Monday, April 25, 2011

If the Tomb Doesn't Hold Death

She opened the fridge asking, "Is the milk good?"

"No, Nellie, it's old."

She pours it down the drain before dropping the container in the recycle bin.  It doesn't pour.  It falls out in curdled chucks.  Some things liquefy when they decompose, others solidify.  The expiration date was more than a week ago, the day after we left for vacation.

It's Easter morning, and I'm still thinking of death, decay, and decomposition, my spirit playing catch up with the natural after being on vacation during Holy Week.  My spirit lags behind, still somewhere between Friday and Saturday this Easter morning.  We rummage through yet unpacked bags to ready ourselves to celebrate resurrection.  That's right, I think, we have an expiration date, and we should live this life out of the suitcase, because we still aren't home yet.  This stay is temporary, too.

But I forget, and move in, unpack and expect to stay.



The disciples forgot, too.  They scattered in their fear.  They did not understand in spite of Jesus' telling them over and over what would happen.  They should have known what to expect, but they didn't.   Instead they expected the tomb to hold death.

So did the Marys and the other women.  They carried burial spices at first light to properly prepare a body for the long term effects of decay. 

Flesh stinks.

All these things are normal.  But somehow I don't think that Roman soldiers had ever guarded a grave during the night watch.  What other grave ever bore a Roman seal?  Were the unbelievers among those present the only ones expecting a resurrection?  Planning and preparing to prevent it, negate it?

I wonder for the first time what happened to Mary's unused costly spices.  What about the again-empty tomb?  What happens to our best laid plans and provisions when they don't play into God's plan? What comes of the details we invest in and wake up early to attend to when our expectations have gone awry?



The girls ran to tell the disciples.  John and Peter race toward the grave, their personalities on full display.  John can't bear not to be there, his intimate friendship with the Messiah and his grief urging him forward, wishing for more time with Jesus.  It's what I want, more time with Jesus.

Peter arrives a close second but brushes past John, barging right inside the open grave.  Leave it to impulsive Peter to boldly walk on water and tread holy ground both, looking for facts, evidence to piece together and draw a hasty but sure conclusion that is the rock a church is built upon. 

John, who ran ahead, desperate to get there, now hesitates to enter the tomb.  Just as hungry for answers as Peter is, could his hesitation be from realizing that what he will surely find inside that entombed space is not the end, but eternity?  Perhaps he is paralyzed by the magnitude of the moment this could be:  the one that solidifies faith.

So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed.  For as yet, they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. (John 20:8-9)

One step into a dark grave and John believed even before he understood the scripture.  Liquid faith solidifies as the stuff of earth dies a stinky, sour death. Instantly he understands all Jesus had said that had not made sense until now.  His hindsight and earthly sight give John spiritual eyes to see. The spirit lags behind the earthly that first Easter morning for John, just the way I struggled this Easter morn.  Engulfed in a tomb that houses death itself, John sees life simply because there was the inexplicable absence of death.

Given all the suspicious foretellings of Jesus, this could not be a suspect circumstance.  It was foretold, it was uncomprehended, it had come to pass, and only then was it taken in by the flesh to have its life-giving effect on the spirit.

He lives!

John and Peter are baptized -- immersed -- in a tomb absent of death and therefore so very present with life.  Milk and honey flow.  Their every step beyond that dark tomb was illuminated by Light, Life.



Christ's death was a substitute for mine. Yours, too.  Enter the tomb and take on the substitute as your own. Unite with him in death, as cloth unites with the properties of dye when immersed, baptized, into it.

But Jesus had no guilt; he didn't deserve to die. So he lives!

But the baptism is already complete.  We two -- Jesus and me -- through baptism have become one. (And what God has joined together let no man put asunder.)   So when He rose, I, too, rise. Holy, perfect Jesus and wholy forgiven me.

Hallelujah!  He lives!

What is there to do when light dawns on the resurrection?  What will you do when you realize the tomb doesn't hold death?  Hesitate if you must. But please, like John, enter in, see, and believe.  What are you waiting for?  Come on in.  This is the Life.


I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Today, I lived it on Sunday before I heard it on Sunday. Isn't God good?



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