When the cold weather first arrives, we have holidays to look forward to in Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s; but then we face the cold death of winter that blankets the earth for many long months. The relentless frozen rain and snowfalls choke life out of the world; the trees are bare, the flowers die and the grass turns into brown stubble that is lost in the merciless arctic winds. But when it seems we can bear no more, the signs of spring begin to arrive. Skies get bluer; flowers bud and the outdoors spring to life with the chorus of birds. The earth experiences its own life springing out of death like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
Visually, I find spring the most magical time of year. During the winter season, the earth is so far away from the sun that its light shines a little less bright and our eyes become used to the darkness. We no longer notice the leafless trees and thorny bushes with no roses. When spring descends, suddenly we are shocked out of a lifeless world. Because our senses have been accustomed to winter, our minds almost can’t process the bombardment of beauty around us. The grass is now so green, it seems alien. The explosion of flowers and roses around us create a surreal beauty and the sun is so bright that it almost seems to create a yellow, dreamlike haze. For the first few weeks, spring is almost like living inside a painting until our senses can adapt to the change.
And its arrival is signaled by the perfect holiday in which it is synonymous: Easter. At a time when the world is in its own resurrection, we celebrate the greatest resurrection.
The four gospels are not perfectly harmonious. We take all four and put them together for the complete picture of what Jesus did. Even His birth, the Christmas message, is skipped in Mark and John. But the crucifixion and resurrection, the two most important culminations of Jesus’ mission, cannot be left out and are covered by all four books.
One is a symbol of death, the other of life. In the natural order of things, life comes before death; but in God’s order, true life comes after death. Because Jesus came to bring life to those who are dead.
Matthew 27:59-60:And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. In Bible days, people typically were not buried in large cemeteries; crypts were family-owned. Often they were large caves or underground tunnels with stone shelves where the dead were put in boxes and placed, shelves, based on status and role within the family. Tombs were places of death; but this tomb had never had anything in it that would bring life, and death was about to be defeated.
Paintings and depictions over the years depict Jesus triumphantly being ushered from the tomb by angels, with a halo and beams of light surrounding him and the Roman soldiers fleeing in terror. But the actual moment that He arose is not mentioned. Every depiction is of the aftermath, of both Maries arriving to anoint the body to find the tomb open and the angel telling them that the Savior was gone. Matthew 28:5-6: And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Imagine the presence inside the empty tomb; the smell of death was gone and the lifelessness chased away. The glory of God had filled the room and His presence covered the walls; the power of His resurrection had transformed a stony chamber of death into a glorious room of life.
We once had hearts of sin; they were like stone rooms of hard, cold lifelessness. But once Jesus entered in, He brought His resurrection power and they became filled with life. Now they are life-filled chambers that hold the glory of God. Ezekiel 36:26: A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
Guards were at watch by the tomb that night; but when the angel came to roll the stone away, the Word tells us And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men (Matthew 28:4). While the resurrection power brings life to some, to the wicked it brings death. It gave life to His followers but caused His enemies to fall as dead men. The encounter with Him changes one no matter what, either for the better or for the worse. Some will rise into His power; others will fall into death by rejecting it; but His power is still the same.
When the disciples heard the news and ran to see for themselves, they found the tomb open. And he (John) stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself (John 20:5-7). John was running faster than Peter because he had greater faith; Peter’s doubt weighed him down. The more doubt we have, the more we’ll fall behind while those with absolute faith will spring ahead of us.
Peter perhaps still expected to find the body of Jesus lying in the tomb, but when he arrived, he found only a shell of a grave cloth lying there. It may have resembled Jesus, but nothing was underneath as it slowly folded in on itself. So many Christians today are hungry for the real Jesus, but are pursuing a grave cloth religion. It has a form of Jesus. It is shaped like Him. But peel the cloth away and there is nothing underneath. They want part of Him but not everything. They claim to follow Him but fear the miracles and healings that accompany His presence.
The resurrection power is so strong because the presence of God creates life wherever it goes. Isaiah 35 describes to us the eternal ages. New Jerusalem will be located in the deserts of the Middle East, yet because that is where His holy city is, it will be where His presence dwells in the universe. And all around Him, that desert, a place of dryness and death, will spring forth with beautiful greenery. The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose (Isaiah 35:1). He will resurrect this parched wilderness. Verses 6-7: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. God spoke, and life was brought into this dead and empty universe. But just like the presence of Jesus flooded the tomb with life, He brought life into our dead hearts. He can breathe life into the dead church that has taken over America, if we will simply allow Him. And on that glorious day in the new heaven and earth, His glorious presence will spring forth life wherever it goes.