The hope of the Resurrection

Happy Monday! I hope you all had a wonderful Easter yesterday!

On Sunday, we celebrated Jesus's Resurrection, that glorious day when we proclaim that Jesus is alive; he lives in us. But the days leading up to Resurrection Day usually leave me heavy-hearted.

Saturday, while we were driving to Mississippi to visit family, I found myself thinking back to the cross. And I put myself in Mary's shoes. On Good Friday, she could not tear her eyes away from this man, so intriguing and loving and strong, a man whom she'd devoted her life to, as he was savagely slaughtered, brutally and beyond recognition, innocent but condemned during a time in history when capital punishment was at its absolute most inhumane. (That was no accident.) He was ridiculed but remained silent, composed as the crowd hurled insults on him, attacking his character, his word, his life, his very existence. The love in his heart kept his lips sealed, except for the instance he uttered, "Forgive them, Father; they have no idea what they're doing."

I think about the pictures we see of the Crucifixion, where Jesus hangs on a cross, covered in a loin cloth, only a few scratches scattered on his body. The real story is that he was hanging naked and undignified; the only covering he could hide behind were the gaping wounds that rendered him unrecognizable: his muscles and ligaments torn and exposed, bright red blood dripping down his beaten, exhausted body.

To love him, and to witness his death, must have been too much to bear. Mary sat at the foot of the cross, and I imagine she was paralyzed by the pain. She may have tried to get up and walk away, but her legs wouldn't work. How could this happen? Why?

This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid...

Light of the world by darkness slain.

I can imagine that next day, the Sabbath, was a quiet day. Time stood still, irrelevant and pointless. His followers sat, hiding and hopeless, asking, "What now?" Where do we go from here? How do we pick up the pieces and keep living? Will we be next to die? Everything I've read in Scripture hints that they didn't understand the Resurrection that was coming; they thought this was the end. All the hope they'd placed in the idea of Jesus reigning as their King had shattered into pieces. He was gone. And he'd left a gaping hole.

And they had never felt more alone.

There have been many times in my life where it seemed time was motionless, and Jesus was gone. I felt utterly alone, not knowing what would come next. And what came next didn't even seem to matter anymore. But I couldn't see what was happening behind the scenes.

From what I understand of Scripture, Jesus wasn't lying still in the grave, covered in cloth, on that Sabbath. He was taking the keys of hell from Satan. He was securing his win over the fight against death. He was claiming his rightful place as the one true King of kings, so that we could take our place as co-heirs of the Kingdom of God. He was fighting on our behalf.

When it seems that Jesus is nowhere to be found, we can rest secure that in those quiet moments, Jesus is working on our behalf. And we can look forward with confidence to the glorious Resurrection that is coming.

Mary must have been in denial. Maybe something in her whispered that it wasn't over; it couldn't be. This just couldn't be how it all ends. Something isn't right. I could see her laying in bed with her eyes open, just watching for that moment when the sun came up, and as soon as the first gleam of sunlight broke through her window, she was out the door. I'll go find out for myself. This just can't be the end.

This wasn't the end. Not in the least. It was the beginning. Everything in creation was waiting for this game-changing moment. The love that held a righteous, blameless man to a rugged, splintered cross, in front of a hostile, unbelieving crowd, was the same love that rose him from the grave. Death could not contain him or extinguish the love in his heart. Rather:

Then bursting forth, in glorious day, up from the grave he rose again!
And as he stands in victory, sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am his, and he is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ!

Mary reached the tomb of Jesus and halted, mouth gaping open. It was empty. And there stood an angel, who confirmed her suspicions. Jesus isn't dead. He was in fact alive. I knew it! Her heart screamed, and new life welled up within her, too.

Seem too good to be true? It is. And yet that doesn't keep it from being the absolute truth. It seems like a fairy tale, but we've believed strange things before. Jesus satisfied the punishment for sin so we wouldn't have to, so that we could live and be saved. It is the most glorious sacrifice, and victory, this world has ever known.