There is a Light that outshines the sun. There is a Morning that comes and sends Night rushing back, a shadow – a memory – a dream.
You, you who wait with us across the ages – you, who look up at him on the cross and see more than man wearing a crown of thorns, more than a man with nail-pierced hands – follow us into the beginning of all beginnings, the scales slipping from eyes, the Light coming into darkness and the darkness not overcoming it.
Brothers and sisters, this is our story and it is your story. It is the song of the stars, the testimony of all creation. It is His story and He brings us into the fullness of everything – yes, everything – made beautiful in His time.
See sunrise, this first day of the week – the women, carrying their spices and their grief, unsure of how they will even reach their beloved to properly tend to his body. The stone, blocking the tomb’s entrance, is too heavy for them. They will not be able to roll it away, not on their own.
But the stone has already been moved. The heavy lifting has already been done. But by whose hand?
They rush into the tomb, fearing the worst – those enemies, have they not had enough victory here?
His body should be here – right here – wrapped in linen by the hands of those who loved him.
But he is not here.
Who has taken his body? What do they want to accomplish that has not already been done?
And just as the angel said to Mary those many years before, an angel says to the women who love him now – Do not fear!
They tremble, anyway, because the angels gleam like lightning and their Lord is lost again, anew.
But the angels – are they smiling? – ask the question that puts their feet in motion and sets those tiny flickers of hope into full-blown flames.
Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen!
Go, tell His disciples, He is risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee! There, you will see him!
This, this is Spring bursting forth in one swift moment – they are filled with joy, but still afraid. And the Teacher who always took the time to tell another story, to heal another wounded body, to speak love into another empty heart – He, Himself, calls out to them. He makes Himself known – standing there, those arms open, His pain is no more – and what can stop them now? He is alive! When He says go, they go.
Oh, the pounding on the door and their voices crying out snaps us out of our dread-full stupor – we wonder if death has arrived for us, but they carry a message far from it –
I have seen the Lord! And Mary’s face is beaming with delight, clouded no longer.
Two of us throw off fear, backs aching from its too-long hold, and we run to the tomb – we must see for ourselves – yes, empty but for the grave-clothes. What – what can this mean?
And despite our disbelief, despite our shame, despite our failures – our Lord comes to us, just as He promised. Our Teacher and our Leader – the Son of Man – He comes and we are scared and bewildered and desperate to believe. At the right time, we hear those words again – It is I – and the grief gives way to amazement. He is patient, even as we see the miracle of miracles before our very eyes and somehow doubt still – and stretches out His pierced hands to remove all mystery.
He is no longer captive in the grave. He is no longer lost to us. He is no longer conquered by death –
no, He is here. He is beyond the reach of the priests and the Romans. He is beyond the reach of the Evil One.
Truly – truly – this is the Son of God!
And, even in this, after everything He endured – such kindness! How He opens our minds – it is like hearing for the first time when He speaks the fulfillment of our prophets – we wonder how we could have been so slow to understand, so deaf to His Truth. He breaks bread with us, walks with us, waits on the shore of Galilee and fills our nets with fish. He invites us to breakfast, fish and bread by the fire, and invites us into the new Life He gained for us.
This is where we call out to you again, sister and brother. This is where we raise our voices in a shout of victory that breaks the hold of satan on our souls – because from the first, the Father promised it – satan’s head would be crushed. From the first, the Father established it – a covenant, a people who would dwell with their God. His plans stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations- and our Messiah – Jesus, Emmanuel — was chosen before the creation of the world to take our guilt on His own blameless shoulders.
This same Jesus, whose compassion astounded and whose kingdom we yearned to see – He took up our pain and bore our suffering…He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brings us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.
He chose to save us from an eternity of mourning, a forever of fear – even though the price was His own life. Even though we were faithless to Him, He has always – always – always been wholly faithful to us. If He kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with Him there is forgiveness, with Him is full redemption. He Himself has redeemed us!
‘So, what shall we say then? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things!? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life…who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.‘
This is how it feels to be set free from fear. This is how it feels to know that His perfect love casts out darkness and nothing has a hold on us any longer – nothing and no one except for Him.
‘For we are convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ And so we do not lose heart, not this time, when we must say goodbye. We know it is only for a moment. As He returns to the Father, He promises the Holy Spirit- Comforter, Teacher, the Spirit of Truth – will come in His name – and this time, because He has given us His righteousness, brought us near to God again – the very Spirit of the Living God will dwell within us. Always, He will be with us now – in all of His power and in all of His authority, we abide.
Yes, He is with us, the fishermen and the doctors, the tax collectors and the carpenters, the tent-makers and the mothers, the teachers and the farmers. With you, the preachers and the managers, the housewives and the lawyers, the secretaries and the mechanics. Rich, poor, Jew, Gentile, man, woman – all of us, all of us, we dwell in Christ Jesus and He dwells in us.
And you, you who are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses – throw off everything, everything, that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles! Run with perseverance, fixing your eyes on Jesus – the pioneer and perfecter of faith!
For just as He went away, He will come one last and forever time, and He will bring His kingdom that will not be shaken. The Redeemer will come to Zion and the earth will tremble, the darkness swallowed up at last and for all time.
He will blaze like fire and the sun will fade away to shadow – and still, His words to His people are this:
Do not be afraid.
I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.
What will our song be but one of whole-heart thankfulness and awe? If not for Him, we would still be locked in our rooms of defeat, devastated and broken, chained to our sin and to death.
But He came. He changed our ending. He set us free, He gave us life – life overflowing and eternal. And to the Lamb, to the Savior, to the God who came to rescue us—
Be blessing and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!
Yes, worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was and is and is to come!
He will be our light – night will be no more, our weeping will be no more! – and He will be eternal joy – all will be made new – and, still, He will know us by name. Still, we will be engraved on the palms of His hands.
This is the truth that flows from the beginning and always will be – our God reigns in glory, in majesty, in power, in love that endures forever.
Friend, morning comes.
For our Redeemer lives.