Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Thoughts

*Image via Frolic

It was the day before Good Friday; the air was cold, the sky gray and utterly dismal. It felt like the kind of day on which a horrid crime might occur; the kind of day on which, for example, a person might be crucified.

As I looked outside at the pouring rain, my imagination drifted back to that day two thousand years ago, and I wondered, what must it have been like for Christ's disciples, for those who knew and loved Him best? On the natural level – that is, in terms of what the human senses could perceive – the day was certainly anything but good - its significance for mankind as enigmatic to those who saw it happen as its name is to modern people now.

That Good Friday, His disciples having abandoned Him – that is, all but one, and the women who were devoted to Him – Christ, the Messiah – the one who was to save Israel – carried His own cross to the place called Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, and there was crucified. Three large nails like spikes were plunged through His hands and feet. His outer garments were divided; they cast lots for His tunic; and after He received a drink of bitter wine He bowed His head and breathed His last.

And then – ostensibly, it was all over. Even His last words, “It is finished!” rose up to affirm this seeming truth. Christ, the Messiah, was dead. Dead. His body, cold and lifeless. And a spear pierced His side.

What was there to do for the few that remained but to take the Body down? Remove the nails and bind it in linen wrappings with a mixture of myrrh and aloes, as was the burial custom of the Jews. This second Adam was then buried in a garden, in a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

What does it mean?
they must have asked themselves. Is this the end? And if so, how can it be?

What, I wonder, must the Sabbath day that followed have been like for the disciples? For those who had forsaken Him, there must have descended a spirit of shame, confusion, and despair. Uncertainty, and an almost dizzying sense of anti-climax. Stupefied, they must have walked about in a stupor. Sick with grief, they couldn't make sense of what had happened – couldn’t even distract themselves with work. Instead, their burial rites interrupted, they were compelled to sti still, mulling it all over.

But then – the tomb was found empty. The women who had gone there with spices came back to testify that they had seen angels, been visited by the Risen Christ! No matter. To the disciples – their words appeared as nonsense. It wasn’t until Christ revealed Himself to them personally that they understood – it was only after they had seen that they could believe.

When you think of it, not much has changed. We live by the light of revelation – and must cling to this revelation when nothing, not even nature, seems to affirm its truth.

Today I woke up and the world was unaccountably changed. Dutch was home. All the dark clouds, which had hovered fitfully above the trees for so many long days, were gone. The sky was clear and blue and brilliant.

All the neighbors emerged from their cocoons. The children across the street, whose faces I had not yet seen, were out on their front lawn, joyously engaged in the act of making a fort using a child-sized picnic table, a porch umbrella, and some old sheets. Even the insects – most of them just hatched – had come out from their hiding places to play: a white butterfly hovered above the blooming rhododendrons, its two white wings trembling like little scraps of paper in the warm, thick air. Swarms of bees circled the ranunculus, buzzing cheerfully. Two doors down a chicken clucked, warbled, sang.

The four of us, reunited at last, couldn’t help but pack a picnic and join in the revelry. As we walked past an endless succession of jewel-bright lawns, and I began to describe to Dutch the agonies of life without him – I had to interrupt myself: for in that setting which was suddenly so beautiful, so idyllic and splendorous, I began to question the credibility of my own story.

How can it be that here, today, a new world is born where yesterday there was only rain and gloom, and everywhere a spirit of dissolution and torpor?

I don’t know. It is unaccountable to me – and yet I rejoiced to see how well nature served to illustrate the point that appearances can be deceiving. At first glance, victory may present itself as defeat. That which today may appear hopeless, irredeemable, gone forever, may tomorrow find new life, new birth, and the promise of redemption.

I couldn’t help but reflect that the Christian life – that is, the life of the disciple – is often filled with these kinds of stunning contrasts and reversals. One day, the sun breaks through the clouds, bathing everything in the light of revelation. One can nearly see the Risen Christ, and feel His Presence in every created thing, man and beast and bush. The next, the light of the vision vanishes – and one is left to wonder when, if ever, it will return again.

Like Lucy after she has first discovered Narnia, one learns that there is no telling when the Wardrobe will open itself again to worlds unknown. The magic never works the same way twice – and never on command. One cannot walk back to the same place and expect the same result. Instead, one must wait and believe, recognizing that we are not in control of the magic – but that the magic is in control of us, and that it is a Person, Jesus.

"He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see..." ~Matthew 28.6


B Dunlap said...

Love this, friend. Beautiful, beautiful post.

danielle-laryn said...

you always write so well and so poignantly- it fills me with such a poetic way of remembering christ; thank you for your beautiful blog!

Lindsay said...