Holy Everything: From the darkness of a tomb come rays of hope
It's almost Easter. Soon we'll be celebrating the resurrection of Jesus with hymns, baskets, bonnets, and eggs. But first, before you pull the ham out of the oven (or ham balls, as is the case in my family), we have a final stop on this Lenten train. We've explored many of the different contexts of Jesus' ministry over the last couple months for this year's series. Today we end our travels at a tomb. Two tombs, actually.
First, we stop at the tomb of Lazarus. Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus and the brother of Mary and Martha. In John 11 and 12, we read the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and calling him out of his tomb. It is a powerful, moving narrative which reveals the depth of Jesus' emotion and vulnerability.
Then, there is the most well-known biblical tomb: the one where Jesus' body was laid after his crucifixion. John describes in chapter 19, verse 21, that "at the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid." They put his body there.
Fast forward a few days; a few of Jesus' close female friends prepared some spices to take to further anoint his dead body. They get to the tomb and find the stone rolled away and a couple angels inside. There's no sign of Jesus. The angels say, "Why do you look for the living among the dead?"
The women begin to connect the dots in their minds. They remember how Jesus had told them this would all take place. They run and tell the disciples. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all conclude their tellings of the story of Jesus uniquely. It would be a worthwhile and apropos exercise to spend a few minutes of this Easter weekend reading the final chapters of each of the four Gospels.
The resurrection is amazing, outstanding, and generally indescribable! Beyond the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and exited the tomb, there are other fascinating uncertainties about whatever took place in that cave. One of the big Easter mysteries relates to what happened during the days when Jesus was dead. Nearly everything about those days is unknown.
In the Apostle's Creed (written at least 150 years after Jesus' death), we recite,
"He was crucified, died and was buried.
He descended into hell.
On the third day He rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven."
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John don't mention what happened during those three death days. We know he died. We know he was put into a tomb. We know he rose from the dead and exited the tomb. Whatever sort of cosmic cacophony happened in that tomb changed the trajectory of the universe and all existence. It's a mystery of mysteries.
But to come out alive, Jesus must have confronted death while his body laid motionless in the tomb. And not only death, he came face-to-face with everything that is broken, painful, harmful, and lost. On Easter, we celebrate that he conquers it all. We celebrate that the deep, deep darkness of death, loss, and betrayal doesn't have the final say. We celebrate that lies, deceit, and insecurity don't rule. We celebrate that hope, resilience, and forgiveness persevere. On Easter, we rejoice because through a dark, lonely tomb came the pathway toward new life.
The resurrection is a big deal not only for Jesus but for every person who has ever walked the planet. It is a reminder that healing and renewal can come through even the worst, darkest, loneliest tombs of our lives.
The stone has been rolled away. We're not stuck in the darkness anymore. Let the light fill your spirit with the hope of possibility.