A Message from Pastor John
Outside the walled city of Jerusalem there lies an ancient garden, complete with winepress. Into the stone alongside one side of the garden is carved a tomb; on the inside over the door hangs a simple wooden sign that reads, “He is not here. He is risen.” Beyond the garden wall lies a rounded rock outcropping whose features resemble a human skull. That outcropping is today known as Skull Hill. While we don’t know the exact locations where Jesus was crucified and buried, these are likely sites. But what’s less important than where these events occurred, however, is that they did, in fact, occur. As the Apostle Paul argues, our very hope rests upon the historicity and supernatural, dynamic power of Christ’s death and resurrection.
The Holy Spirit has spoken amazingly through the human writers of the four gospels in a way that’s enabled them to give unique accounts of the same events—not in conflict with each other but with quite different perspectives. In recounting the details of Jesus’ resurrection, John provides a brief yet dramatic meeting between Mary Magdalene and the newly risen Jesus. In Mark’s account, the women who went out to the tomb reluctantly testify to what they witnessed. Luke describes Jesus casually walking with two of his followers to Emmaus who, once there, realize who he is during a shared meal together. Like spotlights shining on a statue at night, each author highlights a different set of details as the Holy Spirit ensures that their unique accounts are accurate depictions of the same statue.
Matthew’s account, however, is like an epic Hollywood production—complete with an earthquake, an angel arrayed in lightning, petrified guards, and women nearly driven to hysterics. Almost anticlimactically, when Jesus meets the women, he says simply, “Greetings,” and instructs them to send the others to Galilee, where he will join them later.
As we journey through the rest of Lent, we remain mindful of Christ’s passion and encounter our own complicity in his death and the brokenness of this world. On Maundy Thursday we will strip our worship space of ornamentation and its bright reflection to represent the darkness which Christ was sent to dispel. On Good Friday we will honor Jesus’ offering of himself, even unto death, as both a sin offering and a guilt offering on our collective behalf. And on Easter morning we will celebrate the triumph of the empty tomb, signifying that death is not final… and that because Christ is risen we too may be risen to new and abundant life everlasting.
For we too are Easter people who, once having encountered the risen Christ, run to tell others what and who we have seen.