Culture

The Resurrection: Tombs to Trails

empty-tomb

It seems that year after year as the Easter and Christmas holidays draw near, one predictably sees a program or two concerning the newly found proof or evidence of the “real” Jesus. While these newly found discoveries never hold up, a popular topic of research is the search for the physical body of Jesus Christ. While historians and scholars are more willing now than in the past to affirm the historical existence of Jesus Christ, without belief in the resurrection, one is left searching for the body of the man who was crucified on the cross and subsequently died. The mystery that will remain a mystery to those unwilling to accept the story of the resurrection is that the location of the tomb of Jesus Christ has been lost to history, and no one can conclusively establish where the tomb actually is.

This mystery is made even more profound when one considers the cultural traditions of the Jewish people regarding the burial of prominent public figures. Such sites are extremely important. The celebration and glorification of those figures after their death, and the memorial to them in the hearts and minds of future generations is an invaluable treasure to a culture that so often throughout history has had very little to hold onto. From to the Gospel narratives, we also know that the body of Jesus was not simply thrown into an unmarked grave to be forgotten by future generations. The body of Jesus was buried in the tomb of an upper-class Jewish citizen, Joseph of Arimathea. His followers knew exactly where the tomb was, and they visited the tomb after his burial.

Mark 15:42-47:

It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.    

John 20:1-2:

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 

Consider what a profound effect Jesus had on the Jewish people in general, for believers and non-believers alike. It is impossible to believe that if the life of Jesus did indeed end with his death on the cross, his followers not only defied their cultural practice of honoring the dead but more unbelievably, forgot the location of the tomb altogether.

While the tomb of Jesus has been lost to history, what has not been lost is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do have plenty of proof that almost immediately following the death of Jesus, the disciples moved their eyes from the tomb of Jesus to the trails yet to be blazed in his Name as they set off to make disciples of all nations, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The disciples viewed the tomb as trivial in the presence of the reality of the risen Lord, as well as the job that lay ahead driving them to spread the Gospel to those yet to have heard.

In the presence of the dead body of a prominent figure buried in a prominent location, the history of the Jewish people would lead us to believe that the tomb would not only be remembered and marked but that it would be celebrated and preserved. However, in the presence of the resurrected Christ, the tomb becomes nothing more than a stepping stone in order to reach the greater intended heights established by Jesus Christ that the disciples set off to reach. We all know the phrase “history repeats itself,” and we might expect this in the Jewish treatment of the tomb of Christ. However, in this instance, history did not repeat itself. In this instance, the disciples contradicted history and set off in a direction that would ultimately rewrite history.

 

Tuesday Devotional: Joel 1

bibleRead Joel 1

Philippians 3:8

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.

The Christian church has experienced a season of comfort.  The end of that season is drawing near.  The Church in the West is fading, being undone and overtaken.  The prosperity of the Church in the West has opened the door to idle hands, complacency, ignorance and corruption of the message of Jesus.  It is no longer commonplace to be a Christian in western society, let alone popular.  It is no longer an advantage to be a Christian in western society.

Seasons are changing.  Are you ready?  Have you sat down to imagine a life without your worldly comforts?  Have you envisioned a world where you are persecuted for your faith and are robbed of your rights?  If not, consider it.  Consider it thoughtfully.  In that scenario, how is your faith in Jesus?  How is your spirit of worship concerning our risen Lord?  Surrounded by suffering and pain, are you able to worship?

The Church in the West has become covetous in its relationship with Jesus Christ.  The message preached from many pulpits today use the name of Jesus as the gate keeper, but not “The Way.”  Many sermons today teach that you can have what you want, when you want, how you want it, as long as along the way you remember that you’re not perfect and do some bad things from time to time.

The message from the pulpit is no longer “a sword that came to bring division, not peace.”  The message today is a wagging finger of casual disapproval.  Judgment is too harsh.  Tithing too invasive.  Marriage too constrictive.  Bible study too intellectual.  But Jesus tells us to, “Come and see,” and “Follow me.”  The Church in the West these days says, “Thank you, friend Jesus, for understanding me and meeting me right where I’m comfortable.  You’re so nice.”  What if God told you to quit your high-paying job for one that gave you less pay and no benefits, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to fight for reconciliation in a marriage that is no longer fun, exciting, sexy or easy, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to decline remarriage and sexual intimacy in the future, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to share your faith in Jesus with your non-believing family or co-workers, for Christ’s sake?  What if God told you to wake up earlier or stay up later in order to read more of your Bible or join a Bible study, for Christ’s sake?

Do all of these propositions test the comforts of our flesh and our own comfort?  Yes.  Are all of these well within reason and under the jurisdiction of God as our Father and King to ask of us?  Absolutely.  Do all of these test our love of Jesus over anything else and our willingness to follow Him anywhere He commands us to?  Yes.  These are not extreme examples written for effect.  If we identify our lives with Jesus Christ, having only Jesus is not simply enough, it is our sole desire in this life.  He HAS to be enough.  Being a Christian is not Jesus and (….).  Being a Christian is Jesus.  Christ alone.  Is He enough for you? Or do you need something alongside Jesus in your life to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?