Summary: Are we living in the sunlight with Jesus or are we still stuck in a place of death?
The Way of Life
Easter Sunday, Apr 24, 2011
Who would ever have dreamt that the place to find life was at a tomb? A tomb is not a place of life, it is a place of death. A place where people we loved and who have died are buried. I’ve stood at many gravesides, and they are solemn, sad places. Places of endings. Places where goodbyes are spoken, where tears flow, where hugs and other small condolences are offered.
But they are not places of hopelessness. At least not anymore…
I imagine her waking up, early, she probably hadn’t slept much. People in the immediate shock of the death of a loved one often don’t. As she comes awake, she first feels that heaviness in her gut, her mind one short step behind reminds her of the truth: he is dead. The dream has ended. The incredible love she had felt from Him, and for Him, could be no more. He is gone.
She cries for a few moments, but they are surface tears. A little steam out the top of the emotional kettle, that is all, the rest will have to wait. Her heart and her mind and her spirit will protect her from being overwhelmed all at once; besides, today there is work to do.
She gets up, dresses, splashes a bit of water on her face and wipes it with a towel. A chunk of bread she doesn’t even taste is washed down with a little more water, and then it is time. The burial spices she, Mary, and Salome had purchased last night after the Sabbath ended at sundown wait in the basket by the door.
She pauses for a moment, as if to marshal some additional strength for today. She knows what must be done – the Messiah’s body was hurriedly placed in the tomb because the Sabbath was about to begin, now they must finish the job. She has a glimpse of a thought – could she continue to think of Him as “Messiah”, now that He is dead?; maybe He wasn’t who she had believed. But as quickly as the thought had appeared it withdrew; something to figure out later. Today there is work to do.
She knows what that work will entail, so she gathers up the things she will need. The oil with which to wash the body, some cloths with which to wipe, and the burial spices. Those were a splurge, reserved for the bodies of those who had been especially important, and perhaps in some small way might restore a bit of dignity after the way He had died.
She shudders as she remembers Friday. Her skin tenses and her jaw sets, a few more tears escape and are quickly wiped away – there will be time for that later, today there is work to do. She places the bag over her shoulder, and sets her face toward the tomb.
The road looked the same as it had at dusk Friday, when they followed Joseph of Arimathea as he took Jesus’ body from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and then laid it in a tomb. She walks in silence, determined but not hurried, until one of them stops. She lifts her head from her empty stare at the road, wondering why her companion stopped, and she hears her say, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (Mark 16:3). They have no answer. The soldiers? Ha, not likely. The disciples? None of them but John even made it as far as the cross, there’s not much chance they’ll be at the tomb, they’re still scared for themselves. She doesn’t have an answer, but she also doesn’t know what else to do, so they keep walking.
They round the last bend and arrive, and she looks up. She does not see what she is expecting… the stone has already been moved, the tomb is open. Something is not right about this, she starts to feel alarmed, what is happening now? Is this some further indignity to Jesus, can His dead body not even be treated with respect, will she be denied even the opportunity to perform one final act of love for Him?
She drops her basket and steps into the tomb, blinks several times as her eyes adjust to the light in the cave, and looks around. Nothing. The body is gone. How could it be? They saw Joseph bring the body here, and then seal the tomb. Then it was the Sabbath, now it is first light, what happened on the Sabbath, or during the night, where have they taken Jesus’ body?
Suddenly the dim tomb is filled with blazing light, two men appear in dazzling robes standing before them. She is filled with terror, her arms fly up to cover her eyes and then she falls to the ground and bows low. Every sense is on high alert, and she hears the words, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.” (Luke 24:5-7). Jesus’ words come back to her then, though in her shock she still doesn’t understand them, and so she and the others scurry quickly out of the tomb and into the early dawn light, glance quickly at one another and decide to run. They’ll find Peter and John, and the others, and report what they have just seen and heard.