Two of Christ’s disciples, Peter and John, were among the first on record to view the empty tomb after Mary Magdalene informed them of how she had found it. However, it was Mary who is on record as the first to encounter the risen Christ (John 20:1–10).
She met Him in the very garden in which His borrowed tomb was located. Upon recognizing that she had encountered Jesus Himself and not a gardener attending the burial grounds, Mary began clinging to Jesus out of the sheer joy of recognizing Him. His reaction was to instruct her to go and tell the others; specifically, He directed her to take the resurrection message to the disciples (John 20:11–18).
The Easter message is urgently needed today, just as it was in those days immediately following the Resurrection, when an angelic visitor commanded the group of women who came to the empty tomb, “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead” (Matt. 28:7). This news was too good to not be quickly spread!
Message of hope
This message of hope is urgently needed by every generation. Those who have heard and believed, who have experienced the saving reality provided by the resurrected Savior, are under the same mandate to get the word to others. “Go quickly and tell” expresses this for all God’s people in every generation.
The mandate is an individual one for each Christian, as well as a collective one for every congregation of believers.
Churches may engage in many needful and practical ministries, but none carry the eternal possibilities embedded in the saving message of the risen Christ.
Furthermore, churches cooperating with other churches can take the message faster and further than a single church can.
We term this ideal as “cooperative missions.” Pooled resources and collective prayers make the response to the mandate more effective and widespread.
The Great Commission
The best known and oft-quoted version of the missionary mandate issued by the risen Savior is the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19–20). The mandate is “make disciples,” not simply multiply converts. That imperative is surrounded by participles that emphasize it involves going, baptizing and teaching.
This is the Easter mandate heard by Christ’s earliest followers, which must be heard and obeyed by His followers in every generation.