April 20, 2014
“But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:5-6)
I often daydream of paradise. Sometimes paradise is a beach, sometimes it’s a cabin on top of a mountain, sometimes it’s an apartment overlooking Central Park in New York. My visions of paradise change constantly. In August, my imaginary paradise is cool. In the dead of winter, my imaginary paradise is balmy.
When the Jews who were exiled in Babylon daydreamed, they only dreamed of Jerusalem. Jerusalem, the City of Zion embodied all their hopes and dreams. It was the center of their emotional life and their worship of God. These verses in Jeremiah are a daydream, a vision, of unity with God, with others, and with Jerusalem. When God restores the people to Jerusalem, there will be a party unlike any other. There will be singing, dancing, music and a grand procession up to the holy city where they will be with God. The people who were as good as dead will be resurrected once and for all.
What is your vision of paradise? Where are you? Who is with you?
If you could plan the perfect party (and money was no object), what would it look like?
Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
While I was in the Marine Corps, I participated in many road marches. A road march began around 4 a.m. and by the time the sun was up, we were still marching. Our rucksack grew heavier, and our feet began to blister and bleed. The longer the march, the more painful it became.
Psalm 118 also describes a road march, but the mood is completely different from the road marches I experienced in my youth. The march in Psalm 118 is a triumphant march of victory. A victory always comes after a struggle, never before it. A resurrection always comes after death. The singers of this psalm have looked into the abyss of death and are now entering the gate of the Lord. On Easter morning the stone that the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone. All we can do is sing Alleluia!
Have you ever experienced victory? What did it feel like?
How is Jesus’ resurrection a victory?
You’ve probably heard the description, “so heavenly minded, he is of no earthly good.” I certainly hope I’m never described this way! I want to be of some earthly good, even if it’s just in a small way. C.S. Lewis picked this apart when he wrote in his “Mere Christianity”:
“If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. … It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”
If we have been resurrected with Christ (and we were), then we ought to be focused on heaven, our real home. The Easter message of Resurrection is first preached by our lives. We are the ones who have been raised with Christ, and our lives should bear witness to that event.
If you were to set your mind on the “things above” for one hour, how might that effect the way you watch the news or surf the Internet?
What are the “things above”? Have you ever met someone who was so heavenly minded that he or she was of immense earthly good?
My favorite detail in John 20 is the folding of the linen wrappings, especially the folding of the cloth that “had been on Jesus’ head.” The face cloth was rolled up in a place by itself. On that glorious morning of resurrection, before Jesus revealed himself to his followers, even before he left the tomb, he rolled up his face cloth. John tells us that his burial party, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, used about a hundred pounds of spices to embalm his body after he was taken down from the cross. When he was fully prepared for burial, they covered Jesus’ face with the face cloth. Perhaps they lingered, to look at his face one last time.
Every time I carefully fold the cloths at the altar, I think of this strange detail. Every time I see the altar guild setting the table before the service, I think of this strange detail. I cannot fully explain this detail of the face cloth any more than I can explain all the mysteries of the Resurrection. All I can do is admire an expertly rolled up cloth, lying in an empty tomb.
Name a feeling you feel on Easter morning. Is there a symbol of Easter that creates this feeling in you?
Why was this detail included in John’s account of the Resurrection? What does this detail mean to you?