I’m sitting on the fourth floor of the church, pouring over the gospel of Mark this afternoon in preparation to teach on the resurrection on Easter Sunday. It’s quiet, and cloudy, and rainy, and dreary on an April day that should be beautiful.
I’m continually struck by the truth of the gospel, and the historicity of the resurrection. That our faith is not just in a wounded man who died a horrific death, but in a risen God, whose death atoned for our sins, and who conquered sin, death, and the grave.
The resurrection is rooted in historical facts. The centurion, a Gentile, was the lone witness that this man was surely the son of God. Joseph of Arimathea wrapped the precious body of Christ in linen and placed him in a borrowed, stone-cut tomb. Mary, the mother of James and John, and Salome, and Mary Magdalene went out to the tomb to anoint the body, where they met an angel who gave them the most unexpected news.
I have to confess that I haven’t always understood the importance of the resurrection being really and historically…true. Let me say this carefully – so that I don’t sound like a heretic. It’s not that I didn’t believe in the resurrection – but more that my focus was always on Christ’s death atoning for our sins. His being raised to life – it was like icing on the cake for me! (Strawberry cake, though, not chocolate).
I’ve been thinking a lot about 1 Corinthians 15 over the last year. I’ve also been thinking a lot about death over the last year. And about my own life, and my meager accomplishments and pitiful disappointments and the moments when I really do wonder what in the world God could be doing, in the midst of all of this brokenness.
The truth of the resurrection is that God died. On a cross. That he, the creator of the universe, sacrificed his life so that we might live through him, and experience forgiveness through his blood. But the truth of the resurrection is also that he has overcome death, hell, sin, and the grave. That he reigns triumphant over all of the evil forces of this world.
That he is victorious over them.
I’ve probably been thinking a lot about death because my grandmother died. One day she was fine, and the next day she was sick. One day she was sick, and the next day, she was dead. It sounds harsh to put it that way, but that’s the truth. Over a course of five months, everything changed.
And so these days I’ve been clinging to the truth of the resurrection, the encouragement I have in the face of death through the cross, and the reminder that this is not the end – because it’s the only hope that I have in the face of mourning. That my grandmother is in his presence, because he conquered sin and death and the grave. That he will wipe away every tear from the eyes of those who mourn. That we will even be resurrected (what a thought!).
But the hope isn’t just for what’s going to happen one day in the future. For it to be real hope, it has to be hope that makes a difference in the here and now, in the today. The same hope that we can have in the face of death – that he does not abandon us to the grave or hand over our souls to Sheol, but holds us in his arms – is also the hope we can have in the here and now, the ebb and flow of normal, humdrum days. Even on an overcast Good Friday.
Just as God did not abandon Christ, so he will not abandon us. And that is comfort when I face the grave (or the loss of loved ones). But it’s also comfort when I face another mundane Monday afternoon. When my heart aches from the sadness of watching people suffer and seeing injustice. When I miss home and what home should have been. When the loneliness is tangible – when I wonder if I really will be single for the rest of my life, and what it will look like for God to be sufficient in that. When I sit in a crowded OB-GYN office to have a routine check-up, and see women my age, with one child on their hip and another in their womb. They wonder if this will be their last. And I wonder if there will ever be a first.
The resurrection is hope in the midst of the sadness that seems overwhelming some days. That he is always doing something new. Always.
Even when we can’t see it.
Especially when we can’t see it.
And just as God didn’t abandon Christ, but was faithful to the seed of David – and faithful to give to Abraham spiritual offspring outnumbering the stars in the sky – that he is also faithful to us. That even as he is working, even in the chaos, even in the unknown, even in the wondering – and that he is also present. He will not leave us here, to half-drunk cups of cold coffee and scattered messes and broken spirits and heartbreaking text messages and singleness that seems unending and nights spent in fear.
I need to hear the truth of the resurrection because I need to be reminded that, just as God raised up Christ, so he will also raise up his children. And that in the in-between, he promises never to abandon or leave me to myself.
This is the truth of the resurrection and the hope we have in the face of death. That he overcame death. That he showed us just how much he loves us through the cross.
That he will never leave or never forsake us. That he is working to accomplish his glory, even through what seems to be my momentary affliction. That he is working out good, even in the midst of my doubting and sinning. That he is control, even when all seems gray and dreary and lost, and the savior who was to come is being taken off of a cross and put into a tomb, with a stone rolled over the entrance.
Because this is not the end of the story. Sunday is coming, and the glory of God is made manifest through the resurrection of his son, the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
Who loved his children enough to endure the shame of the cross.
Who promises to remain faithful, even when we are faithless.
Who will never leave, never abandon, and never forsake us.
This, this is the truth of the resurrection. And it’s a truth I’m always needing to hear yet again.
written on April 18 (Good Friday)