25:6-9 The Lord will swallow up death forever
this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a
feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines, of rich food
filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear. And he
will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is cast over all
peoples, the sheet that is spread over all nations; he will
swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God will wipe away the
tears from all faces, and the disgrace of his people he will
take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will
be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him
so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we have
waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
John 20:1-20 The resurrection of the Lord
on Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went
to the tomb and saw that the stone had been taken away from the
entrance. She went running to Simon Peter and the other
disciple, whom Jesus loved, and told them, "They have taken
the Lord from the tomb, and we don't know where they have put
Peter and the other disciple went to the tomb. The two of them
were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached
the tomb first. He bent over and saw the linen cloths, but he
did not go in. Behind him came Simon Peter, and he went straight
into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the
cloth which had been around Jesus' head. It was not lying with
the linen cloths but was rolled up by itself. Then the other
disciple, who had reached the tomb first, went in also; he saw
and believed. (They still did not understand the scripture which
said that he must rise from death.) Then the disciples went back
Mary stood crying outside the tomb. While she was still crying,
she bent over and looked in the tomb and saw two angels there
dressed in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one
at the head and the other at the foot. "Woman, why are you
crying?" they asked her.
answered, "They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know
where they have put him!"
she turned around and saw Jesus standing there; but she did not
know that it was Jesus. "Woman, why are you crying?"
Jesus asked her. "Who is it that you are looking for?"
thought he was the gardener, so she said to him, "If you
took him away, sir, tell me where you have put him, and I will
go and get him."
said to her, "Mary!"
turned toward him and said in Hebrew, "Rabboni!" (This
not hold onto me," Jesus told her, "because I have not
yet gone back up to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell
them that I am returning to him who is my Father and their
Father, my God and their God."
Mary Magdalene went and told the disciples that she had seen the
Lord, and related to them what he had told her.
was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered
together behind locked doors because they were afraid of the
Jewish authorities. Then Jesus came and stood among them.
"Peace be with you," he said. After saying this, he
showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled
with joy at seeing the Lord.
Apocalypse Explained #660 Joy and gladness come from love
joy and gladness relates to love, since we rejoice and are glad
when things go in harmony with our love, and when we go after
and get what we love. In short, all of our joy comes from our
love, and all of our soul's sadness and grief comes from things
that attack our love.
Lord of hosts will destroy on this mountain the shroud that is
cast over all peoples, the sheet that is spread over all
nations; he will swallow up death forever. Then the Lord God
will wipe away the tears from all faces. . . . It
will be said on that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited
for him so that he might save us. This is the Lord for whom we
have waited; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
prophecy achieved its greatest fulfillment on that first Easter
Sunday, in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus
it certainly didn't seem that way at first.
hindsight, it's easy for us Christians to say, "Of course
Jesus rose from the dead! That's the way the story goes!"
But Mary Magdalene did not have that story to read. She was
going to the tomb in order to tend to Jesus' dead body, as her
final way of showing her love and paying her respects to the one
who had become her Lord and Master.
had been her Lord and Master. But now he was dead. And
when she came to the tomb and saw that the stone over its
entrance had been rolled away, and realized that the tomb was
empty, she knew what it meant. Grave robbers. She ran back to
tell Peter and John, two of the Lord's closest disciples and
friends. "They have taken the Lord from the tomb," she
exclaimed, "And we don't know where they have put
him!" She still thought of the Lord as the dead body in the
tomb. It is a human way to think of death.
and John (who refers to himself a "the disciple Jesus
loved) ran to the tomb and saw for themselves that Jesus was not
there. Oddly enough, though, his grave cloths had been left
behind by whomever had taken the body. And it says that they
still did not understand the scripture which said that he must
rise from death. I suspect that as they went back home they were
scratching their heads, wondering what was going on.
Mary stayed behind, crying outside the tomb. And perhaps because
of her great love and persistence, when she looked back into the
tomb she saw two angels dressed in white. This apparently did
not make a big impression on her. Perhaps since she was still
thinking materially--that death was the final end of her beloved
Lord--she was not able to see the bright radiance that often
angels asked her why she was crying. We don't know what their
tone was in asking her this question. Being angels, I like to
think that there was a tone of concern for her, a sense of the
grief she was feeling, and a desire to comfort her. And yet,
from a human perspective, it seems like a rather thoughtless
question to ask someone who has just lost the dearest person she
had ever known. Of course she was crying!
the other hand, angels have a very different perspective on
death than we do here on earth. For us, death and the grave mean
loss--the absence of someone we love. Death means loneliness and
sorrow. Angels, however, see death from the other side. Every
time we see death, they see a new birth into the spiritual
world. Emanuel Swedenborg mentions this difference of
perspective at one point, when he has just rather paradoxically
interpreted "the grave" (in the Bible) to mean
"restoration to life." He writes:
It does indeed
seem strange that "the grave" means a restoration to
life; but that strangeness is due to human ideas about the
grave. We make no distinction between the grave and death, nor
even between the grave and the dead body lying in it. But
angels in heaven simply cannot think about the grave in this
way. They have an entirely different view of it than we do:
namely, the idea of resurrection and restoration to life. For
when our body is committed to the grave, we ourselves are
raised into the next life. So when angels think about the
grave, they have no idea of death, but only of life, and
therefore of a restoration to life. (Arcana Coelestia
when the angel asked Mary Magdalene, "why are you
crying," perhaps he really was a bit perplexed. From his
perspective, something wonderful had just happened!
