Thursday 28 March 2024

What's in the way?

The tomb was empty that first Easter morning.

In the various gospel tellings of the story, there may have been an angel or two there to tell the women that Jesus was alive or the women may have simply discovered it, told the disciples about the empty tomb and they then rushed in to see the linen clothes lying where there should have been a body. According to John’s account, Mary is the first to see Jesus in person as she turns away from the empty tomb. The point is, the tomb is empty.

And the characters in the story each react with fear, wonder, disbelief - seemingly anything but the realization that what Jesus said would happen, did happen. No one came to the tomb three days after his death joyfully singing “Jesus Christ is risen today” and expecting to see Jesus sitting up and having a celebratory pancake breakfast.

But that’s how we celebrate it. Just as if the expected happened. The tomb was empty. Jesus is alive. And then, once the singing is over, the chocolate eggs are found (and eaten), the lilies have been taken home, we’re left with living that life-giving story: Jesus is alive. 

Jesus is alive in you and me because the life of Jesus showed us how to live. Jesus showed us how the divine spirit is alive in all creation and how we can live that in the world, through love and grace, care and compassion, how we - you and I - are capable of being what Jesus is. That’s how Jesus is alive.

The tomb is empty because, try as we might, the way we live in the world, the way of power and control, selfishness, material wealth, ego and desire, cannot kill the life-giving love that is God. That’s the point of the resurrection story. Love wins.

The tomb is empty because love is alive. It can’t be contained. It gets out in the world and it lives through us, through all things that are alive. Maybe a question to ask of this story is “what gets in the way?”

See, I left out a detail of the story didn’t I? We focus on the empty tomb, but the tomb is empty because the stone covering the opening had been moved. Jesus didn’t pass through it or sneak out another way, the stone was rolled away.

Maybe that’s a detail we pass by a little too lightly. What’s the stone that gets in the way of us living as Jesus teaches? Maybe there are stones. Maybe there are many and they’re different shapes and sizes. And each of us will have our own stones to move, too. They will be heavy, so what would it take to move them?

It seems in the story that Jesus didn’t move the stone all by himself. All four of the gospel accounts mention angels being present.

Perhaps, when we’re celebrating Easter this year, we might pause for a moment and wonder about what gets in the way of love breaking out of the tomb and getting into the world. Perhaps we could take a moment and look for angels around us, the helpers who might move the stone with us. They’re there. Just as there are stones in the way, there are hearts and hands to move them.

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