Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26
Traditionally, “Holy Saturday” is kind of a downer. Today is post-crucifixion, pre-resurrection. Rebekah and I try to keep things solemn, in perspective, and in keeping with the overwhelming sense of disquiet that must have gripped the disciples of Jesus after the horrific events of that first Good Friday.
Over the years, we have planted many trees and shrubs during this time, specifically in memory of lost loved-ones and as testimony to new life and growth. Azalea, hydrangea, river-birch, and day-lily in Pensacola; palm trees, roses, and magnolia in Brandon; and now – our absolute favorite, a series of Japanese maple trees here in Wake Forest.
This past week, along with the generous help of Larry Roper, this magnificent Japanese maple was planted – both in memory of Rebekah’s sister Rachel and in celebration of new life (Max is there for perspective – it is a very mature specimen).
At the same time, my Saturday morning men’s Bible-study group brought things into clear focus by moving the resurrection forward a day.
“Derek,” one of the men asked when we were talking earlier in the week, “it’s Easter weekend, will we still be meeting?”
“Well,” I responded, “we have spent the past five weeks following Jesus to Gethsemane, at his arrest, during the trial, through torture and humiliation, then hours of agony on the cross…; the least we could do would be to show up for the resurrection!”
Life beyond imagination!
So, yes, we met this morning. And we talked about the power and the glory of the empty tomb.
Not just an empty tomb but Christ risen!
Back in John 11, when his friend Lazarus was in the grave, Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life! Do you believe this?” But he wasn’t limiting the conversation to something so pedestrian as bringing a dead body back to animation, he was talking about what Paul describes as “A new creation!” The new life Jesus offers is not subject to age or decay or a return to the dust, this is life beyond imagination.
And that is what we talked about. How do we, how can we, how must we respond to this gift of life beyond imagination?
Resurrection – Easter – is all about allowing the fact of Christ’s victory over death to animate our lives, to power our day-to-day interface with this often dark world.
Because Jesus lives, the song goes, I can face tomorrow; because he lives all fear is gone; because I know he holds the future; and life is worth the living just because he lives (Bill and Gloria Gaither).
This is what this weekend represents. Not some pie in the sky when we die ambiguous dream, but a real, visceral, dynamic, vital truth that is evidenced in the way followers of Jesus actually live moment by moment and day to day.