I chose the picture of this tomb, which may have been the tomb in which Jesus was laid, because it represents so much more clearly what Easter is all about. This empty tomb, especially with it's darkened doorway, calls to mind a few specific things for me.
As I said in my sermon on Sunday, so much of Jesus' life was the story of people trying to contain him; to limit his role and influence, to call him back to being an "appropriate," rule-following Jewish man, to tempt him away from God's ultimate mission of redemption on the cross. Time and again, the people around Jesus try to contain him, to limit him, to reign him in. And each time, Jesus chooses to be the Messiah, the one coming into the world with a mission of redemption for all people, the one who breaks the rules and holiness codes for the sake of love and compassion, the one who insists on turning things upside down. The tomb, itself, was one last attempt to contain Jesus. In death, hidden in a tomb, hewn out of the rock, with a big stone across the front, there should have been no escape. Jesus should have been lost to the ages, trapped within the bonds of death and burial. Trapped in the darkness of that tomb. That would have been appropriate, predictable, normal.
The good news is that not even this death, not even this tomb could contain him. Instead, the power of God, refusing to be contained, bursts out of the tomb and into our lives, insisting that if we have faith in his life, we might also have a life like his. It's a shock to the system. The disciples go through various stages of shock and awe - my favorite of them being next week's Gospel story about Thomas. If we're honest with ourselves, we're likely to go through similar phases of shock and awe in our own faith journeys - because the reality of the resurrection is shocking. It defies the laws of nature, of reason and logic. It requires of us a brave imagination and a willingness to continue to stretch our understanding of love and community - until it encircles everyone. Sometimes just the magnitude of this love can be shocking. And yet, the truth of the resurrection can be seen everywhere in the world around us if we only stop to look.
Consider in this Easter week when and where you have experienced moments of resurrection. They might take place in your relationships, in your garden, in grief, in joy, in your faith. Where have you experienced this power of God that cannot be contained? The power of God that wills life win out over death - even against great odds? Perhaps sometimes despite your best efforts? How has God broken in - refusing to be limited?
We run the risk, in our own lives, of trying to make Jesus this appropriate rule-follower, too. (Rule-follower that I am, I'm often especially guilty of this!) As human beings we tend to like order and structure, we like to know where things stand and how they'll go. We like to have roles - and for the people in our lives to have roles to play as well. And yet, Jesus' love is constantly calling us out of this appropriate-ness. If this love lives in us, it reminds us that people cannot be labeled or boxed in - that all people, regardless of what societal norms say, should be welcomed and loved - and that we need not be so afraid of the consequences of breaking these rules when we do so out of compassion and a desire to serve our neighbors. How often do we let ourselves off the hook by making Jesus into someone who was "appropriate" or "normal"? When, in fact, Jesus was quite the opposite.
How might Jesus be calling you to burst out of the tomb in this Easter season? Where are the places in your life that have been suffering - that are dry - or even dead? What are the ways in which you have chosen to follow the rules or be appropriate - when actually, what God might be calling you to do is live into this extravagant kind of love that cannot be contained? I pray you'll use these next days of Easter to explore some new possibilities, new ways you and God might help to heal the world around you, new ways to prove that God's love has no limits and cannot be contained.