By S.D. Gordon
A Day of Startling Joyous Surprises
"Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand outstretched caressingly?
'Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He whom thou seekest!
Thou drawest love from thee, who drawest Me.'"
--"The Hound of Heaven.
"After I am raised up I will go before you into Galilee."--Mark xiv. 28.
An Appointed Tryst Unexpectedly Kept
Jesus had made an appointment. It was with these dear friends who had responded so lovingly to His wooing. It was a significant appointment, most significant. He had appointed to meet them three days after His death. He had made a further appointment to meet them in Galilee. What a stupendous appointment to make!
It was a sacred appointment, sacred as the love that made it, sacred to Jesus as the friendship of these men with whom it was made, sacred as His word that never was broken. Our Scottish friends use a most significant word for appointment, the word tryst. They used to use it some for ordinary appointments, but chiefly it is used for friendship and for love-appointments. The appointment is a tryst.
Tryst is the same word as trust. In the old Gothic language it was one of the words used for a covenant or treaty. In medieval Latin it was a pledge given that an agreement would be kept. It is a fine turn of a word that uses the very spirit of confidence in one's heart in another as the name for the appointment made with him. The trust in the heart gives the name to the appointment. It's an appointment with one who can be trusted to keep his word, and who is trusted.
So an appointed tryst becomes more than a mere appointment. It is a pledge of faith. Now this is the real force of the word here. Jesus had appointed a tryst with these men, and in making it He was plighting His troth, pledging His word to them. He had asked them to risk all for Him. In this tryst He is pledging all to them.
He never forgot that sacred appointment. He had thought much before He made it. He knew it would involve much to keep it. The power of God was at stake in the making and the keeping of it. He knew that. He thought of it. He made the appointment and He kept it. Jesus keeps His appointments. His word never fails. Not even the gates of death, nor the power of the evil one, can prevail against it.
This was a staggering appointment. It took so much for granted. It reckons God's power is as big as it is. But then that's a way Jesus had, and has. And it is a way he will come to have who companions much with Jesus.
Jesus had spoken of this indirectly but distinctly when first He told His disciples of His suffering and death, six months before. And each time afterwards when He told them of His death the words were always added, "and the third day rise again." I The two things are nearly always linked. But they hadn't seemed to sense what He meant. The thing seems quite beyond them.
He spoke of it again on that never-to-be-forgotten night of the betrayal, the night of the feet-washing, and that last long talk, and that wondrous Kidron-prayer. He spoke of it more than once that night.
It was a very emphatic word He spoke as they were walking along the darkly shadowed Jerusalem streets out towards the east gate. He said, "a little while and ye shall behold Me no more; and again a little while and ye shall see Me." And the disciples pick this up and puzzle over it.
And the Master explains rather carefully and at some length. There was a time of sore trouble coming for Him and for them. And while they were sorrowing the outer crowd would be making merry. But it would be just as with the expectant mother, He said. All the while even when the pains cut she is thinking of the great delight that is to be hers. Her after-joy clean wipes out of her thought the sharp cutting of the pain.
So it would be. "I will see you again," He said in plainest speech. And again that same night He said, "after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee." Could any appointment be more explicit as to time and place?
But they forget. Aye, there's the bother, this thing of forgetting. The memory is ever the index of the heart and the will and the understanding. You can tell the one by the other. Some things are never forgot. A bit embarrassing and odd this thing of forgetting what Jesus says.
His enemies remembered, and took special pains to head off any breaking of their careful plans. And even when the angels remind the women of the promised appointment, and they with great joy repeat the reminder to the disciples, it seems like "idle talk" and is not accepted. The thing couldn't be, they think. Finally the evidence becomes so convincing that they start off for the trysting place, "into Galilee, unto the mountain where Jesus had appointed them."
How the Appointment Was Kept.
Let us look a bit at the wonderful keeping, so unexpected, of this sacred tryst. It's the third day now since Jesus' death. It is in the dark dusk of the early morning. A little knot of women make their way slowly along the road leading out of the city gate. Mary Magdalene is in the lead, so far ahead of the others as to be alone. They are carrying packages of perfumed ointments. They are thinking only of a dear dead body and of clinging fragrant memories.
They are troubling themselves about how to get the big stone at the tomb pushed aside. It was too much for their strength. As she drew near the tomb Mary Magdalene's love-quickened eyes notice something quite unexpected. The stone is moved aside! She naturally thinks some one has taken the body secretly away in the night.
Quickly she turns and runs back towards the city to tell Peter and John. And as quickly as they hear the startling news they are off on a smart run towards the tomb. Meanwhile the other women go on into the tomb. They are further startled to see a glorious looking person who assures them that Jesus is living, having risen up out of death. All a-quiver with fear intermingled with the first glimmering light of a great hope that they hardly dare hope, they flee hastily back to town to tell the others.
Now Peter and John, who have been eagerly running, arrive breathless, with John in the lead. Gazing reverently, intently, in through the opening John sees, not a body, but on the spot where the body had been laid, the linen wrappings lying, held up in the shape of a body by Nicodemus' abundant and heavy ointments just as when they held the body of Jesus. But clearly there is nothing in them now.
