Monday, October 18, 2004

Has He Died?

John, Chapter 20:

It was early in the morning at the start of a new week, early enough that it was still dark. The grief was still fresh and the memories all too vivid for one woman whose life had just been turned on it's head once again. With no-one else on her mind and no where else to go, she decided to return to the place where she could be closest to Him, even if there was nothing left to do but mourn. She arrived before she knew it; her mind too full with thoughts to notice the details of travel or time.

Three. God always seemed to have a thing for the number three. He often said things three times and and did them threefold. Now Mary was finding that it was her turn to experience the divine triumvirate. She recalled the first time she met Jesus; He had changed the whole course of her life. It was an encounter that at times she still had trouble believing - or if not believing, understanding. Now, only three days ago, that same man was at the center of another turning point in her life. A life shaping event. Which of the two was the more significant she did not know, but what she did know, was that it could not be good. The one who had rescued her, protected her, was gone, and with Him, the hope of life and the future with which He filled her.

As she reached the tomb where she hoped to mourn once more in His presence things were not as she expected them to be. Had she been of a mind to think about it, she might have recognised that as a sign. She might have seen that during her first encounter with Him, she was expecting to die - but she did not. She might have seen that during the second encounter she did not expect Him to be taken from her, or to die. All she could think of was the possible awful things that they could be doing with Him now, and what might be next. She had come to that place to be with Him one more time, but now even that had been taken from her. He was not there, so there was nothing keeping her, her thoughts now turned to the only family she had left, and she ran.

Again, the journey didn't take long. The occupying thoughts of the past had been ursurped by those of the future, but they did as good as job of blinding her to time and space. The moments flew by, as did the words, and once they were spent so was she, the surge of unquenchable energy giving way to emotional and physical exhaustion. She did her best to stay with those who were her family, but failed to find the energy that only moments ago had carried her as though she she were not even running. Her two brothers had no such lack. Through the message of her words the driving impulse had passed to them; and it carried them just as speedily along the road and soon, out of her sight.

By the time she once again arrived at the tomb, the two had already moved through it taking in every detail, thought a thousand thoughts and were sitting stunned following Mary mentally along the road of 'what ifs' and 'what nows'. She had hoped that she might find amongst her family some answers to her questions but as she looked upon them, their faces let her know that it would not be. She found herself in a place where the present erases the past and with the loss of the past so goes the future.

Still tracing the steps of Mary, the two bereaved disciples left the tomb of their master in search of another hope for the future, and the meaning of the past three years. Mary though had walked along that path enough, and knowing that the answers could not be found at the other end she decided to sit and remain at the place where hope was laid to rest and the past was stolen.

Time still had failed to play any meaningful part in Mary's story that fateful morning. Mary's tears flowed with no care for record of their number, and even her breaths, in which He had given her cause to find new hope and meaning, she spent without value. Eventually she rose, able to focus all her thoughts and and faculties focused on one thing without distraction, she was willing to give all to have Him back, or at least, to be as close to Him as possible. She would move inside the tomb and for all she knew, would stay there until...until... until what? She did not know, she did not care, it was just, 'until'.

She moved around to the tomb and almost let herself fall past the threshold to the floor. Instead she stopped, a little surprised by the two men already within the tomb. Her mind quickly tried to consider who they might be, but it did not have the resources needed to complete the task. Mary only wanted to be around one man, and they were not Him, it did not matter who they were. They were just men, and she knew only too well she could not be alone, or even herself, around them. With no desire to be proper or maintain the usual polite requirements of a woman around men she began to leave when one of them spoke.

"Why are you crying?", he asked her.

She did not want to answer, she just wanted to go, but nor did she want any other troubles added to her life this day.

"They have taken my Lord away," she uttered abruptly, her voice evidencing her displeasure at their intrusion. She calmed herself as she realised that none of this was their fault. Perhaps they too had suffering the same blow, and she did not desire to add to the pain on this most cruel of days. Almost to explain she spoke more gently, "...and I don't know where they have put Him."

