Jesus Christ is alive!
On the cross Jesus opened his arms in love for you and for the whole world and God the Father looked on Jesus’ faithful life, passion, and death, and acted decisively to upend and overturn the worst of what we can do, raising him from the dead.
But Jesus really died.
He did not nearly die and then find himself nursed back to health in the ICU.
He did not have a near-death experience but find himself resuscitated.
He did not come very close to death only to be brought back to health by a clinical trial of experimental medicine.
In the tomb, Jesus’ body lay dead.
Until the women came to the tomb with spices and found the stone rolled away, and two men in dazzling white said to them, “why are you looking among the dead for the living? He is not here but has risen! Don’t you remember how he told you he had to be betrayed, crucified, and rise again?”
But what happened before the stone was rolled aside?
What happened before the women arrived?
What happened inside that tomb?
That’s what our daughter Lucia wanted to know last night.
Our daughter is five years old, and was probably trying the stall-tactic, but when I was putting her to bed last night in the pitch-black darkness of her bedroom, she asked me, “Daddy, who was in the tomb with Jesus?”
“Who was in the tomb with him?” I asked.
“Yes, was anyone in there with him?”
I had to think about that.
Well, Joseph of Arimathea gave the tomb for Jesus and it was a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid.
But more to the point, Yes, there was someone in the tomb with Jesus.
God was in the tomb with Jesus.
God had promised never to leave Jesus and God was with him in the tomb, just as God is with us in the tombs of our life.
You have been in the tomb, haven’t you?
Oh, of course you have stood beside graves of loved ones where part of you dies. But I know you have been in the tomb yourself.
You have been in the doctor’s office and received the diagnoses of illnesses we can’t control. You have been touched by separation and divorce, the loss of a job.
You have known loneliness and stress and sadness.
We experience the deep darkness in our lives – we experience the tomb – when it feels like it’s all over – AND there is tremendous pressure not to let on, not to let anyone know.
We don’t want to feel the shame; we want to keep it to ourselves and then we feel guilty about that.
We experience the tomb. And it is dark.
We live in a country captive to the darkness of violence as we mark the 20-year anniversary of Columbine knowing that things have only gotten worse.
We are captive to the darkness of racism where we still have basically-segregated-neighborhoods and lives.
And we are captive as a nation to the darkness of dysfunction as we wonder what happened to being the shining example to the rest of the world as to what integrity and justice look like.
We have been in the darkness of the tomb ourselves, but the good news of Easter is that Christ is now alive and sends the Spirit of his love and healing to you and me, to this whole world, and to the deepest, darkest places of this universe – places so dark it’s almost impossible to comprehend.
A week and a half ago astronomers with the National Science Foundation announced that at last they had captured an image of what had previously been thought unobservable:
a black hole.
Black holes are those cosmic abysses in the universe so deep and dense that not even light can escape them.
The black hole captured in the photo revealed to the world a week and a half ago was one located far across intergalactic space, 55 million light-years away from Earth, in M87, a giant galaxy in the constellation Virgo.
There, this black hole, which is several billion times more massive than the sun is unleashing a violent jet of energy some 5,000 light-years out into space.
I have to say, that what I have recalled by reading about this monumental discovery over the past week is that black holes aren’t just mysterious. They’re violent. They’re major disrupters of cosmic order.
Formed when too much matter or energy is concentrated in one place, black holes trap matter and light in perpetuity, and furiously consume everything around them pulling all life into itself where it is trapped forever, where it can never get out, and where it ceases to exist.
Most of the black holes that we experience aren’t 55 million light years away.
The abyss of addiction is much too close,
the darkness of depression is inside us,
estrangement from family; the void of loneliness and thoughts of suicide hover within us and in the ones we love –
They become a black hole within us that traps the matter and light of our lives and threatens to furiously consume everything good around them,
And, in the deep darkness, we ask:
is anyone here in this tomb with me?
God, are you here with me?
If you hadn’t seen the just-published picture of this black hole it might be interesting to hear how people have described it.
Some have described it as an illuminated smoke ring, others say it resembled the Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings, one friend of mine says she thinks it looks like a fuzzy donut, but I can tell you what it looks like.
It looks like a tomb with the stone being rolled away and the beautiful light of God’s love escaping out into the universe and reaching out to you and me.
You see Jesus and the light of his love illuminate the tombs that we experience, are with us in the black holes of our life –
when we are afraid, when we are sick, when we are hopeless – God is there.
Just as God was with Jesus on the cross and in the tomb.
Maybe the two men at the tomb who greeted the women to tell the news that Jesus was alive had dazzling bright clothes because they were still iridescent from being in the tomb when God’s second big bang of love woke Jesus from the dead in a blast of light.
Maybe these two men were shining as bright as a supernova because the same love that exploded in joy to make this world, exploded in an equally joyous outpouring of love to
remake this world through the resurrection of the one who has saved it.
The women and the apostles can’t be blamed for being slow to believe.
If you and I are sometimes slow to believe maybe we can’t be blamed either.
Who would think a person who had died could live again?
But an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Shepherd Doeleman, speaking about the photo of the black hole last week, said,
“We have seen what we thought was unseeable.”
God breaks into your life
and is with you in the loneliest voids,
the deepest black holes,
the darkest tombs.
And when God breaks in with the light of his love,
through his word,
through the meal of forgiveness,
through the friendship of another,
through the surprising moment of grace,
you have to tell it.
You can’t keep news that good to yourself.
I am not a scientist, but I have a friend who is. We were talking about the photo released and this amazing scientific breakthrough.
I asked him what he thought and he said, “Oh! I believe it. Ibelieve it because they went public. You only go public if you know what you’re talking about!”
That’s how it works.
At the tomb, the women remembered Jesus’ words, and they realize:
In Jesus’ resurrection
God didn’t just reached into the grave of one man to raise him up.
In Jesus’ resurrection
God has reached into the black hole of the cosmos and rescued life from the clutches of death – for you and for me and for the whole universe.
So, then we have to tell the news that he is alive!
God’s Spirit has called us here today to hear this good news of Jesus’ victory over death…
and to tell it,
to sing it,
to live it,
to be it,
and to share it….
Our Living God is with us and says, “Friends, it’s time to go public!”
Jesus Christ is alive!