Now Peter comes up, and, just like him, goes straight in, and is at once struck by the arrangement of these cloths, just as John had been. Then they comment on the fact that the head cloths are lying where they naturally would be, a little apart from the others, the distance of the head from the body.
The evidence convinces them that Jesus' spirit had indeed returned to His body, and that He had risen up through the cloths, and gone. And they start back to town in a great maze of wonder and delight.
And now Mary Magdalene, knowing nothing of all this, comes slowly back absorbed with her thoughts that the body has been secretly removed. She stands at the open tomb weeping. Then for the first time she stoops down and looks in. She is startled to see two angels left there to explain matters.
They gently say "Why weepest thou?" Still sobbing, she says, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him." And turning aside as she speaks she sees some One standing near her. Her tear-misted eyes think Him the attendant in charge of the garden. Again the question by this man, "Why weepest thou?" How strangely they talk, these angels and this gardener! She makes a plea for the body.
Then the one word, her name, spoken in that voice she knew so well--"Mary." Ah! there's no question about that voice. She needs no explanation nor evidence more than this, as she cries out, "Oh, my beloved Master." Then He acts so like Himself; He gives her an errand to do for Him. And off she goes. She has had the wondrous privilege of the first sight of Him, and the first errand for Him. The tryst has been kept with Mary Magdalene.
And now the other women who had gone running down the road after hearing the angels' startling message are amazed to meet Jesus standing in the roadway in front of them. And the same quiet rich voice so gently and simply gives them the usual "good-morning" salutation. At once they are on their knees at His feet. And He softly says, "Don't be afraid. Go tell My brethren to meet Me at the old place appointed, up by the blue waters of Galilee." And again the tryst is kept.
But before all this, the soldiers on guard, terror-stricken by the earthquake that had taken place, and dazed at the sight of the "angel of the Lord" had fled at top speed to the chief priests with their startling story. Here was a wholly unexpected bothersome finish to the thing. But quick consultation follows. And then free use of money makes the soldiers willing to tell what they know to be a lie. And so the two utterly different stories, the truth and the lie, get into circulation at once. The soldiers and the chief priests' circle have learned that the appointment was kept.
Meanwhile Peter has gone down the road back to town in a maze of conflicting emotions. John, lighter of foot, had hurried ahead, very likely to tell the great news to Jesus' mother, now his own. Peter plods slowly along, thinking hard. It was still early morning, the air so still and fragrant with the dew. Maybe down by some big trees he is walking, absorbed, when all at once, some One is by his side. It's the Master. The appointment has been kept with Peter. But we must leave them alone together. Peter has some things to straighten out. That's a sacred interview meant only for him.
That afternoon two disciples walking out to a little village a few miles away are joined by a Stranger whose talk makes their hearts burn like the Master's used to. And as they gather about the evening meal with Him, and He gives thanks and breaks the loaf, all at once their eyes see. It is Jesus Himself who has been with them all the time. Again the appointment is kept.
At once they hasten back to town, and are just telling the news in joyously broken speech to the disciples gathered in an upper room with locked doors when again, all at once, Jesus appears in their midst, and eats some bread and fish, and tells them to know by the feel that it is really Himself with them. He has kept His sacred appointment with the Twelve. Then a week later He comes in like manner among them again for the sake of one man, Thomas. So He keeps the appointment with Thomas, also.
Our Guarantee of His Promises.
Two things stand out sharply. The resurrection was not expected. It was the most tremendous surprise. The news was received at first by those most interested with utter stubborn unbelief. Then the evidence was so clear and repeated, and incontestable that these same men staked their lives on it. They suffered to the extreme for their witness that Jesus had indeed risen.
Jesus rose from the dead. His body was re-inhabited by His spirit. The spirit didn't die. Spirits neither sleep nor die. The body died. Then life came into it again. It was a real body that could eat and be touched. It was recognized as the same one they had known. But it was changed. The old limitations were gone. New powers had come.
Jesus keeps His appointments. His pledged word never fails. Not a word He has spoken can ever be broken. Some day He is coming back. It is an appointment. Then we, too, who have slipped the tether of life and left our bodies temporarily in the dust, shall rise up again to meet Him. It is a sacred appointment He has made with us.
And some of us who live in that day shall be changed instead of dying, and shall be caught up to meet Him and our own loved ones in the air. That's His true tryst with us up in the blue, some day. And He will keep it.
And meanwhile everything He has promised us in the Book is sure, as being His plighted word. His resurrection is our bond, our guarantee. As surely as He rose on that third morning He will keep His word regarding every matter to you and me.
His appointments never fail, whether of guidance, of bodily health and strength, of supplies for every sort of need, of peace, of power, of victory. The power that raised Jesus up from out the dead is pledged to us for every promise of this Book for to-day's life. He will do an act of creation before He will let His Word fail. He will leave no power unused to keep the appointment of His Word with us.
Let us trust His Word to us fully. And let us live our trust.