Easter

Why Do You Look for the Living Among the Dead?

Empty Tomb from CrossCardsWhen hope dies, it’s hard to believe life can prevail.  We remain at the burial site—gazing upon what we’ve lost, unaware that something greater is destined to arise from the ashes.  Helen Keller once said, “When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.”  When Jesus died on the cross, those who had followed him closely were unaware that His death was only the opening of a greater door in which God was about to do “exceedingly abundantly above all that [they could] ask or think” (Eph 3:20).

The women who witnessed the miraculous were met with the question, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5). They earnestly came to Jesus’ disciples with news of the empty tomb, only to be met with disbelief.  It was as if they had come to a tomb of another kind—where hope itself was permanently laid to rest.  The disciples who’d walked with Jesus from the beginning of His ministry had mistakenly believed He’d come to set up an earthly kingdom.  He had been their hope of liberation from oppressive governmental and religious systems—a political Messiah.

When He died on the cross, their dreams died with Him; when they buried Him in the tomb, they buried their aspirations as well.  They did not understand Jesus’ destiny of suffering, predictions of death or promises of resurrection. They didn’t understand He had far greater things for them, an everlasting hope.

Many times we find ourselves in what appears to be a hopeless situation—a graveyard of disenchantment, surrounded by death.  Life has disappointed us; we have disappointed ourselves.  It seems that God has abandoned us to the grave.  We cry out for hope, but Heaven is as brass.  Alone in a graveyard of doubt and defeat, it seems that the promise of resurrection was nothing more than an illusion.

Yet it is when we have come to the end of ourselves that we are on the verge of finding true life.  When things seem most hopeless, we are closer to a breakthrough than ever before.  Why?  Because we finally come to realize that the things we were hoping in were not worthy of our trust to begin with.  They were incapable of sustaining us or providing the life we were looking for.  We finally seal false hope in a tomb—never to be revisited.  This is the beginning of resurrection.

When find ourselves at the entrance to life’s tombs, we have not come to a place of death:  we have instead arrived at the door that leads to everlasting life and hope.  Jesus’ death on the cross is an invitation to die to all our unworthy expectations.  His resurrection is an invitation to find hope that will never die.

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Invitation to Hope

When find ourselves at the entrance to life’s tombs, we have not come to a place of death:  we have instead arrived at the door that leads to everlasting life and hope.  Jesus’ death on the cross is an invitation to die to all our unworthy expectations.  His resurrection is an invitation to find hope that will never die.

 

Photo Credit: Sunrise – Free images on Pixabay

Among the Dead

No man dies to live among the dead. No man lays down his life so others can live as zombies. And, to be honest, that’s what empty religion can do to a person. We appease our conscience with a weekly (or yearly) visit to church—stand up, sit down, repeat memorized phrases in droning monotone, and leave unchanged. And I must ask…is THIS what Jesus died for?

 

Photo Credit: Dead, Flower – Free images on Pixabay

He Didn’t Die for This

Blog_PhilippineCemetaryHave you ever come face to face with death? I did once, at a graveyard in the Philippines. There, the bodies are not buried six feet under, but in cement enclosures above ground. To reach the burial site for the funeral we were attending, we had to walk through a maze of these cement enclosures until we reached a back wall where the poor rent slots for their deceased loved ones. Because they can’t afford a permanent resting place, the remains are often tossed on the ground once the rental agreement is complete and the space is needed for a new occupant. While navigating the maze of tombs, it’s not unusual to encounter skeletons with skulls full of withering hair. It’s a sobering encounter with the reality of our own mortality.

A walk through life can often feel like a walk through that graveyard—every day surrounded by news of suffering. Even worse is a much-anticipated visit to a place meant to bring hope, only to find a mausoleum of death. It’s beyond unfortunate when a church feels like a mortuary—a place of meaningless ritual, passionless preaching, and meaningless tradition. Really? Is this what Jesus died for?

Reflecting on my journey through that maze of death, I realize one glaring truth. No man dies to live among the dead. No man lays down his life so others can live as zombies. And, to be honest, that’s what empty religion can do to a person. We appease our conscience with a weekly (or yearly) visit to church—stand up, sit down, repeat memorized phrases in droning monotone, and leave unchanged. And I must ask again…is THIS what Jesus died for?

There is much to be said about what Jesus DID die for. Still, we neglect to consider what he DIDN’T die for. And we can be sure he DIDN’T die so we can show up once a week in a pretty dress or snazzy suit, impressing others with a façade of pious humility. He didn’t die so we can drive up in our sleek sedan, drop a few coins in the bucket, and return after that miserable half-hour to a life of self-indulgence. He didn’t die so we can stand in a room full of strangers, together mindless robots repeating phrases that mean nothing to us. Believe me, NO man would die for THAT.

