It’s that feeling you get when you are caught in the act, doing something you said you’d never do, yet doing it anyway. I think I perfected this particular depth of shame the morning I claimed – not just once, but three times – that I didn’t know Jesus. And this, just hours after I’d promised to go to the grave with him. How could I have left him to face such cruelty, so very alone? Why was my fear greater in that moment than the allegiance I’d promised him?
I am so, so ashamed. The profound sense of humiliation is all the worse when I consider how he trusted me as one of his closest friends and I let him down. So deep was my dishonor that I stayed far away from the cross. I couldn’t bear the thought of making eye contact with him, because there was no way to express the sorrow I felt for what I did. The damage was done and I could not face him. I was frozen, watching the horror from far enough away that I could see him but he couldn’t see me.
It was just so unbelievable. All the times he’d patiently explained what was going to unfold, and even then, we didn’t see it coming. We heard the words, but their meaning was lost on us. And now we were witnessing the very thing he had warned us about. He was really hanging there. He was really dying. He was really gone. We had hoped against hope that he would call the angel armies to rescue him, but he didn’t. The Messiah had come, but he didn’t liberate us at all. Just like any other human, he lived and he died. We didn’t know what to do but run. We left him, dead on the cross, and ran like our lives depended on it, fearful that we’d be next.
Only Joseph of Arimathea had the presence of mind to request the body for a proper burial. Nicodemus accompanied the entourage, bringing along 75 pounds of myrrh and aloes. The women who had been with him at the cross followed and sat reverently, watching as Jesus was wrapped with the spices in a clean linen cloth and laid to rest in the new tomb cut out of rock, the stone rolled in front of the entrance. They went home, prepared more spices, and waited until the Sabbath passed before returning to the tomb.
Early Sunday morning, the women took their spices and went back to the grave. Finding the stone rolled away, they ran back to find John and me, to tell us that Jesus’ body had been taken from the tomb. Where was his body? No one knew.
John and I ran as hard as we could. John got there first, standing at the mouth of the cave but not going in. There were strips of linen laying there, but no sign of Jesus. I finally caught up, and together we went inside. While we didn’t understand all of what had happened and why, one thing was for sure. Jesus was not in the tomb. The burial cloth that had been wrapped around his head was neatly folded. In that moment, a spark of belief began to ignite my heart. Over the coming days Jesus’ words would little by little come to our memory, and we would better understand why he came and what we were called to do.
But today…today I am celebrating that Jesus is alive! Today, my Jesus has risen– he has done the impossible and brought death to life, and darkness to light. I see where he was laid, and I see that he is gone, and I believe. First, the women saw him in the flesh and later, he came to me, for a deeply personal meeting, without which I’d have never been able to forgive myself. That night he appeared, through a locked door, bringing greetings of peace to us. There are no words to express the joy we felt when we saw him. We were overjoyed, and we were in shock, all at the same time. His work would go on, and he would be with us through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We were not alone! He would remain with us in spirit, even after he ascended to heaven. Thank you, Jesus, for rising from the dead. Thank you for forgiving our sins (especially mine) and giving us new life. Thank you for entrusting us with your spirit and your mission.
Because Jesus conquered death, we are given the promise of eternal life. He is risen! He is risen indeed!