Author: Beth
•Sunday, April 08, 2012

Morning comes as it always does. Rising up out of bed, shaking off the darkness of slumber, eyes blinking to a new all mirrors what the day is all about.  Rising. Awakening. 

Like so many other Christ-followers around the world, I finger together a "Sunday best" to wear to the meeting with His people. It is a gathering together of those who remember; those who are decked out in robes of righteousness. It is the putting on of grace, the freshening up of hope. And I think back... to the one place where I wish I could have stood a few thousand years ago today.

Those women, fingers gripping the spices and ointments, make their way in the dawn's early light to retrace their steps to the tomb. They returned, burdened by love, ready to anoint the cold, dead body of their Lord... perhaps with tears, undoubtedly with heavy hearts. 

Yet, what could have prepared them to encounter glory? 

Those who stood at the foot of the cross felt the tremors of the earth's very foundations when Jesus yielded up His spirit. A second earthquake at the base of an empty tomb ushered in a glorious truth...and with it, a bowing down of hearts, of minds, of every living sensibility to embrace the miracle that would change the world.

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise." 

And they remembered..."

Oh, the inexplicable joy that must have surged through their veins at that moment! Death had been swallowed up in victory. Justice had been served for the sins of an entire people... did they realize that He had done it for them? For me?  Perhaps the words came flooding back to them, this time illuminated with meaning. 

It was my sins that put Him there, my deserved death that brought about His.  Yet a humbled and repentant heart comes bowing before this Cross, and "when God looks upon the sinner, who, but an hour ago, was dead in sins, He looks upon him with as much love as He ever looked upon His Son." 

What wondrous love is this, oh my soul? 

Isn't that what we do every Lord's Day? Every time we go to meet Him? We come with hands full of the reminders of death, hearts burdened from the week past -- only to be amazed that He is alive. How so often the darkness of our circumstances can cause spiritual amnesia. We forget His promises. We forget this Gospel -- this good news to a sin-stricken heart. We forget, even unintentionally, that He is alive. Right. Now. 

That same truth that was spoken from angelic lips to the trembling tomb visitors is the same reminder that I need today. 

A shaking up. A bowing down.

Because, really. He is alive. That makes all the difference in the world.

Let's remember. 

Author: Beth
•Saturday, April 07, 2012

Light disappears. The sun sinks lower as the darkness closes in. Evening is shrouded in black; night falling close.

I wonder what those women were thinking that first night, so many years ago.

Here was their King -- their beloved Hope -- cold, limp, and unresponsive. They had stood, huddled in unavoidable horror, watching the darkness fall, the gut-wrenching whispers of pain, the blood flowing freely, the last shuddering breath. Slow. Agonizing. Time seeming to stand still as the reality is seared into every soul watching. 

Few things compare to that gut-feeling when you gaze at a shell of a body -- the outward waste that has been left behind. Touching a loved one and, for the first time, not receiving any warmth of response. That recoiling of heart, knowing that the lungs will never expand again with life-giving oxygen, that the blood has ceased pumping from the heart...and that the soul that makes a person alive is gone. Nothing is left but decaying cells. How can someone utter words to fill that void?

"And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all His acquaintances and the women who had followed Him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things....The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid." [Luke 23:48-49, 55]

Was there a moon out that night? Stars? Anything to lift their gaze heavenward?  The echoes of a conversation that would take place a few days later undoubtedly rang in their hearts... "We had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel." [Luke 24:21]  
We had hoped.

Hope shattered. Hope bleeding out and drying up. 

Those women, hearts swelling with tears, had walked home sometime that night -- each with their own memories. They had walked in the same dust that He had walked all across the Galilean countryside. He had spoken hope into their very souls. Their lives were not the same because of His words, His looks, His touch. [Luke 8:1-3]. Now, their hearts were torn with the sting of death and their nostrils filled with the odor of spices for burial. 

How does one, when hope seems gone, learn how to walk on in love? How is it that the ugliness and wrenching pain of death and sacrifice dissolve into something pleasing before the Throne?  

Years later, Paul would pen this verse to a church in Ephesus, urging them to "walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." [Ephesians 5:2]

As they lay awake that night, perhaps with recollections flooding their subconscious, what did they remember about this Jesus man? Did they recall the glory days of what He had done for them -- the moment when all became clear and free? Did they trust who He said He was when it was the bleakest moment of their lives?

One long night followed by one long day. Luke reminds us that these women rested on the Sabbath, still obeying the commandment in the midst of their grief. [Luke 23:56]

Hands smelling of spices and ointment, perhaps wiping away a tear, learning how to rest

Perhaps that is the hardest challenge of all - resting out of obedience. Resting when the world seems to be falling apart. Resting when all seems in vain. Resting -- truly resting -- in the arms of a Providence that you cannot yet see. 

Because it was in those moments... when time was ticking forward one agonizing minute at a time ... that Scripture was being fulfilled. What seemed to be the most heartless, cruel, painful, and excruciating event in all of history was in reality swelling with an undercurrent of deepest kindness towards a dark world. Hope that would set the world at right again. 

Love was about to break forth.