There is a story told about three women who followed Jesus. It was early Sunday morning, after Jesus had been crucified and laid in a tomb (a grave cave). Mary, Joanna and Mary Magdalene sadly, slowly make their way through the deserted cemetary. Jesus was their friend, their leader, their hero. Now they have come to prepare his body for an eternity in a tomb –they are first century amateur morticians. They speak quietly amongst themselves as they wind their way around one hill and then another till they come to the tomb. Empty tomb — Jesus wasn’t there. Totally unexpected, world-changing, heart-shaping, paradigm breaking stuff — resurrection had taken place.
But God did not leave them in this confusion state. He sent an angel to ask them a question. (I’m thinking it would have been better to send an angel to give them an answer. But God loves to ask us questions.) The angel (which literally means messenger) asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Why are you looking for Jesus in a cemetery? Which by the way, I don’t know if you ever noticed it but Jesus has this way of messing up cemeteries.
What an incredible question, don’t you think? It was incredible for them because they didn’t seek the living. They sought the dead. They had come to prepare a body, the body of a man they had watched die. They had come to remember what might have been and mourn for what could never be. And yet perhaps that question, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” is an even more incredible question for us, because we are operating under the assumption that he lives. As followers of Jesus we have chosen to believe that he gives life. But how many of us are still looking for life in cemeteries — and other places of death.
A friend recently overheard this conversation on the Penn State Campus. “I’m gonna get drunk with you tomorrow night. Then I’m gonna get drunk with you on Friday, then I’m gonna get drunk on Saturday night. Well I guess all day Saturday because it’s a noon game. And then, might as well get drunk all day Sunday. HaHa.” She’s looking for life — in a cemetery. What’s your cemetery?
Some of them are a little harder to spot. Some of our cemeteries look like resorts with 24 hour fun. Some of our cemeteries give degrees and lead to big buck bonuses. Some of our cemeteries might even be filled with friends. In fact, little known fact, some of our cemeteries even have crosses and stain-glass windows. The question is…when life with Jesus gets hard, or dry, or minimalized… where do you end up looking for life?
Let me be your angel — He isn’t there. He is risen from the dead.