Enough was said and as the men spoke no more, before they could speak, she continued to leave and stepped out of the tomb wondering where she might go to pour forth her prayers and cast herself once again at the mercy of God. Once more she was interrupted. This time it was the gardener, and this last encounter was enough to finish off the last remnants of her strength. She had no more fight left in her, and her legs would not hold her to run. She gave herself to the intrusion of the stranger and poured out to him a plea of desperation, "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him."

She stared at the stranger expecting a dismissal, but once again, what she did not expect was that which would happen.


He knew her.

"Mary", He only said it once, but she heard it a thousand times. All of a sudden the past was coming to life. A thousand scenes and a hundred places passed through her mind, all holding that voice in common. It was a familiar voice, and the only one she had not expected to hear. It was the only place where she did not expect to find her answers, but where she somehow knew they only could be. Now present had become the past, and with its passing it was laid to rest. That which was bringing death had died, and all that seemed to have died was now alive.

"Rabboni!" She knew Him. The empty tomb now turned from curse to blessing; the past made sense and the present, restored. The fear of men in their arrogance gave way to hope of security in their love, as the Redeemer of all things resumed His restoring work. Indeed, He had never stopped, and that which was darknessand despair now shines with light and hope. He is the Lord of all.

Few words were spoken, little time spent, but it was enough. Enough to turn her life around one more time. The third time. It was not what she expected, but it was everything she wanted. He never was, but always is. And now? Now, all she wanted was to be with Him, and she was, yet she would find no pain or fear in leaving Him to return to the others, because she knew that He was with her.


It struck me today that sometimes it feels like He has died. That though we have walked with Him for some years, sin came to challenge our relationship with Him, and we did nothing, and now He is dead. We feel like we're alone, and we do not know what to do. We're ruined for lives without Him because in those years we gave everything to Him, yet our shame is all too evident, and He is dead to us.

For any of you feeling that way, as I have all too often, my advice is to follow Mary. Take what strength you have left and follow her back to the empty tomb. It may feel as though He has died, that they have taken Him away and you do not know where you can find Him. You may not think much of yourself, your situation, or hold much hope for the future, but just as with Mary, what we expect is not what comes to pass. Not with Him.

You may not think much of yourself, but He thinks the world of you. It may be that what you are, what you've done is hidden to others, and because of that, what they say to you and what they think, loses its value. Yet He knows it all, and against expectations He is still the One who loves you the most. You are His treasure, the motivation for His life and everything He did and does. He will not let you go, He has no desire to.

You may not think much of your situation. Situations, though, are nothing to Him. He is the master of situations and takes joy in solving them. He is the master chess player, the perfect tactition. He knows His opponent and He knows His creation, what's more, He made the rules, invented the game, and He still invents, and can create today. He is the King of long shots and the Master of last ditch efforts. If you will walk with Him He will lead you out of the darkness and into a future you could not expect or hope for, He goes beyond it.

You may not hold much hope for that future, but what you give to Him now is no-where near as bad as what you gave to Him in the first place. When you came first of all, you were dead and He raised you to life. When you came at first there was no good within you, and since then He has moved in and worked, meaning that He lives there and His work still stands. No master dancer would expect someone to partner him perfectly when they have never even walked! That is how you were. Even now, you may not be the perfect partner but His intentions or expectations have not changed. He seeks only a partner willing to learn, as He desires to teach - it does not matter to Him that you step on His toes from time to time, He doesn't mind.

You may feel as though you are missing the target, that you cannot shoot straight - but think about it. He chose you when you did not even know there was a target. Shame comes now because you know you are missing, but He already knew that. His desire is to see you improve. You may only hit one in a hundred shots right now, but He only asks that you keep firing and He will teach you to improve until you hit the target every single time.

That is your future, you will be perfect - you will dance in perfect time and you will strike the target every time you fire. It is not a vain hope, it is a hope founded on His promise. Even now that hope stands, for although it seems as though you are alone, and He is dead, He has never stopped working. Though you do not know where they have laid Him, if you will only seek Him at the tomb, He will find you.

There are times it feels as though Jesus has died in our lives - but to the Master of death, it is only a tool - whoever you are, wherever you are in life, take what you have left, and go looking for Him, what will come next, none of us can expect.

God bless.