Reading: Luke 24:1-5 (NRSV)
1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4 While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5 The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
Quite a few years ago there was a fatal motor car accident on one of our town’s bridges. Next to it, between the bridge and its intersection now sits a small patch of well-maintained grass, decorated with a white wooden cross, flowers and other mementos. Looking at this memorial when driving past is a sad reminder of the way we try to remember life where it has passed, and how painful it can be to revisit the tombs of our grief.
It couldn’t have been easy for the women to visit Jesus’ tomb that morning. They had spent the Sabbath in shock, grief and mourning, having lost their friend, their leader and the man they thought their Messiah to a painful, humiliating death. Their emotional pain would probably have been augmented by fear: fear of the political climate in Jerusalem, anxiety about whether they or their friends or relatives would face the same fate as Jesus had, worry about whether they would be ostracised, disappointed that things had not turned out differently. No indeed, visiting Jesus’ tomb as the twelve hid was an act of devotion, bravery and duty that gets far too little attention in male-driven narratives!
But imagine their confusion (elation, bewilderment, disbelief, shock) when they find only a vision of angels and an empty tomb instead of Jesus’ body. Imagine the beginning of hope in the pits of their stomachs as they began to wonder – could it be true? What if Jesus had risen again? What if his terrible death had been redeemed? What if their longing for their Messiah wasn’t hopeless after all?
The words of the angel chided them: “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” These words asked so many other questions: Why did you not believe? Why did you mourn? Why did you lose hope? Did you truly not realise that the tomb was empty all along?
Well, friends? Why do we – resurrected to new lives in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) – continue to look for the living among the dead? What do we hope to find among the tombs of our former, sin-dead lives, other than graves? And yet – if only we would take the trouble to roll away the stones covering them – we would see that these tombs are empty. Not because we never died, but because we have already risen in the Spirit.
Lent starts in a few weeks. In the northern hemisphere Christians can look to the beginnings of spring around them to remember their new life. In the southern hemisphere, however, we can look to the discolouring leaves, the longer nights, the crisper air to remind us that yes, we have descended into the grave just like our Lord. But the grave couldn’t contain him and it can’t contain us, just like winter cannot constantly contain the world.
What was buried will rise again.
Instead of seeking our lives among the dead, let us seek Life, eternal and abundant (John 10:10) with its source, Jesus Christ.
Prayer: Dearest Lord, I seek and find my life in You today. Amen.