Tag Archives: Resurrection

Rolled Away

26 Apr


Every year I learn something new from the Resurrection account.

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Matthew 28:1-6

Come, see! How have I never seen it before?!?

The angel rolled the stone away. I’ve known that since I was a child.

Jesus didn’t need the tomb to be opened to get out! He was no longer bound by the physical.

I’ve just assumed (since I was a child) that the angel rolled away the stone to let Jesus out. But He isn’t mentioned – surely if the guards or the women had seen Him exit, the angel wouldn’t have needed to tell the women (the guards, being sturdy stock, missed it due to a fainting spell).

If Jesus was already gone from the tomb, why did the angel roll away the stone?

I have two ideas – neither have been checked out with experts, so I may be way off. However, for what they are worth, here are my ideas.

Heralding a King

When royalty came into a village, criers and guards went first announcing who would be coming down the road. The angel in Matthew 28 fulfills this role for The King – as do the (gasp!) women! God passes the Resurrection news from heavenly being to the ones who had come to honor His Son’s body with spices– culturally inferior messengers, much like the shepherds at His nativity.

Jesus came into the world and conquered death with an announcement from an angel. Fitting for The King!

Rolling Away

The angel makes sense, but what about the stone being rolled away? If Jesus was already gone, the most obvious reason is for others to go in.

My favorite line during our Easter program was from Mary Magdalene when a guard asks her if she had seen the empty tomb. With hushed awe she shares, “I walked inside it!”

The women, and later the disciples (and probably several guards and a commander, too) walked into the chamber where Jesus had lain dead– into the place where the world thought had death won and hope had died. What did they think about when they were inside it? Did they pick up His wrappings? Was it the same as before Jesus was laid there, or had the tomb been changed with the Resurrection?

And what went through their mind as they exited? Did the leave anything in the tomb?

Despair? Hate? Self-righteousness? Doubt?

God removed the barrier so they could go into the tomb– He accomplished the same when He ripped the veil in the temple– and see that he wasn’t a captive to death, that no power could keep him there.

And so we could shed all that confines us from seeing Him.


Ready for Sunday

Imagining myself in the coolness of a stone tomb, slightly musty and very still, I pause, all my senses heightened. I don’t know if Mary took time that morning to take it all in and reflect on what the tomb represented, but two centuries later with 20/20 hindsight, I have the opportunity.

What blocks me from seeing Him?

I’m leaving those things in the pile of grave clothes, and walking out into the fresh morning, heart full and ready to worship.


We GET to….

18 Apr

Img_2599 cropIf you serve in a church (many of my readers do), you have had quite a week. You are undoubtedly tired, maybe exhausted, going into the church’s highest weekend as we celebrate our Savior’s death and resurrection.

The irony isn’t lost – we are tired because our greatest celebration and THE reason we do what we do takes the most work, sacrifice, time, energy, patience, planning, and ____. (Fill in your week’s reality.) Actually, that’s the way it should be!

Sometimes in the celebration, however, it’s easy to forget the why, to lose focus, and begin to resent it all.

At least it is for me.

Since I’m enjoying a couple hours of respite before kicking everything into high gear until mid-afternoon on Easter Sunday, I had time to read this link a co-worker sent me after our long night yesterday.

I’m happy (relieved after reading the post!) to say that we both had good attitudes last night as we locked up the church after working all day, and an hour beyond when the last person left dress rehearsal, to be ready for tonight.

I wish I could say that is always the case for me.

Next time, Mike’s exhortation will be ringing in my ears.

We GET to do this!

And I’d honestly rather be doing NOTHING else this weekend than keeping the stones quiet.

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.  Hebrews 13:15-16



Every note, every fader, every strum, every cue, every light, every word… everything is for one reason.  It’s all for you, Jesus.

All of it.



Precious Pouring

30 Jun

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. John 12:3

My Grandpa worked for the Grand Trunk Railroad, but also kept a farm in rural Michigan.

I “helped” with chores when we visited. Spilling cat food into the feed bowls, throwing hay (almost) into the feed troughs for the milk cows, and tossing vegetable scraps from Grandma’s slop bucket to the tiny goat kids probably made more work for him and my aunt.  But I loved it.

Once the cows were turned back out to graze in the pasture, I disappeared while the two of them scooped the cow pies out of the manure trenches into wheel barrows to be dumped behind the barn.

Chores done, we headed for the house and Grandma’s cooking.  The two of them left their barn clothes and boots in the back room.  I didn’t have any barn clothes, so I whizzed through the kitchen, past the lunch table on my way to the bathroom to wash my hands.  “Whew!  Who brought the barn into the house?”  Grandma chided, looking right at me.

I couldn’t smell a thing, so I just shrugged innocently.  More than once there was “barn” caked to my feet that banished me to the pump under the windmill until my shoes were manure-free.  The barn smell infused in my clothes and hair stuck with me, however, like Pig-pen’s dust cloud.


The last time Mary of Bethany saw Jesus, he had raised her brother from the dead.  She knew Jesus was from God, but when her trembling fingers ripped the grave clothes that bound her brother; when they embraced in joy– and fear, Mary knew her beloved Rabbi was God.

Now she was waiting for him while Martha (as usual) cooked a feast.  He arrived, and people (stinking men!) closed around him, asking the Rabbi questions and hoping to be the one seated next to him during the meal.  Trying to get near him, and yet also waiting patiently, she held her jar of nard, grateful she had it to give.

