As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who was one of Jesus' followers, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance as he left. (Matthew 27:57-60)
I was traveling with Max Lucado to help finalize some research for a book that became his Six Hours One Friday. We stood on the stone pavement outside Pilate’s judgment hall and walked the short distance to Calvary. Then we went to the place where Jesus’ body was hastily entombed that fateful Friday afternoon.
The tomb has been so hacked and broken up for souvenirs over centuries that nothing substantial remains of the rock-hewn tomb itself. What is there — a slab on which the body is said to have lain — is enshrined and remote from view.
Then our guide, Joseph Shulam, directed us to an unadorned tomb no more than fifty yards away. It has all the features described in the biblical record. We stooped low to enter it, and the burial chamber — hewn out of solid rock — was dark, oppressive, and stale. The place was likely intended to hold a small family of four or five people. Two shafts had been bored into the rock wall to hold corpses, and two or three other bodies could have been placed in the chamber itself. Max and I decided to wriggle our way into the two receptacles.
An eerie, mystical feeling came over me. Was our “imitation” of death some sort of mocking provocation to its power? Then the thought came to me that Jesus has defeated death. Within a stone’s throw of where we were, he had met death, broken its power, and proved that he was its master.
Your finery from last year's Easter Sunday has long been in the closet. The colored eggs haven't made their appearance in nearly a year. The candy for this year hasn't been purchased. It's just another week with just another Sunday two days past. Easter, Jesus' resurrection Sunday, is a month away and just barely a blip on our scheduling radar and the hard cold of winter still whistles at our door. Why talk of Easter now? What does it matter that we speak of resurrection so early in the year? Shouldn't we hold off for awhile before we talk of Easter?
Oh, I hope not! When you or someone you care about gets the tragic news that her baby has Downs Syndrome, his son was killed in a car wreck, or her Dad has Alzheimer’s Disease, what single truth gives hope? What is the definitive answer to paralysis, leukemia, senility, fatal accidents, incurable diseases, and death? You know the answer: The bodily resurrection of Jesus is the sure promise of our own victory over death.
Jesus' resurrection promises us God's new world in which death doesn’t have the last word. And we need that perspective all year round.