well, and Peter, James, and John.
(We are now ready for the next encounter with God. Please notice with me Matthew 28:1-10.)
Early on that first Easter Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of James the younger and of Joses and Salome, came to the grave of Jesus Christ. They were probably depressed and in the deep throes or spasms of grief. The one who had been the center of all of their hopes was now dead. Imagine the pain, disappointment, doubt, fear, uncertainty, confusion, etc. that they must have been experiencing. Yet, they came to the tomb out of duty. They came to anoint the body of Jesus Christ. Imagine their surprise when they arrived at the tomb!
When they arrived, they found that an angel had rolled the stone away and Jesus was gone. The angel didn’t roll the stone away to let Jesus out, because He was the Son of God and God the Son, very God of very God, and very Light of very Light, but to let the world in that we might witness His resurrection.
Not only was the stone rolled away and Jesus gone, but also the angel who had rolled the stone away sat on top of the stone. God encountered them through an angel. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us that angels are ministering spirits who are sent to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation. This is “A Close Encounter Of The God Kind.” There was a time when the story of this angel would have rivaled anyone’s story of a UFO.
Of course that time is rapidly changing. More and more people are starting to believe in UFO’s and more and more people are starting to believe in angels. TV shows and movies about angels are starting to proliferate. This is unfortunate, because I believe it to be a trick of the devil. There is little in the Bible to corroborate secular UFO theories and the angels in the media do not act like angels in the Bible. Satan is setting the world up to receive the supernatural evil of the antichrist.
This angel’s appearance was like lightening and his garment was as white as snow. Evidently, he was glistening with the glory of Shekinah, i.e. the visible presence of God. His appearance was so awesome that the guards trembled with fear and acted like dead men.
(But that’s not all!)
This angel spoke to them. First, he calmed their fears. The normal response to angels is terror. So, the angel said, “Do not be afraid.”
Then he shares with them that he knows they have come looking for Jesus who had been crucified.
Then the angel gives them the message of the resurrection; “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said.”
Then he showed them the place where Jesus had been lying. Other accounts tell us that the grave clothes were still intact, as if Jesus was still lying in them, but he was gone.
(Now why did the angel say and do all of this?)
Well, the angel did these things to give these women a God-sized assignment. He commissioned them to quickly go and tell the disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead and was going to Galilee to wait for them. This is the first sharing of the Gospel of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Let me tell you why this was a God-sized assignment. It was a God-sized assignment, because of the climate of Jerusalem during the time. According to religious customs and traditions, Rabbis were not to talk to women in public or instruct them in the law. According to Hebrew historian, Flavius Josephus, women and slaves could not bear testimony (Ant. 4.8.15), i.e. before the Sanhedrin in any court case. The Sanhedrin was the highest Jewish council during the first century. At this time, women were considered little more than property, and yet they were chosen by God to be witnesses. Nobody in that society would have chosen women to be the bearers of the good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, God chose these two women to be heralds of the Good News of the resurrection. This assignment gives us an inkling of God’s esteem for and love of women, and this should remind us of how Jesus treated women. In His treatment of women, He raised their status.
I also believe that women were probably slightly better suited for this revelation, because of their spiritual and emotional sensitivity—but that discussion would take another message.
(So, how did these women respond to this Close Encounter?)
They responded with quick enthusiastic obedience. They quickly departed from the tomb and ran to give the disciples the message of the resurrection.
This encounter not only brought about a response of obedience, but also affected their emotions. They ran from the tomb with fear and great joy. There was a wonderful mixture of fear and joy!
Both of these responses are constituent elements of worship. Worship is giving God that which He is due. In this context, He was due quick enthusiastic obedience and the emotions of fear and joy!
We can also see that their genuine response of worship, or celebration, over-recorded the intuitive tapes of their core belief. Jewish women certainly understood their place in society. The intuitive tapes of their core belief certainly would be full of wonder, doubt, fear, unworthiness, etc., but their genuine response of worship brought about a conviction of a liberated future. Their worship response to this encounter changed them forever.
