Luke 24:5b – “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
The women (Mary Magdalene and the others) were right to be frightened by the approach of the men outside the tomb of Jesus. These women arrived at the tomb of Jesus and they encountered the unexpected – the stone, which was used to block the entrance to the tomb, had been removed and the corpse of Jesus was missing. The tomb had been disturbed (from the perspective of the women) and there was no evidence as to what happened or who was responsible. Confused and alarmed by the disturbance of the tomb, two strange men approach the women. Were these men responsible for the disturbance? Were the women in danger?
The women were right to be frightened, but not because the men were responsible for a missing corpse. The women were right to be frightened, but not because the men posed a danger. They were right to be frightened because the men were armed with a question, which would expose their lack of hope.
Adorning the body of the deceased with spices was a customary practice during the lifetime of Jesus. The women had prepared spices for the body of Jesus, but they were not able to adorn him at the time of his burial. The burial of Jesus occurred in the late afternoon on the day prior to the sabbath. The women would not be able to complete the ritual before the sabbath. They would observe the Sabbath before returning to offer Jesus an honorable burial.
The intention of the women was good; it was certainly better than the male disciples, who were still hiding in a room deep within Jerusalem. The women made themselves vulnerable by leaving the security of the room and returning to the tomb of Jesus. They placed themselves at risk so they could give Jesus a proper burial. While their intent was good, the two men were concerned by the implication of the women’s action. Simply, the intent of the women implies their acceptance of the finality of Jesus’ death and the absence of hope in his resurrection from the dead. Why would these women return to the dead if they thought Jesus would escape death? Why would they return to ritual if their hope was founded in the promise of new life? Why would they look for life in the dead space?
Dead spaces are available to all of us – those spaces to which we return; those spaces that prey on our passions; those spaces that feed on our spirit. They promise security. In reality, they steal the gift of life from us. These dead spaces repel the assurance of meaning, the certainty of purpose, and the joy of fulfillment. They claim us; contain us; and, confuse us to believe we are incapable of escape. It is time for us to be rethinking our dead spaces.
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
The women return to the tomb to adorn the body of Jesus because they had accepted the finality of his death. They surrendered their hope in his being raised to a newness of life. The dead spaces become more appealing to us for a similar reason. The dead spaces become more appealing when our hope in the resurrection of Jesus grows dim. When hope is surrendered, the facade of life among the dead becomes more prominent. The promise of security is enticing, but it comes with a great cost – namely, the absence of meaning, purpose, or fulfillment.
The men confront the women. They pronounce the most befuddling truth: “He is not here; He is risen.” Hope arises with the resurrection of Jesus. Hope in life to come. Hope in life now. In rethinking our dead spaces, we are encouraged to discover the place where true life is promised, offered, and obtained. Life composed of meaning; prepared with purpose; and, overjoyed by fulfillment. The only question remaining is where you will go to look…
If you have a story that relates, I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment on this post or email me at HamptonUMC@gmail.com with the tag line “dead spaces.” Blessings to you all!