I was reminded by a cousin last night of the Catholic tradition of praying over the fourteen images of Jesus’ journey to the grave from His condemnation before Pilate and ending with His being laid in the tomb. As a child growing up in the Catholic Church those stations and the prayers associated with them held a very vivid place in my personal thoughts about Easter. The humiliation, pain and agony suffered by Jesus combined with the words that we softly repeated or expressed with passion at the priest’s bidding, highlighted the Good Friday experience. For many years it tended to leave more of a lasting effect on me than did the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.
As my personal knowledge and understanding grew through the years, I began to get a very different aspect on Jesus’ death and burial in that tomb a few thousand years ago. What I learned was, that it didn’t end there… It had just began! While reading through the Easter story in the four Gospels this morning I thought it to be interesting that all four of the writers emphasize the point when the women came to anoint Jesus’ body with precious perfumes and ointments as physical preparations for the dead that “He’s not here!” (Matthew 25:6, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:5-6, John chapter twenty)
Mark’s rendition implies that the two Mary’s must have freaked out a bit when they saw the stone rolled away and the tomb empty of the body of the Master. He documented the angel who stood in the tomb as attempting to calm them down by exclaiming: “Don’t panic! You’re looking for Jesus from Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been brought back to life. He’s not here. Look at the place where they laid him.” (Mark 16:6 God’s Word ©)
Over the many years since my childhood, I have come to realize that we Christians ought not to camp out at the cross of Christ, but to move on beyond the empty tomb. For when you really think about it, the cross is a place of defeat while the empty tomb is a place of victory! Yes, Jesus suffered tremendously for us on the way to and once hung on the cross by acting as a substitute for the punishment of our sins. Isaiah 52:14 prophesized that “his visage (or appearance) was so marred more than any man and his form more than the children of man.” (ESV)
But that is not where the storyline and the purpose of Jesus’ God-given plan of salvation ends! Jesus suffered and died… but then He arose on the third day, stripped the enemy of our souls and “made an open show of them publically triumphing over them in it” (Colossians 2:15 MKJV) and forty days later He ascended to His current position seated at the right hand of Papa God, in the place of all authority and power where He intercedes for you and me! (Romans 8:34, Ephesians 1:20, Colossians 3:1, Hebrews 1:3)
I like the way Luke described the event early on that first day of the week saying: “Why are you looking for the dead among the living? He’s not here. He has been brought back to life!” (Luke 24:5-6) So join in with me in celebrating His life and not get stuck at the place of His death on this upcoming Easter Sunday. Celebrate the life that He has given to you! Don’t hang around the places of death in your own life. Let go of the bad times, the bad decisions, the foolish things and the personal failures. Re-establish your life this Easter within the realm of where Jesus sits today. In the place of triumph, victory, peace and love!
Piper and I pray that this Easter really becomes a place of new life and resurrection for you and yours. We encourage you to personally take Jesus at His word in John 11:25 and speak out and believe saying: “Jesus is my resurrection and my life and though I was dead NOW I live!”