Summary: It is Sunday. Jesus is dead. And they are going home. Their question is our question, only slightly rephrased. Where is Jesus when we need him? Where did he go? Why did he leave us?
Where is Jesus When We Need Him?
Earlier this week I took a bike ride along the Natchez Trace. Exiting at Friendship Road, I rode a mile or two and came to Friendship Baptist Church, a neatly-kept brick building at the intersection of two country roads. Behind the church there was cemetery. As I rode by, I noticed a woman who appeared to be cleaning a particular gravesite. She was trimming the grass, picking up trash, and making it look neat. She was the only person at the cemetery, and as I rode by, I wondered who was buried there. A father or mother? A brother or sister? A husband? A child?
I know why she was there. Easter is coming and she wanted the grave of her loved one to be well-kept. Lots of people visit a cemetery during Holy Week. There is no better way to understand what Easter is all about. Visit a cemetery and ponder how great the miracle was. Two thousand years ago a man defeated death once and for all. He came out of the grave never to die again. God reversed the natural process when he raised his Son from the dead. It is a pure miracle and a mystery beyond all human knowledge.
That it happened we have no doubt.
But we cannot explain it.
And we cannot repeat it.
To come back from the dead—that’s the greatest miracle of all. And that’s why we’re still talking about the resurrection of Jesus twenty centuries later.
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The longest walk you’ll ever take is the walk away from the grave of someone you love. If you have never done that, you can’t imagine how difficult it is.
--To walk away and feel as if the world has come to an end.
--To walk away and think about what used to be and what might have been.
--To walk away and realize, "I’ll never be the same again."
--To play over and over in your mind the good times, the laughter, the crazy stories.
--To reach out and touch a face and find it gone forever.
--To cry until you can’t cry anymore.
--To watch them bury your dreams and hopes and all that was good about life.
--To know it is over, done, finished, the end, and there is nothing you can do about it.
--To walk away to friends who cannot understand and to a world that does hardly cares.
It is the longest walk and the saddest day. Every step takes you away from the tombstone of a broken dream.
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The story is told in Luke 24. It is Easter and there is no joy. Two disciples are on the road to Emmaus, a little village about seven miles from Jerusalem. One disciple is named Cleopas. We do not know the name of the other disciple. As they walk along the dusty road, they leave Jerusalem far behind. They were followers of the man called Jesus, the rabbi from Nazareth, the teacher and miracle worker who claimed to have been sent by God. For a long time they had followed him. As much as anyone could, they truly believed.
And then came the terrible events on Friday. Jesus had been crucified. After his death, he was buried in a tomb. Although they had heard rumors that the tomb had been found empty early that morning, they could not and would not and did not believe any wild stories about a resurrection. If there was one thing the Romans knew how to do, it was kill people. They were good at it. They could make it fast or short, easy or horrific, public or private, relatively painless or excruciatingly painful. Crucifixion was the most terrible way to kill a man and only the worst of the worst suffered that fate.
How had it come to this? If he truly was the Son of God, how could this have happened?
It is Sunday. Jesus is dead. And they are going home.
Their question is our question, only slightly rephrased. Where is Jesus when we need him? Where did he go? Why did he leave us?
As they walked and talked, I am sure they did a lot of reminiscing. They must have talked about the time the man on the pallet was lowered through the roof. Surely they talked about the time when Jesus took five barley loaves and two fish and fed 5000 men. They probably wondered how Jesus could raise Lazarus and then be killed himself a week later. Like anyone who lost a loved one, they tried to make sense out of the tragedy. Only those who have seen a dream crushed and the death of a great hope can enter fully into this story. If you have ever walked away from a funeral so deeply hurt that you could not speak, if you have loved and been deeply hurt, tried and failed, believed and then been disappointed, you know what it was like for these two disciples.