· Just a few moments before they were sad and disheartened; now they are fearful and joyful.
· Just a few moments before they were looking for the body of Jesus Christ; now they are on their way to report a future meeting with the risen Lord.
· Just a few moments before grief gripped their hearts; now joy was once more alive.
· Just a few moments before they were downcast, Jewish women who had no thoughts of ever being anyone or anything; now they are fearful, joyful, heralds who have been commissioned to trumpet the Good News of the risen Lord!
(But that was not the end of their “Close Encounters.”)
As they quickly obeyed God with holy fear and joy, they had another encounter. While they were on their way to report to the disciples what had happened, Jesus Himself met them and greeted them. This was a second “A Close Encounter Of The God Kind!”
The word “met” is a very interesting and important word, with respect to what I am saying. The word “met” is
apantao, ap-an-tah'-o, 528; from Greek 575 (apo) and a derivative of Greek 473 (anti); to meet away, i.e. encounter :- meet.
The language in the Greek is “Jesus came suddenly face-to-face with them.” Jesus, the Christ, the resurrected Son of God, Very God of Very God encountered these two Mary’s through a post-resurrection of appearance! These two women had a legitimate, experiential encounter with the risen Christ!
(But that is not all!)
Not only does Jesus encounter these two ladies, but He also comforts them and then He re-enlists them. He re-commissions them to take word of His resurrection and future meeting with them to the disciples. These two women experienced a double encounter with God for the purpose of being a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Their response this time is classical, experiential, wholehearted worship! There is no “paralysis of analysis” here. They fall down, take hold of his feet, and worship Him! The word translated “worship” means to adore Him!
This encounter had a profound impact upon these two Mary’s. Mark says that when the ladies left the tomb they were trembling and amazed. It is little doubt that they had mixed emotions, but fear seems to be the primary emotion.
· Fear concerning seeing and angel.
· Fear concerning the missing body of Jesus Christ.
· Fear concerning taking a message to the disciples as women.
But, Jesus met them and re-commissioned them.
· Now they knew that what the angel told them was true!
· Now they remembered the things that Jesus had taught, while He was alive.
· Now there was developing a conviction of a liberated future, which was over-recording the intuitive tapes of their core belief with joy, excitement, and boldness.
These shaking, trembling, frightened women were transformed into joyous, bold, heralds of the living Lord!
Now I’ve got good news for you! Just as God encountered these two Mary’s through an angel and through His own resurrected Son; He wants to encounter us! Somebody Praise God!
They stretched Him wide, hung Him high, and dropped Him low. They crucified Him on Calvary. He was buried in borrowed tomb, and rose from the grave on the third day that He might be able to personally encounter every one of His children! He now wants to personally encounter and have a personal relationship with everyone who places his/her faith in Him!
But there’s even more good news! Just as Jesus chose women, the least likely, the lowest, the weakest, the most foolish candidates, humanly speaking, He chooses us, the least likely, the lowest, the weakest, the most foolish candidates, to be witnesses of His resurrection. Somebody Praise Him!
(Now, once again, why does He encounter us?)
One of the truths that I have tried to impress upon us in this series is the truth that God encounters us to give us a God-sized assignment. When God encounters in salvation, or in any encounter, we should begin to look for the God-sized assignment that God wants to give us. He wants us to give witness to the resurrection of His Son! When God encounters us, we should hear God say, “Report for duty!” When God encounters us, let’s not analyze it to death, but rather experience it. Let it over-record the intuitive tapes of our core belief, over-recording self-doubt, human fear, human frailty, etc., with holy fear and joy.
He chose me, the least likely, the lowest, the weakest, the most foolish candidate available to be a witness to His glory and kingdom and build this great church, which is certainly a God-sized assignment! He certainly had to over-record the intuitive tapes of my core-belief, to get me to break out of my natural shyness and be a witness and leader for Him. And He is enlarging the assignment, even as I speak!!!
