Luke 24:5 NIV
“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?”
Easter Sunday this year was a sunny, beautiful day. Hope and sunshine wafted through the air as we celebrated our risen Savior. But alongside the joy was a heaviness I couldn’t shake. During the afternoon, I bought a bouquet of flowers and headed to the cemetery. I sat cross-legged, patting the “still-fresh” dirt of my father’s grave with my hands and feeling a familiar ache return to my heart.
Easter is a chance to celebrate renewal and the Resurrection, but here I sat, grieving at the grave. The contrast made my heart break for the reality of our fallen world and the knowledge that it’s not supposed to be this way. I tried to reconcile the two extremes of emotion as I sat in the dirt in despair.
In that sadness, I thought back to Pastor Joe’s Easter message as he discussed the women who went to Jesus’s grave after his death. When they approached the tomb, they were shocked to find two angels there in the place of Jesus. The women had come with their spices to care for the body of their fallen Lord and grieve their loss. Their hope had been buried with him in that darkened tomb. To their surprise, he was not there. The angels said to the women in Luke 24:5, “why do you look for the living among the dead?”
The sunrise brought with it a risen Savior. Their grief was no more. Their hope was restored beyond their wildest dreams. Their hearts were transformed that day as they realized that the Lord fulfilled his promise and that his pain and sacrifice saved them from the grave and from a life without God. Everything has changed because the Lord has risen.
And yet, the reality of the Resurrection can feel distant in the depths of despair, especially when we are surrounded by fresh grief. Our hearts feel burdened by the brokenness of the world and our circumstances. We experience the heart-shattering realities of death and loss on this side of eternity, and it makes our hearts ache and cry out. Our loss can feel so final and our grief so overwhelming. But, even here, the light of the Good News can find us.
As Pastor Joe referenced, the reality of the Resurrection leaves our hurting hearts with two options: either we live as though the Lord is risen, or we live as though he is dead.
When we live as though he is dead, our losses send us spiraling into unending sorrow. We lose sight of the power of the cross in the crushing weight of our pain. We feel despair. And we mourn without hope. We do not step into the tomb and see the place where he laid, we see only the darkness of what led him to the grave.
But when we live as though he has risen, our hope is renewed. This doesn’t mean that we don’t face loss and grief. As a matter of fact, the Lord told his disciples that they would face trouble in this world. But he comforts them by saying: “Take heart. I have overcome the world (John 16:33)”. And he did just that.
He overcame this world. He overcame death. He came to pay the price of our sins through what he suffered. And he has promised a future reality free of pain, tears, and sorrow (Revelation 21:4). His faithfulness and obedience, even to death on a cross (Philippians 2:8), shows us how truly trustworthy he is.
His suffering on the cross insured that our worldly suffering would not have the final say. Our pain and losses are real on this side of heaven and so painful, but our Good Shepherd has assured us that something better awaits believers: “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand (John 10:27-28).
For the Lord says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die (John 11:25-26). And so our grief is not without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).
The mourning of loss and the marveling at eternal life coexist in the hearts of believers. And we can live in that tension on this side of eternity. We can assure our hurting hearts that death has been defeated and that the Resurrection has secured us all a place with the Father (John 14:3). And so, when we live as though Christ is risen, we acknowledge the fact that we share in his suffering and his glory (Romans 8:17). And, we share in his kingdom, secured for us through what he suffered.
In that moment of vulnerability at the foot of my father’s grave, the words of the angel echoed in my heart, “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
Because of Jesus, our grief will be replaced with great rejoicing. Someday, all will be made new. All will be made right. This is the promise which he himself made to us: eternal life (1 John 2:25) So each day, in spite of pain, grief, and the hardship of this world, let us live a life that boldly proclaims what we know to be true:
The Lord is risen.
He is risen, indeed.