“And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.”
– Matthew 28:9, ESV –
I imagine that they were having a rotten day.
Surely the disciples had never been more discouraged. After the crucifixion, grief numbed them. Guilty for running, angry with the injustice of it all, they hid. And how empty they must have felt. What, after three years of following the Teacher, did they have to show for it? What’s more…where did they have to go?
Sometimes, when I read their story, I forget that this was real, that these disciple names belong to eternal souls that I will meet in person one day.
And, among pages and narrations, I forget the humanity behind the words. They were surely at their darkest moment spiritually. Lost without a leader. Petrified that they would be next to be condemned and left to suffocate on a cross. Absolutely alone, even as they huddled together. Absolutely miserable.
Matthew says that two women–both named Mary–went to see the tomb (Matthew 28:1). Other gospels mention that a group of women went with spices to put on his corpse (Mark 16:1-4; Luke 24:1-3; John 20:1). Maybe they just wanted to see one more time, to assure their doubting minds that, yes, He was really gone. He was really dead.
These women, who just went to see the tomb, saw a whole lot more than they bargained for.
Angels in blinding white. Sprawled guards, tumbled every which way. Ground that trembled with unutterable joy.
And the words.
“He is going before you.”
So they ran.
This is where it gets good.
Because I have been in tough places. Haven’t you?
I’ve been through some of those times when you just don’t know what comes next. It all seems dark. You thought a rescue was on the way, but it doesn’t seem to be coming.
And then it happens.
You’re trudging on your way and Jesus shows up.
And what does He say?
Not “Ta da!” Not “I am here to rescue you.” Not “You sure were impatient.”
He showed up in those women’s path and said hello.
“Greetings,” some versions say.
My family read this passage yesterday, and this greeting struck me as odd. These women have been grieving Him as dead for days. Plus, they’ve just had the shock of their lives, being told by a real angel that Jesus had risen. Talk about whiplash!
And then He shows up and says hi.
So, curious, I looked up this strange word.
“Greetings,” the ESV records.
But it is a strange, wonderful word, this greeting.
Chairo. It is Greek, and it means “greetings, salutations, hello.”
But it also means, “Rejoice!” The common New Testament words for joy (chara), and grace (charis) comes from this root word for “greetings” or “rejoice.”
And it thrills through me.
How when all was lost and dark and hopeless for these sorrowing women, Jesus showed up. And there is no rebuke, no victorious declaration. Just a greeting.
A greeting that says to them, “Be glad! I am risen! So be full of joy.”
Two things stand out to me about this passage.
First, when we think Jesus has abandoned us, He still shows up. Whether we are in a deep pit of hopelessness or in a tizzy of doubt and disbelief, or overcome by wondering “Is He really back? Do we dare believe the light and the voice, saying that He is living and powerful?”– He still shows up. And, in coming, He calls us to rejoice.
Second, I am overcome by this greeting. Wow. To have such powerful ideas wrapped up in one word, Chairo.
Chairo. Hi there. Rejoice. There is hope. Don’t give up. Jesus is back.
And I wonder how we can speak Chairo. Ann Voskamp, in her One Thousand Gifts, talks about eucharisteo, a related word for giving thanks. She orients her whole thesis around this Greek beauty of a word, aligning her sorrowing soul with its teachings, reminding herself of the blessing of obeying in the command to “give thanks always” (1 Thess. 5:18).
Something like that can be done with Chairo, I think. There is a lifestyle wrapped in this word. Like being a light, or being salt. Like this picture Jesus paints:
“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” – John 7:38, ESV
Can you hear the fountain pouring in that Chairo greeting? It is the sound of all the hope and joy and possibility flowing back into the lives of all who loved Jesus.
So, I want to speak Chairo. When I say hello, I want to be overflowing with this message: “Hi there. Rejoice! Jesus is alive!”
Sometimes it will be words. Sometimes, maybe Chairo can be held in a smile, or a loving touch, or a hand reaching out to give help.
But there will always be a message behind Chairo. For all those in darkness, Chairo signals the beginning of the light.
Even today, He says “Chairo” — “Rejoice!” — to our doubting hearts. Philippians 3:1 says “Chairo in the Lord, always”! And the joy bubbles up, because Jesus was not in the tomb. He was right alongside the women, and now He is right alongside us.
The tomb days are over. The resurrection life has begun. So let’s live out this chairo, this rejoicing.
Because that’s what happens when Jesus says hi.
“When the heart is full of joy, it always allows its joy to escape. It is like the fountain in the marketplace; whenever it is full it runs away in streams, and so soon as it ceases to overflow, you may be quite sure that it has ceased to be full. The only full heart is the overflowing heart.”
– Charles Spurgeon –