Tuesday, April 14, #3: Luke 24:1-12 (We recommend you read this passage in full before reading the devotion.)
Written by Rev. Matt Benton, Pastor of Spirit & Life United Methodist Church, Montclair.
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, ‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!’”
Christ has died. The powers and principalities have won. The movement is over. All is lost. Hope is gone.
I have to imagine these are some of the thoughts racing through the mind of the women who went to the tomb on the first day of the week. As they walked with their spices, as they walked with the items needed to embalm their dead, their crucified Lord. Their act is an act of devotion, perhaps we might even say worship, one last act of love for a friend, mentor, and rabbi.
They arrive at the tomb and are puzzled. The scene has not played out the way they thought it would. The stone is rolled away and the body they came to embalm is nowhere to be found. And then they notice they are not alone.
The question comes: Why do you seek the living among the dead?
I don’t know how the women heard the question. But I know how I hear that question. It stops me short. It confronts and convicts me.
Seeking life amongst the things of death. That is what it means to be human, is it not? That is what it means to be in the grasp of Sin. That is what it means to be held captive to the powers and principalities. That’s what happens when the new job doesn’t give us the ultimate fulfillment it promised. That’s what happens when the new car doesn’t fulfill our wildest dreams. That’s what happens when our children, our spouse, our own choices leave us disappointed. That’s what happens when we get the life we thought we always dreamed of and still find our hearts restless, yearning for something more. Our souls feel like they’ve eaten nothing but Goldfish. Why do we seek the living among the dead? Because that is the human condition, it is what we do. We seek life and find nothing but death. We seek hope and find nothing but despair. We seek joy and have it turn to ash in our mouth.
Doesn’t that sum up the women’s experience? The experience of the disciples? The experience of the crowd that followed Jesus? And were amazed at his signs and miracles. Who found in him one who taught with authority. Who placed in him the hopes of being their Messiah, freeing Israel from captivity. And on Good Friday tasted nothing but death and despair and lament and mourning.
Why do we seek the living among the dead? Because that is all this world offers us. That is the only choice for those of us brave enough to still believe in life.
This is where the wondrous news of Easter breaks forth. HE IS NOT HERE! HE IS RISEN! And in that good news there is for us a new way. Because Jesus lives, there is a place that we can find the life we seek. We need not always surround ourselves in death. Those of us who have sought life and have been constantly disappointed might find that which we have sought. We need only seek it in Jesus. The one who has overcome death. The one who has overcome Sin. The one who has defeated the powers and principalities.
Easter frees us. Easter frees us from having to seek the living among the dead. Easter frees us from captivity to Sin. Easter frees us from the overwhelming and all-consuming darkness. The light shines into that darkness, the darkness cannot overcome it, and that light is life for us all.
If you’ve missed any of our previous daily readings, you can find them all archived here. We hope these readings are helping you encounter God this season!