She had anguished over anointing Lazarus with it before he died.  How could she withhold her most precious possession from the brother she loved so deeply?  And yet, she had.  (What a waste that would have been!  He was only dead for a few days!)  When she heard that Jesus was on His way to Bethany, she knew instantly how she would greet him.  She would not be empty-handed this time.  And so she waited for the opportunity.

After the women brought out the food, the men settled down to their meal.  Now was the time.  No one paid attention to her– until she broke the vessel open.  The perfume spilled out, splashing everywhere.  To keep as much as she could on his feet, she used her hair and rubbed the rich perfumed oil into their cracks and calluses.

Judas, especially was incensed.  “What a waste!” he spat in her direction.  The look Jesus gave Mary made every drop worth it.  The beauty of His presence mingled with the fragrance and chased everything foul out of the room.

She poured out the best she had, holding back nothing, on her Lord who would soon pour out the most precious of all earthly substances for His creation.

The nard quickly soaked into everything it touched – Jesus’ skin and the hem of his robe, the floor, Mary’s hair, hands, and clothes. The scent of the nard would be unmistakable for several days causing all those at the dinner to remember Mary’s act of devotion.  Jesus would smell the nard as he walked toward the most difficult week anyone has ever experienced.  Perhaps he could still smell the nard when he fell as we carried his cross through Jerusalem.  Maybe even those who hammered the spike into Jesus’ hands and feet smelled the perfume.

Since nard was used for burial anointing, when people came into contact with Mary they would assume she had buried a loved one and ask her who had died.  I wonder how she answered them?  And I wonder if she could still smell the nard when she found out Jesus had been crucified… and when she heard the news of His resurrection!


Ready for Sunday

We know how the account plays out, but Mary was simply in the moment, responding with love for her Lord.  She had no idea she was a participant in the spiritual drama of the ages.

Tomorrow, will my worship embody how much I love my Lord?  Will I sacrificially worship Him, so that the fragrance of devotion lingers around me for others to smell all week?

With her sacrifice Mary participated in Jesus’ mission to redeem the world by preparing his body for burial as she anointed him with perfume.  This is the potential within worship – participating with Christ in the redemption of the world.  Break my vessel open, Lord.


More info on the sense of smell:

  • Among the five senses, we are the least conscious of smell, but we trust it the most.  Creating Understanding, by Donald K Smith, p. 146
  • People recall smells with 65% accuracy after a year, while the visual recall of photos sinks to about 50% after only three months.  Our odor memories frequently have strong emotional qualities and are associated with the good or bad experiences in which they occurred. Olfaction is handled by the same part of the brain (the limbic system) that handles memories and emotions. Therefore, we often find that we can immediately recognize and respond to smells from childhood such as the smell of clean sheets, cookies baking in the oven, the smell of new books or a musty room in Grandma’s house.
  • With every breath, your sense of smell is at work, even when you’re sleeping.
  • Our sense of smell is more connected to emotion than any other sense.
  • Recall can be enhanced if learning is done in the presence of an odor and that same odor is present at the time of the recollection. (For this reason some teachers burn scented candles in their classroom and then again at Mandatory National Tests like the SAT.)

Inner Child

26 Mar
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.  Mark 18:8

The look on their faces was a magnet, drawing me in.

Giggling while sharing secrets with tender hands cupped from mouth to listener’s ear, sister and brother turned front-and-center on cue to sing about the Resurrection.

No fear.

They didn’t know any better – that they were supposed to be terrified because being on stage is scarier than death.  Instead, every ounce of their wiggly bodies belted out “It’s all because of Jesus I’m alive!”  The lack of  self- or audience-consciousness made watching the moment between these two heart-wrenchingly sweet.

The hearts of three other friends, all grown up, were painfully wrenched from their understanding.

Before the sun rose the morning after the Sabbath, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome entered the tomb where Jesus had been laid.  They came to the right place, but the scene was all wrong.  Their Lord had been crucified and entombed, but the stone was moved and his body was missing.  A man was there.  He told them to go tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus had risen.  The three women trembled (scared out of their wits – literally) and were so bewildered (confused or disoriented so that grasp on reality is lost) that they fled, shaking uncontrollably, faster than their sandal-ed feet had ever carried them.

These two scenarios collided in my mind this morning, and I wondered if children had been the first to see the angel and to hear that Jesus had risen, if their response would have been different from the women’s.

When my sons were young, they eagerly investigated what they didn’t understand.  Skipping toward a billy goat with happy curiosity, they were stunned when they got head-butted onto their bottoms, but they dusted themselves off and chased after him.  Their drive to run toward the unknown was insatiable!

Twenty centuries of hindsight is 20/20; I understand that.  It’s risk-free for me with the four Gospels lying on my lap to wish I had been the first to enter the empty tomb and talk with the angel.  (I have so many questions I’d like to ask him!)  So today I’m praying for childlike spiritual curiosity – the boldness to run toward the unknown, arms outstretched in eagerness and anticipation as my spiritual feet cover the ground of empirical knowledge in an instant.

Because at the end of my sprint, my Father waits with strong, wide-open arms, and I will launch with abandon into them.


Heart-check for Sunday:

What keeps me from running toward God?  My own understanding?  Fear?  Something else?

What is the root of these things?  What would God have me do with them?

How can having childlike faith change the way I lead others?

Truth to remember

  • Perfect love casts out fear.  1 John 4:18
  • A little child shall lead them.  Isaiah 11:6
  • Unless you become like little children, you can not enter the Kingdom.  Matthew 18:3
  • The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous run to it and are safe.  Proverbs 18:10
  • The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.  1 John 4:4
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