The Receptive Life

"We are beggars; this is true." (Martin Luther)

Forty Day Encounter With Christ: Day 36

He Knows My Grief

Scripture Reading:  Luke 23:44—24:12

Meditation

The events of the past few days have struck a violent blow to the heart of the women who have followed Jesus from Galilee. Just last week, all of Jerusalem’s people had hailed their Master as a king but today they nailed him to a tree like a criminal.

As Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James, and the other women gather around the cross, they are still in a state of shock. Their Master’s crucifixion is so violent that their emotions haven’t been able to keep pace with the horror of the cross. Shock, denial, and anger have all been stopping points along the way. As Jesus struggles for his last breath, their emotions are beginning to catch up to the bitter reality of the moment.

Jesus is dying.

Death is on its way.

Knowing that heaven’s redemptive work is now finished here on earth, Jesus commits his spirit into his Father’s hands. He bows his head and breathes his last. Death, eager to claim its prize, comes riding towards Skull Hill on a pale horse. As he gallops past the cross, he unsheathes and swings a two-edged sword. With a downward swing, the blade cuts short the life of the Son of Man; on its upward return, it slashes deeply into the hearts of the beloved women who keep vigil around the cross.

Death’s blade has dealt the women more than a flesh wound; it has pierced the very depths of their being—heart, spirit, strength, and mind. Finality is the razor sharp point that punctures their souls. Death has silenced the gentle sound of their Master’s voice. It has shut his eyes. Stilled his hands. There will be no more gentle words for fragile and frail lives. No glance of grace that stills the soul. No tender touch.

Burial is the last sting of death. Death steals away the one loved but burial seals the loved one away, forever. When the tomb is closed, then, all is lost.

As Joseph of Arimathea takes Jesus’ body down from the cross and carries it to the tomb, the women are overwhelmed by sorrow. Unthinkable pain mixes with their tears and inexpressible grief begins to bleed out. All the ties holding their world together have now been severed. The women have been cut loose from all that they hold dear and now they have nothing to cling to except their grief.

And grief holding on to grief begets only more grief.

Grief is a cruel jailer. As the tomb is sealed, the women are imprisoned in the pain of the present moment.  Mourning shackles their memory; it refuses to open the door of remembrance. Though Jesus had written many resurrection words on their hearts, the flood of their tears has smeared the ink of his promise. Sobs of sorrow have blurred his words, making the promises hard to decipher and even more difficult to remember.

As the women leave the tomb, all they carry with them is grief.

They have no resurrection expectations. No thoughts of yesterday. No hopes for tomorrow. They are buried in the pain of the now.

That all of these things happened to their Master should have come as no surprise to the women. Three times during his ministry Jesus had predicted the specific details of his Passion:  handed over to the Romans in Jerusalem, condemned to die, killed, but on the third day alive again.

“Listen carefully. We’re on our way up to Jerusalem. Everything written in the Prophets about the Son of Man will take place. He will be handed over to the Romans, jeered at, made sport of, and spit on. Then, after giving him the third degree, they will kill him. In three days he will rise, alive.” But they didn’t get it, could make neither heads nor tails of what he was talking about.1

That this was to happen—undeniable.

That it did happen—unbearable.   

What would happen next—unbelievable.

Very early in the morning on the third day after his death, Jesus comes alive—just like he had promised.

When the women bring the spices to the tomb to finish preparing their Master’s body for burial, they find the stone rolled away but his body has gone missing. Their memory, still numbed by grief, can’t put the pieces together. They grope for logical answers:  grave robbers? the gardener moving the body? Rome and the religious leaders? None of them dares to think about the possibility of a resurrection. Such hope died with their Master last Friday.

Suddenly two angels appear. The women are awestruck; as they tremble with fear, their knees buckle in worship.

The angels ask the women,

“Why are you looking for the Living One in a cemetery? He is not here, but raised up. Remember how he told you when you were still back in Galilee that he had to be handed over to sinners, be killed on a cross, and in three days rise up?” Then they remembered Jesus’ words.2

For two days, grief had held a death grip on the women’s hearts. But now, on the third day, angelic news pries fingers of sorrow loose. The messengers of God don’t tell the women anything new; they only remind them of the things that they already know. The angels’ proclamation simply unearths the treasure that the Savior had buried deep within the women’s souls:

“The cross is necessary. Sin demands a payment. Death is the price. Death won’t have the last word. The resurrection will follow. In death and in life, hold onto the Promise.”

Reflection

Has grief ever numbed your memory to the promises of Christ?

In what areas of your life are you like the women who went to the tomb, confused, shaking your head, and puzzled at the work of God?

What would it be like to live without any resurrection expectations?

What promise is the Living One asking you to remember on this day?

Prayer

Father,

Like the women who witnessed your Son’s crucifixion, grief has a death grip on my heart. Whenever it comes, it imprisons me in the pain of the present moment. Sorrow shackles me. Mourning blocks my memory to the promises of Christ. I am too weak to take comfort in the words of the past and too afraid to walk into the future.

During this day, loosen the grip that grief has on my life. Send messengers to point me to the resurrection of the Master and remind me that, though death does come, life will follow. Comfort me with the fact that, no matter the number of tears or the depth of sorrow, the promise of Christ always remains secure. Surprise me this day with good news from the graveyard. And seeing once again that the Savior’s tomb is empty, may I walk—upright and resurrected—out of mine.

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

1Luke 18:31-34   2Luke 24:5-8

All Scripture references in the meditation are marked by italics and are taken from the Gospel reading for the day. Those verses quoted outside of the chosen reading for the day are noted. All Scripture quoted in this post is taken from THE MESSAGE: Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001 & 2002.  Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group. All rights reserved.

Updates

If you would to like sign up and receive updates to this site, enter your email address below: