On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words. When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. (Luke 24:1-9)
This past Palm Sunday, as many Christians took up olive branches and went out into the streets, a spirit passed out of its mortal flesh and away from this life.
She wasn’t tall. Her body was petite but her laugh was very clear and resounding, so you never had to worry about how to find her in a large crowd. She had a blunt personality. If you said something wrong, she would be sure to loudly correct you right away. If she was angry she would loudly announce her dissatisfaction. She was a simple yet sensitive person. Her hair and her eyebrows were jet-black which contrasted with her fair skin. She had a set of piercing, pitch-black eyes and she could speak with those eyes. One look into her eyes and you could tell exactly what she was thinking, whether she was sad or perplexed or perhaps just joking with you. The very first time I saw her I said to her, “You’re so beautiful!” She replied, “Me? No, I’m not.” She never discovered how truly beautiful she was.
Those beautiful eyes closed in the midst of charcoal fumes, closed forever. I think she was so selfish. How could she decide it was her time to go? How could she leave behind those of us that loved her? But none of us can understand the pain she carried. None of us can judge. We only know that her fear of living was greater than her dread of death. People had scheduled meals together with her, but whether or not those meals will happen, that we must leave up to the Supreme Judge for an answer.
At her memorial service on the morning of April 15th, I thought about what happened to her lively spirit, fun-loving yet full of hurt and suffering. What happened to it? As I watched her body being pushed into the little room my own spirit felt heavy. The spirit. It’s a heavy thing, unique and precious. How can we bear something so heavy?
I thought of a Body with a spirit inside which carried the weight of all things and all time on the day that heaven and earth were changed…it must have been extremely heavy. Exhausted, parched, misunderstood; He seemed to be voluntarily moving, slowly but steadily, towards His own death. One step, one fall, one lash of the whip, one tear, one nail, one sigh…the end. His eyes, closed forever. People moved His body but they knew He wasn’t inside anymore. The next day they knew He was gone, remaining only in memory.
But then I saw, on the day after that, His eyes opened forever. He is the only one able to bear the heavy weight of the spirit, and without one broken bone! He is the only one who has experienced death and yet the poisonous, evil power of death could not harm Him! My friend’s coffin bears the weight of her corpse, sad and decaying, but Jesus’ grave is empty! “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5b) We no longer need to be a witness to death in this dark world. We just ask that when He walks with us and guides us we will be able to recognize when He comes. (Luke 24:13-34)
Some say that the situation Christians are in now is like the Saturday of the first Easter weekend. Jesus has already died on Friday and Sunday is on its way when we’ll get to see Jesus’ resurrection manifest before our eyes. Even though we’re in this “already but no yet” stage, we still need to encourage each other and remind each other not to forget our true hope. To put it simply, even though we still need to go to work, even though we can’t skip class, even though our heads might still hurt, we still should be reminding each other of God’s love, remembering Jesus in daily life, talking with Jesus, loving Him and receiving His tender care. Remember, He came to put an end to the anguish of suffering. He came to put Death to death. He came so that one day His people can be reunited with His beloved Father. Together. Sitting down for the feast that we have longed for for so long.
My friend is gone and I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again, but I know my Jesus is still alive. He knows all things and He’s in charge of all things.
Death, be not proud
by John Donne
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.