If there were a contest to summarize the message of Jesus in as few words as possible, what could we say? My entry into this imaginary competition is five words. Here are my five words summarizing the core message of Jesus, as I hear it today: “Join me in the Resurrection”. Five words. Actually, I’d like to tack on five more words of clarification: “Don’t wait ‘til you’re dead.” Join me in the Resurrection–don’t wait ‘til you’re dead. My entry in the “Message-of-Jesus-in-as-few-words-as-possible Contest”.
In the Gospel story the disciple bends down to look into the tomb. Stoop or crouch down might be a closer translation. You can still see first century tombs today in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem (also known as the Church of the Holy Sepulcher). What’s left of what is believed to be the actual tomb of Jesus is covered with a kind of mausoleum, but just a few feet away off a side chapel are a couple of first century tombs hewn out of the limestone bedrock. They’re often called “oven tombs”, because they look like and are not much bigger than ovens. They’re not much more than a yard or so wide and waist high. You have to crouch down to go inside.
These tombs are small, confining spaces. And with a stone covering the opening, small, confining and dark spaces. You can’t stand up in an oven tomb. But Jesus stood up. The biblical word for resurrection is a??stas?s—literally, standing again, rising again. For Jesus to stand again, he had to be out of the tomb. Out of the place of darkness and confinement. For Jesus to stand to his full height, he had to leave the small, dark place of the tomb. And so it is. For us to rise up to our full stature, we must leave the small, dark places of life. We must leave the many and various tombs of this earthly life, and find our way to the broad, open and light filled places.
“Join me in the Resurrection,” Jesus calls out to us today. “Even now, even today—don’t wait ‘til you’re dead.” Come out of the small, dark, confining places of life into the broad and bright places—stand up, rise up to your full height.
When we say we believe in the Resurrection we usually are thinking of what we might call the Great Resurrection: our entrance into life beyond the gateway of death, our eternal life. I want to state unambiguously that I believe in that Great Resurrection. But I don’t know much about it and have little to say, just that I’m sure it will be wonderful beyond our imagining.
But resurrection is woven into the texture of life in the world we live in now. We understand Christ to be the one through whom all things came to be. We understand Jesus Christ as one abiding in us, as we abide in him. He is all in all. And he said, “I am the Resurrection”. If Christ is all in all, and if he is himself the Resurrection, we should expect to find something of the Resurrection all around us in the world we live in, the world created in and through and for him. He said he would be with us always. If he is with us always, we should be alert to the possibility of resurrection all around us—resurrection in all its manifestations, even in the most ordinary things....
Sometimes—by sheer determination–we can just kick the stone away from the door of the tomb and march out triumphantly into Resurrection Life. More often, we must wait: wait for circumstances to change, wait upon on God, wait on others for help. When Lazarus was called out of the tomb, Jesus said: “unbind him.” You –you friends and family of Lazarus—you unbind him. Sometimes we cannot unbind ourselves, but have to wait for others to help us into freedom.
- Br. Mark Brown, Monastic Wisdom For Everyday Life website