Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dead Man in the Tomb

The grief-pierced mother. The traumatized beloved disciple. The sickening crunch of leg bones being deliberately broken on either side of the central crucifix. The mocking crowd silenced by darkness and the shaking earth after the spear-pierced chest of the Son emptied His heart of blood and water.

Two respectable old men coming with servants and releasing the Body from the blood-blackened wood of the crosspiece and lowering it gently to the ground where it is wrapped in linen and spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury. The bemused Roman soldiers, battle-hardened and immune to the bleeding and broken flesh of the dead, marveling at the convulsions of earth and sky at the demise of this Man; the same Man who had uttered words of forgiveness as these very men had been nailing Him to the Cross.

In the precincts of Jerusalem, some of the dead are made alive again and walk among the living. Not as zombies, but with resurrected life, soon to be led into Heaven by their King, but not for some days. The 18-inch thick veil of the Temple on Mount Moriah rent in two from top to bottom.

All these images with their accompanying sounds and sensations assailed my mind as I looked over the edge of existence from the Balcony. I had wished to see Jesus. My prayer had been granted, this far at least.

The Tomb to which they transported the bloodied and lifeless Figure was a cave hollowed into the side of a granite hill near a garden that was to serve as a rich man's burial chamber. A few men and women followed, trying to contain their heartbreak and grief. Some of the women unable to suppress sobs welling up from their inmost beings. The Body placed lovingly inside on the chiseled granite shelf. The massive stone gate rolled into its permeant place sealing the cave from all light and life.

Before sunset, just as the observant Jews left to comply with Sabbath regulations, a cohort of Roman guards arrived to prevent anyone from entering the Tomb and stealing the body.

The corpse lay lifeless and cold - God become Man become sin become sacrifice.

Did I continue to gaze on that scene for three planetary days and nights? Was time telescoped in some fashion? I cannot say.

What I do know is that as I watched I was somehow transported to the place of the righteous dead; a temporary abode deep within the earth where those who had died in faith, from ancient Cain to the repentant thief on the Cross, awaited the Promised Seed of the Woman, the One who would lead the captives free. And there I saw Him from a distance, the Glorified One, His raiment shining as white as the sun, announcing His victory over Death and Hades and preaching the Gospel of grace. He bade them wait just a little while longer, and He would bring them to their longed for place of rest.

After this, I observed and heard the disciples, less one, hidden away secretly behind locked doors, gathered together mournfully in fear and utter discouragement. These were men and women sorrowful beyond words, feeling as orphans suddenly bereft of all hope and comfort.

Although I sensed the sun rise the next dawn, and the dawn after that, the light that it brought to the earth was pale and without real warmth. And though most of the planet went on as it had from the beginning, those few who knew of the momentous events of the last three years, and especially the last three days, looked upon life and the future as those who had lost a firstborn to an untimely and violent death. They were filled with sorrow upon sorrow, wondering whether what, and more importantly, Who, they had believed was true. Was it all a dream? A deranged vision? What of the miracles? And the glorious teachings? What of this Man who could still the storm, give sight to the blind, heal the sick, make the lame whole, and raise the dead?

And where was God to allow such horror and disillusionment to occur?

Perhaps it was understandable that in their grief and fear they did not remember the words that He had graciously told them about these events before they unfolded, so that they might believe. Perhaps in their mere humanness and self-focus, these men, who had been His closest disciples day in and day out for more than three years, could not see beyond their own personal brokenness and despair. 

And while they were immersed in mourning and bitter disappointment, the world in their immediate vicinity rejoiced in raucous discord in response to the immensity of the loss suffered. The troublemaking rabble-rouser had finally received His just comeuppance; destroyed on the Cross as a vile blasphemer and criminal.

Then in the darkness of that cavern Tomb, unseen by human eyes, a light burst forth like the sustained and space-bending blast of a supernova, and Life returned to that lifeless Body. He who had died in such agony, made Himself alive again, just as it was foretold according to the ancient Scriptures. He who was the Light of the World, the Bread of Life, the Door, the Way the Truth and the Life, became alive again forever more.

And as the entire Host of Heaven raised their voices as one in glorious angelic praise to the One who is, Who was, and Who is to come, all the defiled Legions of Hell wailed in demonic agony and terror, knowing that their days were short, and their end in the eternal Lake of Fire assured.

And shortly the cry of HE IS RISEN! would go forth to all the world with the power to change, not only the course of history, but the very human heart itself.