And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen, he is not here. See the place where they laid him.”

Mark 16: 6

Jesus had made it very clear that He would not be contained by the tomb, for He would rise from the dead. Perhaps the reality of that resurrection should not have shocked His disciples on that morning three days after His brutal and horrific execution. But, it did. They went to the burial place looking for their fallen master with all of the best intentions. They wanted to take care of His body that had been placed in the tomb with less care than they would have liked as they were forced to get the task of burial completed before the beginning of the Sabbath and the simultaneous commencement of the celebration of Passover. Now there was time to properly tend to and provide reverence for that broken body. However, that form of care was not required, for there was no longer an entombed corpse in need of tending.

On that morning, hope and eternal victory had ascended from a stone shroud into the world. In the dim light of the early dawn, the glory of the Lord had burst forth to claim God’s victory over death and to provide the way for every person on earth for all of the days to come to enter into that same redemption from sin and its death. Christ could not be contained by the tomb with its earthly barrier, and He would not be defeated by any force of human or of demonic instigation. God is Lord over all of creation, and Jesus joins with Him in that lordship. His dwelling place is in the glory of Heaven and not in the darkness of the earth. Christ is found by looking upward and out from the oppression and the futility of this world and into the promised hope of salvation that is described in God’s Word and that is poured out into our world by the Spirt. 

Like those women and Peter and John who came to the tomb looking for their Christ, we too often look downward and into the desperation of this earthy world for that which has already gone before into the eternity that we desire and for which we wish. Instead of focusing on death and on the pain that our world heaps upon our bodies and spirits, we can turn our gaze onto the bright presence of Christ, who is with us for the duration of our journey through life. In the presence of Christ, we can find guidance, wisdom, encouragement, and protection for our bodies and souls. Each of us was born to be tomb dwellers that have been taken hostage by sin and held in servitude to its master and lord, Satan. Christ claims us and sets us free from that captivity so that we can now live in the redeemed and transformative truth of God’s new kingdom come to earth. So, on days when the tomb seems to be calling upon us to look down and to think in terms of defeat or despair, we can look away from its cold and empty walls toward the heavenly glory that is ours to dwell within in the power of Christ the victorious and with His presence as our strength and encouragement.

God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.

Acts 2: 24

 

We are intrigued by stories of miraculous escapes. These are times and events when a person seems certain to perish due to the great danger that is being faced; when, at that crucial final moment before the peril has its way, someone or something comes to the rescue. This sort of thing populates fiction, and it does actually happen in the real world as well. Drama is not so much an invention of the imagination as it is a creative reflection of the world as it is. When this sort of thing happens, we gain a feeling of exaltation and joy that comes about because of the victory that has been achieved, and we also gain some confidence in going forward in life as we can hope that a similar victory could be ours if we were to need it.

 

So why did God choose to work in such a strangely different manner when it came to His plan for victory over the forces of evil that prowl about in creation? There was no last minute reprieve or daring rescue. There wasn’t even a ram miraculously present with its horns tangled in the brambles as the Lord had provided for Abraham. In Jesus’ scene of torture, trial, and the resultant death sentence God allowed everything to play out as the people who were determined to humiliate and to destroy determined that it should. Jesus, God’s own Son, was forcibly taken from His place in this world and carried away to the halls of human injustice and evil’s triumphant pinnacle of response to God’s authority and sovereignty over all of creation.

 

However, regardless of how things may have looked on the outside or the failure to follow the course that we seek to see happen in survival and redemption stories, this trial and execution of the death sentence were an important part of the narrative of victory that God was writing on that day. The Father was, in fact, turning the world upside down and inside out as He defied the form of nature that had come to be normal in the aftermath of humanity’s rebellious sin. In these momentous hours, Christ would pass through death and into life, and so the seeming finality of death was defeated fully. The victory that Christ brought about now flows forth for everyone who enters into it through faith in Him, and when we enter into this most strange of all victories we too are raised up with Christ into the glorious presence of our Savior and King. Thus, in His presence and by His care and guidance, we too are victors in this life and beyond it.

Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

John 16: 20

 

Sorrow seems to come with the territory in this life. I think that our ability to feel it is a part of the way that God designed us; so, it seems to me that it must be something that God, Himself, feels. We form attachments and develop relationships. Yet, we live in a world that is filled with death. There is no getting out of this place alive, and none of us has any more time to dwell with the people that we love than is our allotted span. Separation, brokenness, loss, and death will come our way, and, as Jesus is pointing out, the strong emotions that follow are an important part of a natural process for us to experience.

 

The impending loss that Jesus is discussing will seem to come about suddenly, and it will shock those who are close to Him greatly. Despite Christ’s warnings, His followers were not ready for Him to be taken from them. It appeared as if all that was evil in the world had gained a victory over that which was righteous and good. As Jesus was led away to face the inquisition of the world with its humiliation and sentence of death, His close friends were sent into a swirling chaos of confusion and doubt. It seemed that their connection to the true light of the face of God had been smothered by the darkness of evil’s shroud of doom. Now the world was set off into a riot of celebration, and the contrast between its rejoicing and the sorrow of Jesus’ disciples was stark.

 

However, all of this is within God’s plan, and even the hard emotions that were felt served an important purpose. Satan claims many victories in this world. He contemplates the lives that he controls and the death that sin brings about as cause for celebration. Yet, evil has no victory and its forces have no real power. The very act of taking Jesus from the human fellowship of His followers launched the final death blow that God struck to Satan’s head. People no longer need to live in a world that enjoys its short-lived and shallow celebrations, for, in Christ, we dwell in the joy of eternity. We certainly should feel the sorrow that sin and its death cause; yet, this life and our natural condition are not all that we have. Christ wipes away the tears, and He brings us close to His side. The love and the grace of Jesus go with us through this life, and Christ’s victory provides all of the hope that we need to sustain us along the journey.