A few days ago, I found myself thinking about this piece of scripture - and just how matter of fact it stood between Jesus' death and His resurrection. I couldn't help but think that regardless of the time in which a person lived, removing a body from any grave takes both purpose and intention. But like all the scriptures, and the story of Jesus' life, death, and ressurection - God was overflowing with that purpose, abounding with that intention, and took every detail to Himself so that He could be glorified.
It started long before the Cross, but let's start at Jesus' death. In fact, let's start at His burial in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb. A man who was in search for the Kingdom of God; a secret disciple.
It's said that he was dying. That the tomb he laid Jesus in was freshly carved out of rock for him. And yet, out of love and honor - Joseph wrapped Jesus in clean linen shroud and buried him there. I can't help but admire Joseph for giving away what in life was seemingly supposed to be his, in death.
It was at this tomb that the most incredible thing happened.
First, there was the stone. Generally, the cork-shaped stones that obstructed tombs from being accessed were four to six feet in diameter and about one foot thick. Thus, these stones were about 2000 to 4000 pounds in weight - making them nearly impossible to budge once closed. In order to simplify the process of sealing a grave, these stones sat at the peak of an incline so that they could be rolled into place. That meant that once in place, one would have to have incredible resources at hand to push the stone back up the incline into it's initial position.
Then, there was the Roman guard. Matthew 27: 62-66 shows us that Pilate gave the chief priests and the Pharisees guarantee of a guard of soldiers to make Jesus' tomb secure, and to put their fears of Jesus being stolen at ease. What this actually means is that a 16 man unit was deployed to the tomb to stand guard over Jesus' body. These men were each responsible for a six foot square space in which they were not able to sit, lean, or fall asleep. If one man in this unit erred, he was beaten and burned leaving his whole unit to also suffer the consequences.
Finally, there was the Roman seal. While I'm not entirely sure what this actually looked like, I know for sure what it symbolized. It represented the full and unmeasured power and authority of the Roman Empire. Anyone who thought to act against the seal could suffer the punishment of death.
And yet, regardless of all the obstacles that stood in His way - the stone that buried Jesus was simply rolled away. In it's place was a gaping hole that revealed not just the absence of Christ, but the presence of possibility, and the beginnings of centuries of living hope.
I don't know about you, but I just can't get over how God ordains even the smallest of details to overtly imply His work in our lives. Even now, the physical facts of what held Jesus' body in that tomb apply to our ordinary everyday. In fact, there's no denying that the enemy is fighting to hold us each captive. He's trying to bury us by the power of our nations and our leaders, the fear of both man and society, the timidity that often comes with being marginalized, the structures of both legalism and/or tolerance, and through all the other physical, mental, and spiritual obstacles that come from a fallen world.
Disease. Doubt. Betrayal. Poverty. Racism. Depression. Miscarriage. Divorce. Adultery. Pornography. Addiction.
Entitlement. Self-Righteousness. Selfishness. Gossip. Apathy.
But God had Jesus take our place not just to give us life eternally (most importantly), but to give us instruction daily. He had Jesus take our place to show us that the real power isn't in what imprisons us (or what tries to kill us), it's in what set us free. To this day, we don't know who actually moved the stone, but we know that regardless - it happened by the power of God.
So, what does this mean for us?
We learn to live through that same power.
It's Saturday afternoon and we are on the cusp of Sunday morning; the joyous celebration of our Risen Christ. After visiting the store to grab some last minute Easter eggs and fight my way through the crowds, I've started to wonder if we've taken the resurrection and made it just for a single weekend. We certainly know how to celebrate don't we? But, I wonder if we've forgotten what it looks like to apply the celebration of a risen Christ to our lives. I believe that every detail of Jesus' death, His burial, and His resurrection wasn't just written into history to just be recorded and celebrated, but to be walked out. In fact, the story of Jesus was written into our histories so that we might eventually come to believe that if God could remove the stone that buried Jesus, then He can and will remove the stones that attempt to bury us. Nothing can stop Him from getting to us. Nothing can stop Him from taking what's dead and breathing life back into it again. When Jesus died. And even now, as we live.
Yes, this means your very life.
But, this also means your marriage. Your family. Your career. Your finances. Your health. Your relationships. Your community. Your dreams. Your purpose. Your hope. And, even your faith.
And this goes for not just you. But, your enemies too. Your loved ones. The strangers you pass by at your local grocery store. Your coworkers. The neighbors down the street.
With God, we can believe that no obstacle stands in the way of us, because none ever really stood in the way of Jesus. With God, we can believe (and live out of) that the same power that rose Jesus from the grave is the one that lives in us, too. With God, we can believe that where others go to die, we can come back from the brink alive.
Look, that doesn't mean it isn't messy. There's blood, sweat, and tears. There are people who cheer at our failures and even, our sin. There are those who rejoice when others suffer or who perhaps worse, act blind in the face of the world's atrocities. There are elements against us that are working to keep us buried.
The tension between life and death is murky and, it's unmeasurable.
But just as Jesus kept His eyes on the Father, so we are to do as well.
Easter won't ever just be a weekend event. It's more than that. It's a movement that takes root in our hearts and overflows into our lives. It compels us to treat others as if God is just holding His breath; waiting to roll away the stone and reveal an empty tomb. It encourages us to not work at keeping people buried, but be a part of digging them out and praying them out. It convicts us to allow God to unbury us, too. That we would give Him access to every part of our life that seems dead, and especially the ones that feel too far gone or forgotten.
God is in the details. He knows what we've buried, and even who. He even knows where we've buried them. Regardless of what's fighting to overcome Him; what's fighting to overwhelm us - God can't be kept out.
Jesus won't be kept in. And, neither will we.