I brought spices to Jesus’ grave because I thought he was gone (Mark 16:1). I had forgotten what he said (Luke 24:6). I took spices in mourning and defeat, wondering how I would push the heavy, stone-like burden away (Mark 16:3).
I’ve got to be honest with you. This Holy Week has been hard for me. This time means so much to me and I usually try to attend all possible worship services. I love being reminded of the meaning of it all and the deep connection I feel to Jesus during this time. But life has seemed to kick us while we’re down and I’ve not allowed God to help me withstand the blows. I’m weary.
Life’s circumstances have caused us to miss many things, including numerous Sundays at church. All my life, I’ve been there every time the doors were open until this illness. I only made it through fifteen minutes last Sunday and we made it approximately zero minutes of the Good Friday service. This was only a small fraction of the things weighing on my heart and I was deeply grieved, mourning for what might have been: a powerful, touch-and-heal me kind of Savior, the kind who rescues in the way that I imagine he will (Luke 24:21). I braced myself for Sunday. I was tempted to not even set an alarm because somehow not planning to go to church on Resurrection Sunday meant less disappointment than planning to go without being able to do so.
I awoke this morning sometime in the 4:00 hour with an agonizing stomach pain. Jason awoke several hours later with an agonizing eye pain from an old abrasion that had re-opened. I’m not sure if I’ve seen him in so much pain. I took care of him, blacking out the windows, and tore myself away from him to go to church by myself. I prayed the whole way that God would be my strength and let me feel his presence with me. And I walked in with an agonizing heart pain.
I walked in with my spices, mourning for a Savior who didn’t rescue me. I walked in with the worry and weight of a heavy stone I thought I needed to roll.
Then, an angel said, “Good morning! He is risen” (Matthew 28:6)! And another took my hand, looked me in the eye, saw my pain and said a version of, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 28:5). Still another, face lit with God’s love, embraced me with gladness. I stood with the rest of the disciples (Matthew 28:17), crying outside the empty tomb, wondering what had happened (John 20:11). Wondering where my Jesus had gone. “You are the only King forever”, so where are you?
Later, I was walking along the path. I did not feel Jesus’ presence with me. I did not know that he had been walking with me the whole time (Luke 24:15-16).
Then, Jesus said my name (John 20:16). He said my name and my eyes were opened. My name, on the lips of a risen Savior. My eyes were opened and my mind recalled the words of Jesus (Luke 24:8). I clung to his feet and worshiped him (Matthew 28:9). I worshiped Jesus on the mountain. He broke bread with me and I recognized him, heart burning within me (Luke 24:30-32). He reached out his arms and held me. He was not angry that I had doubted and he invited me to touch and see (Luke 24:39).
Then, Jesus asked me if I love him and I said, “yes”. I said, “yes, yes”, over and over, “yes”. I was hurt that he kept asking me until I remembered how often I denied him with disbelief (John 21:15-17). Jesus, I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief (Mark 9:24)! Jesus said he had to suffer and then enter into glory (Luke 24:26). If I have to suffer, it is for God’s glory, and I want that. God, be glorified! In my eagerness to be with Jesus, I want to run to the empty tomb (Luke 24:12). I want to jump into the water and swim to shore (John 20:7). I want to cast off the burdensome stone and let God roll it away. I was afraid I would take my life back into my own hands again, like so many other times. And a prayer that refused NOT to be prayed left my lips, a prayer that stopped me in my tracks, pierced my heart and left me breathless. I asked God not to take my pain away until the moment it will give Him the greatest possible glory. One of the most difficult prayers I have prayed, but one that has given me hope again. Hope that whatever happens to us will be used for God’s glory.
I have been looking for the Living among the dead (Luke 24:5). I have been overwhelmed by the darkness hiding what God is doing. I have been living in a second day world without hope in our third day God (based on Curtis Booher’s sermon). God’s rays of Light bursting through the darkness reminded me that his Presence has always, and will always, be with me.
My hope was hanging by a thread this morning. And, to be honest, I will probably need reminded of this day more often than should be necessary. Maybe writing it down will help me remember the nearness of God when the darkness overwhelms. Jesus told me not to be afraid anymore (Matthew 28:10). He told me I could lay down my spices and stop pushing the stone. He told me He is with me always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28:20). He told me He is in Heaven at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19). He offered me peace (Luke 24:36). He gave me hope for this In Between. He Is Risen, indeed.