What is it that so moves us to go through the mindless motions, week after week, year after year? Why do we settle for infinitely less than what our Savior died for? Why do we live bound to our comfort zones and safe houses when he left his comfort and security behind to suffer and die that we can have LIFE that is truly LIFE? There’s a vast difference between walking dead while awaiting resurrection, and walking dead unaware, desiring for nothing more.

“‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

“He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)

Source: He Didn’t Die for This

Strengthened by Struggle

Blog_ButterflyChrysalisSo it looks like my butterflies-to-be will be coming home with me for Spring Break. Though I was hoping my students would be here to witness metamorphosis, the timing just didn’t work out. But the coming transformation is something I definitely do NOT want to miss. How sad if it were to happen in an empty classroom, for no one to see.

Unfortunately, that’s how most ordinary miracles are, happening every day, all around us—yet we fail to see. But that’s another blog post.

What I’m thinking about now is…struggle. The other morning, my co-worker gave me some pointers on caring for newly hatched butterflies that turned out to be profound wisdom. When they emerge, the butterflies will struggle. I’ll want to help them, of course, but helping them would hinder a necessary process. Because it’s through the struggle that they gain strength.

How reflective of life, these butterflies. We struggle, fight, and flail—all the while praying to get out of the trial we’re in. If only we lived free of struggle, we’d be strong…or so we believe.

Yet it’s in the midst of struggle that we become strong. The burdens we bear seem to weigh us down, when in fact they’re building us up. Soon, our wings will be strong to fly, if only we endure.

Though it’s hard, I’m learning a new prayer—not that God will take the trial from me (unless He wants to!), but that God will make me stronger through the trial. As Jesus prayed in the garden, so I pray, “My father! If it is possible, may this cup of suffering be taken from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Do Not Disturb

Blog_WorkInProgressMy butterflies are waiting in their chrysalises, soon to emerge in splendor and freedom. While I wait for their big reveal, I’m doing my best to follow the step-by-step directions that accompanied the butterfly garden kit. And, I might add, biting my nails. What if I do something wrong? Could one mistake prevent these amazing creatures from fulfilling their destiny? Will they die in their cocoon?

This morning, I took the bold step of removing the paper film from their former habitat and transferring the chrysalises to their garden home. Bold, I say, because I do NOT like insects. As mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, the only thing motivating me to care for these otherwise repulsive bugs is the knowledge of what they will become.

The next step shouldn’t be so hard. “Do not disturb.” Although, in a classroom full of curious kids, it’s not as easy as it sounds. The future butterflies are busy at work, though all we see is their hard outer shell hanging loosely from the netting. Our job is to wait and watch.

Sometimes, we get a little eager to see what’s going on with our circumstances. We want answers, and we want them now. If it seems nothing’s happening, we want to intervene. What if we’re not doing enough?

And yet…what if we’re doing too much?

There’s a season for everything. There’s a time to labor and invest. And there’s a time to wait and watch. There’s wisdom in discerning which season we’re in.

If we step in when we should be still, we disrupt the process. Think of Abraham. When he should have been waiting patiently for the fulfillment of God’s promises, he took matters into his own hands—resulting in family strife that affected all of history beyond.

When God says “do not disturb,” it’s best to listen. There’s a work in progress. We’re a work in progress. And the results of waiting (patiently!) are always glorious.

“The Lord will fight for you. You need only be still.” (Exodus 14:14)

When it Seems Like Nothing’s Happening

Nymphalidae - Danaus plexippus - ChrysalisLast Monday I returned to my classroom after a long weekend to find a cup of dead bugs on my file cabinet. At least, I thought they were dead. In reality, those fuzzy insects lying dormant on the bottom of that cup were just waiting for something to happen.

Within a couple days, they were moving and eating and making their way to the top of the cup. I’m no insect lover, but I must admit it was fascinating to watch these lifeless caterpillars wake up and start crawling toward their destiny. When I returned after this past weekend, they were already hanging upside down in their chrysalises.

Tomorrow, I’ll transfer them to their butterfly garden in hopes they emerge before Spring Break. If not, they’ll be coming home with me. I don’t want to miss the miracle of their ultimate transformation.

A caterpillar’s metamorphosis is a parable of life. At first, it appears nothing’s happening. Then, for a short while, they’re moving, but their movement is much like ours—forward and backward, forward and backward. Getting somewhere, getting nowhere. Making progress, losing ground. And in their chrysalis, again it seems nothing’s happening.

But we all know the end of this story! Soon enough, nothing will become something. A butterfly will emerge from its cocoon of death. And it will fly free.

I’m sure Jesus’ disciples felt nothing was happening as He lay there in the tomb. But that tomb was like a chrysalis, life overcoming death within. After three days, the stone was rolled away, and life emerged.

It may seem like nothing’s happening in your life right now, but just wait. When it seems the most hopeless, the most lifeless, there’s a resurrection coming. New life waits in the shroud of death. Soon enough, in the hands of almighty God who brings life from death, you will fulfill your destiny. And you, too, will fly free.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)