“Why do you seek the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:6)
There are some things that are always true. Triangles always have three sides. Water always freezes at zero degrees Celsius. Dead people always stay dead.
Outside of ghost stories, and strange medical anomalies, such as when someone codes on the emergency room table and is brought back to life, once someone is dead, they remain dead. Which means that as the women approach Jesus’s tomb on Sunday morning they are expecting Jesus to be dead. Even after seeing the stone rolled away and the tomb empty, they still don’t expect a resurrection because dead people stay dead. It’s one of realities of the world that is always true. It’s only after the angels appear and announce Good News of Great Joy (just as they did at the birth of Jesus) that the women start to believe that perhaps the unimaginable has become possible. Why are you here, the angels ask them. Cemeteries are full of dead people, but Jesus is alive. You are looking in the wrong place.
But Jesus was dead. Jesus was clearly dead when he was taken off the cross, and clearly dead when he was laid in the tomb. Jesus was dead because Jesus took the sins of humanity upon himself. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice. The punishment for sin is death, and Jesus bore the punishment for humanity. Scripture is clear that sin leads to death. it was declared in the Garden to Adam and Eve and has been declared many times after through the pages of the Bible. We will all die; not just because our bodies will eventually give out and life will end, but because our sins will lead to death.
But if Jesus is no longer dead, if the reality that dead people remain dead is no longer true, then what does that mean for our own lives?
If dead people no longer stay dead, then the sins in my own life that are leading to death don’t have to lead to death. Life is still a possibility. The shame and guilt that I feel because of my failure to live the righteous life God requires does not have to define my reality. Those sins are forgiven. New life is possible.
If dead people no longer stay dead, then the sins of my enemies, or the sins of those who have wronged me, don’t have to define the others who are against me. I can view those who have wronged me differently, they don’t have to be dead to me. When someone wrongs me, it’s very difficult to not respond out of anger and hurt. It’s difficult to not always view them as “the one who has hurt me.” But if dead people no longer stay dead, then they can be forgiven, and I can find the strength to forgive them and love them.
If dead people no longer stay dead, then there is hope for the world. The Good News is that our separation from God is not the final ending of the story. God took on flesh to be near us in our brokenness, and to redeem us. The hope for the world is that the present reality can be different. Death is not the end. One’s current state of guilt, shame, and brokenness is not the end. Life happens again.
Perhaps the greatest beauty of the story is that for Christians, we are already dead no more. When we entered the waters of baptism we died. We died to our sins. We died to our sinful nature. We died to our desire to control our outcome. When we entered the waters of baptism we entered the grave. We were dead. But thank God, dead people don’t have to remain dead anymore. For we rose out of the waters of baptism into new life. We are new creations. The resurrection has already happened.
So why do we keep going back to the cemetery to find our bodies? Why do we continue to live with guilt and shame? Why do we seek the living among the dead?
We are alive. Which means we can love like Jesus. We can forgive like Jesus. We can share our possessions freely. We can turn the other cheek. We can become the salt of the world.
We are dead no more.