1But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. 2They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3but when they went in, they did not find the body. 4While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. 5The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6He is not here, but has risen.
The reading in countless churches around the world this Easter Sunday from which I have taken the title of this blog will be from Luke’s Gospel, 24:1-12. In the next instalment of Luke’s narrative (Acts 1:11) we will again find angels asking pointedly of the disciples ‘why do you stand around looking up at the sky?’ I take it that the suggestion is that there are things to be done which are not served by looking at where the Lord was, but by following where he said he would be and is. To go in the direction He has instructed. Simple.
It is entirely natural that those of our community most familiar with birth and death, the ones who would wash and prepare the dead for burial would continue in their care of the deceased, especially one so perfect and loving as Jesus. Of course, they have gone to where they left him. The places of rest of those we love and have lost are significant. We are drawn to great monuments and sites of pilgrimage, historic places and buildings, because they embody something of the past in a tangible way. Jesus was to be so cruelly ripped from the lives of his followers it would require some adjustment, the grieving process for many demands a visit to a grave and a ceremony of closure.
We need closure when one thing ends in order to clear the decks for the new thing to come but as the angels remind us; with Jesus there is no end. We humans continue to look to the dead for inspiration. Other gods and idols are dead or crude fiction. Other methods of escape lead to death and alienation, addiction and annihilation. We are called away from the places of the dead to signpost people toward life. We do not worship one who is merely dead, one subject to the natural order of things but the One who created the natural order.
So where are we to go on our Sunday of the resurrection? To look at the grave, the sky? I propose we are to do exactly as the prompted women did on that first Easter and tell the people of what we have heard, that Christ has risen and is alive! Those we tell are likely to want to see for themselves, likely to find it an ‘idle tale’. Fine, let them find him risen and alive (v12), if they truly seek him they will.
We are to go about the work of the Kingdom and empowered by the Spirit of God love people back to life. In our demonstration of the Kingdom of Christ we demonstrate new life where once we were in the presence of the dead. Demonstrate the Kingdom, God shows up.
The angels remind us that the Lord has taken the complexity of the religious systems and made them easy – do what Jesus says, speak of what you have experienced and what you have seen or heard, and He will bring the increase. We are resurrection people and our place is amongst the living for Jesus the Christ has risen, ascended, and sits at the right hand of the Father, in Him we have the hope of salvation!