Monday, April 17, 2006

the empty tomb...

Like many of you I’ve been thinking about the tomb.
In my perception the tomb, the lesser of the two dominant Easter symbols, has left me often perplexed and frankly looking for more. As a symbol of resurrection it has often been portrayed as the accomplishment of victory. Victory over death, sin, hell, etc. And as such I think I have often dismissed it. Yup. The cross is desperate and painful. The story leading up to the cross is craved into my consciousness. There is blood, scorn, and shame.
The story of the cross draws me to empathize with the injustice of it all. I read it and want to draw my own sword to defend the God Incarnate. I read and I am full of shame at my own denials of Christ. I am guilty of making the cross too inconvenient to really live with everyday. And so till now the tomb has been a suitable escape from my guilt – after all we can let the cross get fuzzy in our vision because the tomb is victory, accomplishment, finality. But then I noticed at what point God declares the job done. It is at the cross. Not at the tomb.
So maybe the tomb really isn’t much of an accomplishment at all.
I mean no disrespect but...
Maybe the tomb is really something far more controversial, confusing, and unfinished then I haver consdered before.
I think about the disciples huddling together in grief. How deep is their grief? Is it like choosing to stay at a job long after it seems wise to do so? Is it like investing your whole life on dream? Only to have it dashed in failure? Perhaps. But even that seems too trite.
Their grief is so final.
It is utter despair.
It is the kind of thing that renders you incapacitated to take on life again. You lie beside your wife and even her caresses fail to rouse the monster taunting you in your mind. He is dead. You are dead. You intertwined yourself so much with him that you could no longer tell who was who. He said cast your net on the other side when you first met him. And by now you could almost predict what he would do. You could almost anticipate his every move. You could even tell his stories and some of your own. And people listened…
But it is all dead. Never had you imagined this. Hope? Gone!
All his cryptic remarks – all his stories. all his controversy. The cross seems to wipe them all away. Everything you’d allowed yourself to wish – dashed.
It seems very clear to me that the disciples were done. Oh I might like to think that they were secretly hoping it all wasn’t true. That they had figured out the mystery of God's redemption plan and were just hiding out waiting quietly for it all to be accomplished. But the more I read the stories – I really doubt it. They were washed out.
And in a way maybe that’s good. Peter sits there. He thinks about chasing around the countryside with this guy. He thinks about how tired he is. His mind aches from thinking and his head hurts from crying and trying to keep himself from crying. Suddenly the boats seem to be the way out. It’s not that he wants to dishonour his dead friend. It’s just that there is nothing left here. It’s not really even a choice. Jesus is dead. There is no disputing that. At least fishing would put bread on the table.
So along comes the empty tomb.
Women come back in some agitated state claiming that Jesus is alive.
Come on.
They are just so messed! It just goes to show that it is high time that we all get on with our lives. Somebody is going to have to calm these women down.
Then He stands there in the room with them. He has this smirky little grin on his face. You rub your eyes – he’s still there. You are euphoric and like a little kid you run up to him and kiss him blubbering and…
“Don’t touch me!”
You stand there. Your mind is spinning. Mirage. Mind games. Please you want to scream!
Are you real?
Are you real?
Are you Real?
Then he is gone…
And you are left with a choice. You are tired and worn out. And now you must choose. He stands there refusing to let you touch him. And after he is gone he dances in your head like a dream you’ve just woken up from. Convinced that it cannot be true? Twenty some odd people never have the same dream at the same time. do you dare to allow hope back. You spent that last few years building, planning, scheming on hope. He would insult the Pahrisees and you would leap with joy inside. This was possible. He really could be...
You had let yourself believe he was the...
Do realize what buffoonery this is? Thomas walks back in to the room. He’s quiet for a long time while everybody tells him – the women tell him what happened. He sits there and looks everyone in the eyes. “This all seems to be too good to be true…”
“I’d like to join your excitement but let’s be realistic. Did any of you touch him? Why did he not let you? We have to careful not to let our tired bodies guide our sensibilities. Remember that time on the mountain when Moses showed up. Shucks guys maybe this was just his way of saying goodbye. And do you know what we are really saying. I mean if somehow he actually is alive. We are all dead men. And women! Don’t forget they really wanted Jesus dead. I mean really wanted him dead. Are we are next? Especially if we claim that he’s not really dead. At least now we have our boats – our jobs to go back to. Guys there will be nothing left if we start claiming this story is true. I’m not trying to tell you that what you saw was not real. I’m just trying to bring a little reality to this. I mean unless I can touch his nail prints…”
And then I can see how Thomas’ wisdom carried the day.
Sure he doubted but he was absolutely right. The implications of believing in the resurrection must have seemed ludicrous. A mirage in the room - - you could dismiss. The cross - - you had to deal with. So maybe that is why we see Peter and John back out in the boats. Maybe that’s why the guys on the road to Emmaus were still talking like Jesus was dead well after he had appeared to the disciples. Honestly, let’s face it for as much as the tomb is victory it really is ludicrous.
And so then for me I start looking at the tomb differently. I see how the resurrection forces me (all followers of Christ) to live, breathe as if this impossible thing was actually real. I see how the resurrection raises questions even as it fulfills prophecy. Questions that don't easily get absorbed in the euphoria of victory. Questions that scare the hell out of me and force me to pursue the God behind the mystery. I see how the empty tomb forces the disciples to desperately try to recall all of Christ’s teachings for clues to how and why this was happening. Now they hang on every word.
"Could it be that when he said such and such he actually meant..." This is not a simple decision to make. This is not just solving a quirky little riddle it’s placing yourself smack dab in the middle of the riddle itself. It’s somehow justifying your very life on the mirage that will not let you touch him. It’s belief that exists – completely yet without certainty.
Needlessly the tomb is not a minor symbol for me any longer…
Now just to get those Jesus junk people to start putting the empty tomb on a necklace…
Happy Easter all!


Freezer said...

Greatest easter message of them all - keep on preaching it.

Jerry said...

I agree. The best.

Shirley Buxton said...

Here several days past Easter, I come across this delightful post. Thank you for these inspiring words.



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