Why are you looking for the living among the dead?
–Luke 24:5-6 NASB
This time and next we’re going to look at two encounters Mary Magdalene experienced after Jesus’ resurrection in the cemetery. Mary and the other women must have had fitful sleep after watching Jesus be crucified on Friday and hurriedly placed in a borrowed grave before Sabbath started. One mark of known trauma is reliving the moment over and over – it’s the brain’s attempt to try to make sense of the pain. I’m sure these women had been reliving those torturous moments of what they witnessed and were relieved to get out of bed and at least do SOMETHING – another mark of processing trauma is the need to physically do something to relieve the pain.
Leaving early in the morning, they walk to the cemetery, pondering how in the world they were going to move the stone from in front of the tomb (Mark 16:3). They had witnessed miracle after miracle, but now that the miracle-maker was gone, what were they going to do? Trudging on, they knew they’d just have to figure out something.
Once they arrive, the women see that they were worried for nothing – the stone was already moved, and two angels sit on either side of the entrance. Their question, meant both literally and figuratively, simply states, “Why are you looking for the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5-6).
Let’s first address the figurative question. This question hits home for me…how often do I look for life in dead spaces? Let me answer that…a lot! When there is a fountain of living water, why do I insist on hewing out my own cistern that holds no water (Jeremiah 2:12)? I start digging my own well when I am not sure that God will come through for me or when I am disappointed that my reality did not match my expectation. I see my selfishness when I thought I would be more holy, spiritual, generous of spirit than I really am…so I get frustrated and I dig my well. Not that my well satisfies (it is stale, leaky water, after all), but it beats sitting in the pain of my disappointment.
Mary M.’s reality did not align with her expectation either…she and her friends/fellow followers thought that the Messiah would show His power in a very different way, and her current reality was a far cry from her past expectation. I think for Mary, there may have been an even deeper layer of grief because she had experienced his drastic healing in her own life…so why did it end on a cross?!
I love that the angels don’t leave the question there. Luke 24:6-7 says that they told her to “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise?” And then the women remembered…what He said and who He said He was. That’s where the still, quiet voice breaks into my well digging, like He did with Cain and Moses and Saul, asking me, “Do you remember…my voice, my call on you, my promise to never leave you, my hope that soon all will be made right…do you remember Me?”
Sometimes in glad submission, sometimes kicking and screaming, I do remember that He is calling me to life in Him rather in the death all around me. I hear His voice, I put down my shovel and I respond. Are you finding life in Christ among the dead that surrounds you? What drives you to keep shoveling? What is His quiet and gentle voice to you today?