Now wherever there is good news there is also bad news. The two Mary’s received this marvelous encounter with the angel, and Jesus, after Jesus was crucified; after their hope was shattered; after they were deep in the throes of grief; after they had come to the grave for the purpose of anointing the dead body of Jesus Christ.
This is bad news for modern people, because Jesus often encounters us when we are at our lowest point.
· When it seems that Jesus is no where around;
· When it seems like Jesus is dead;
· When it seems like all hope is gone;
· When we are in the deep spasms of grief;
· When we come to the point of burying whatever is left of our faith and hope in Jesus;
That’s when God sends an angel, a messenger, to encourage us and enlist us in His service.
When I was deeply discouraged with the church and struggling with what Christianity was all about, God called me to start this church.
(Just for a minute, let me touch on this unique situation of a double encounter.)
I believe that God encounters us first in salvation, and in that encounter He commissions us to witness about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But usually in the encounter of salvation, we are so enamored by the miraculous nature of the manifestation, the message of resurrection that we are given to transmit, the fear and joy that impacts us, that we miss the Person of the resurrection: Jesus Christ.
But that’s okay, because once we leave the occasion of our salvation, and obey God, just as these two outstanding ladies did, then Jesus Himself will show up in an unusual way to re-commission us or confirm our commission! Jesus Himself comes and encounters us. Jesus wants to give us a greater revelation of Himself, so that our witness might be based upon personal relationship and fellowship with Him! (Not “Four Spiritual Laws” or other tools. And there is nothing wrong with tools, but our witness must be based upon personal relationship with Him. Remember the woman at the well, “Come see a man that told me…”)
I have been trying to make the point that God does not encounter us just so we can say that we have met God face-to-face, but to give us a God-sized assignment. Jesus encounters us face-to-face that we might experience adoration and assignment. He wants to reveal Himself to us to enthuse us and use us. The word “enthusiasm” is literally “en theos,” i.e. in God. The word means belief in special revelations of the Holy Spirit. It has come to mean excited, zealous, and passionate. When God is in us, we get enthused about Him. We get excited about God. We get passionate about God. We come to adore God!
Once we have adored Him, we receive an assignment. Then we need to report for duty! We can report for duty with confidence, because we have a conviction of a liberated future! God does not encounter us so that we might fail, but so that we might victoriously tell of the victory of Jesus Christ at Calvary. He wants to change us forever. He wants to transform us from frightened, timid, trembling doubters to bold, Spirit-filled, heralds of the risen Lord!
This God’s pattern in encountering His people:
· He revealed Himself to Jacob, for the purpose of commissioning him. He was changed from the supplanter to one who prevails with God.
· He revealed Himself to Saul, for the purpose of commissioning him. He was changed from a murder of Christians to Paul, the small or little one, who wrote most of the New Testament.
· He revealed Himself to Peter, for the purpose of commissioning him. He was changed from the man who denied the Lord to the one who stood up and preached a Spirit-filled message on the Great Day of Pentecost.
· He revealed Himself to Thomas, for the purpose of commissioning him. He was changed from the doubter, to the one who was convinced of the deity and Lordship of Christ.
· He revealed Himself to me, for the purpose of commissioning me. He changed me from a timid, shy, introspective, withdrawn young man, to the tool that God is using to build this great church.
He has revealed Himself to you, for the purpose of commissioning you. You will be changed from whatever you are, to what God wants you to be!
In order to get ready for the God-sized assignment, we need to respond to the encounter with Jesus Christ in the same way as these two Mary’s: with adoration. When you come face-to-face with the risen Lord there is only one legitimate response—fall down, take hold of His feet, and adore Him! That is why every time we sing the song, “Oh Come Let Us Adore Him,” I get goose bumps, I begin to sense the presence of the risen Lord, I begin to do just what the song says, “Adore Him!” I implore you today, “Come let us adore Him!”
(Now is the Day of Salvation. Come to Jesus, Now!)
Call to Discipleship
 Anne R. Carey and Gary Visgaitis, “USA Snapshots,” 1998 USA Today, April 20th, (Source of statistics: “Yankelovich Monitor Minute.”)