Sunday, April 8, 2012

Light in the darkness

The sun rose that morning. It usually does in Israel in the spring.  Ask those who live there today. Even in the midst of war and strife and pain and suffering, in that part of the world, the sun always rises and the day is bright. But even though the sun rose that day, it made no difference to those men and women who were lost in mourning. When everything feels dark inside our lives we can't quite believe the world continues to do its daily dance around the sun. That's how it felt to those first followers of Jesus--that the sun itself had set for good. But no, that sun continued to rise and rise again. But not for those men and women. Though the sun rose, they'd been plunged into darkness before the Sabbath and no sun rising in the sky harkening a new day--or week-- could change that.

But a rolled away stone could. It wasn't LIGHT that first morning that brought hope to those men and women wallowing in the bleakness of mourning. It was darkness.  Darkness in a cave where a body was supposed to be. And that hole was empty, cold and quiet.  Mary Magdalene, wandering in her grief, just wanting to be near even the dead body of the One she'd followed, saw that tomb sitting with a gaping opening, like the stone was a tooth that had been knocked out. It scared her so much, she went running to Peter and John. Scared her because she didn't get it, she just didn't understand-- she thought Jesus' enemies had stolen his body (which must have seemed the ultimate horror, that those enemies couldn't even leave Him in peace after death!).  It wasn't until Peter and John stepped into the darkness of the tomb that they saw the truth. Yes, only when they ran out of the bright sun-bleached Jerusalem morning into the darkness of a tomb that they saw the light. The LIGHT.

John remembered this transformative moment distinctly when he wrote from the island of Patmos sixty years later. "The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it," he wrote in the prologue to his gospel.  "The true light that gives light to everyone..." he calls Jesus--and  right there in that empty tomb, with the grave clothes still bearing the impression of the body so recently wrapped within, that 'true light' revealed to John and Peter that HE is RISEN. The one John had watched die, had spent dark nights mourning, was not dead.  "This is the message," John wrote in his epistle, "God is light. In Him is no darkness at all."

I wonder how bright that dark tomb was that first morning. How illuminated that place was where Jesus' body had lay for such a short time.  It must have glowed more brightly than any star in the cosmos. God was there that first morning.  Even though what they saw first was His absence--in the rolled-away stone, the empty tomb, the discarded grave-clothes--what flooded their souls was LIGHT. Comprehension. Faith that changed them.

Those moments marked the beginning of the story for Peter and John. They had become new creatures, as Paul would put it years later. Sure, there'd be steps backwards--a fishing expedition where Jesus had to re-call them. But...this was the Resurrection Day. And every day--from now on--would be marked by it.

Marked by Light. They had seen LIGHT in the darkness. And the darkness would NEVER overcome it.

This IS the Resurrection Day story. Jesus is Risen. He is LIGHT in every darkness, every crevasse, every hole.
Happy resurrection.

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