Mary did not have that perspective yet. Even when she turned
around and saw a man standing there, she remained so firmly
embedded in her sense of death as final loss that she did not,
could not recognize that it was her beloved Jesus. Instead, she
thought it was the gardener. The man continued the angel's
question: "Woman, why are you crying?" he asked,
"Who is it that you are looking for?"
gently he broke the news to her! He knew it was he himself that
she was looking for. Yet he was patient, giving her a chance to
absorb what was happening, to adjust her thinking to this new
reality. It would be a real shock to have our worldview changed
in an instant. Like a car speeding down the highway (to use a
modern metaphor), our mind needs time to slow down and prepare
to make that U-turn. If we slam on the brakes and crank the
wheel while still going sixty-five miles an hour, instead of
turning we will crash.
was still decelerating. She was not quite ready to see
who it was, and to have her mind turned one hundred eighty
degrees. So instead of seeing him as Jesus, she saw him as the
gardener. "If you took him away, sir," she said,
"Tell me where you have put him, and I will go and get
him." Even in death, she was completely devoted to him. And
this devotion was what finally enabled her to see the wonderful
said to her, "Mary."
you ever had the experience of meeting by chance someone you had
known years ago, and they recognized you but you didn't
recognize them? It happened to me once several years ago when I
was standing at the train station in my old hometown. There was
a small crowd waiting for the train. And then I saw someone
walking quickly toward me. I had no idea who she was. "Lee
Woofenden!" she cried out with delight. And then it all
came flooding back to me. She had been a high school friend of
mine--one whom I had not seen since graduation some fifteen or
twenty years before. And she brought those memories back simply
by speaking my name.
suspect that was how Mary experienced it when this man standing
in front of her spoke her name. It all came flooding back to
her. Everything Jesus had done for her; all the time she had
spent with him, tending to his needs, listening to his words of
life, watching as he healed others just as he had healed her;
seeing this man transforming the lives of so many; realizing
that this was no mere man, but was, in fact, her Lord and
Savior. Yes, I believe that the single word, "Mary,"
her name, brought all of this back to her mind.
turned to him and said, "Rabboni,"
"Teacher." Now she knew who she was. After a brief
conversation, she once again went to the disciples, this time to
bring them the joyful news that she had seen the Lord! That
evening, the disciples saw him for themselves. They had gathered
together behind locked doors, still fearful of the Jewish
authorities who had sent Jesus to his death. Their lives had not
yet been transformed by the resurrection, as Mary's had. It took
their minds a little longer to make that U-turn. Jesus sent Mary
to them to break the news second-hand, so that they might be
prepared for it when he appeared in person. And when he did
appear to them, very much alive, he brought them a comforting,
transforming message. "Peace be with you," he said.
Right then and there, their fear was transformed into a far
deeper peace of the soul--and they were filled with joy!
were the people who had been closest to the Lord; who had
absorbed his teachings directly from him for three years. And
their minds were actually able to turn around quite quickly to
grasp a reality beyond anything they had ever conceived of as
possible according to their worldly upbringing. To think that
death could be overcome! It had never happened before!
the Lord gives us as much time as we need to turn our minds
around--a whole lifetime, in fact.
most of us did have some religious teaching in our childhood and
youth, we were still brought up in a society that tends to view
death as the final tragedy, and any kind of physical or material
loss as a somewhat lesser tragedy. We still tend to fix our
minds on the things of the world. And while we rightly enjoy the
pleasures this world can give, we also get our share of pain,
sorrow, and loss. And we grieve those losses. We shed tears when
something or someone close to our heart is taken away from us.
It's only natural. We are creatures of this earth, and the Lord
knows that we need time to grieve our losses.
we are also creatures of spirit. We are also creatures of the
Lord. Though it may take a little longer for us to turn our
minds around and see things from the angels' perspective, the
promise of Easter is that our minds can be turned around.
That the Lord can rise from death in our minds as well.
That the Lord Jesus--who sometimes seems so distant, so dead
when we are experiencing the pain of loss--that the joy he
offers will yet triumph over the pain and sorrow that tinges
even the pleasures of this earth.
the angels' point of view, every death and loss we experience
here is the beginning of new life. And this is not only true of
the literal loss of a loved one to death. It is true of all our
other losses in life. Every time we experience the pain and the
tears of loss, there is an opportunity for a new resurrection of
love, compassion, peace, and joy in us. When we are in the
middle of a loss, it may not feel that way. It does take time to
turn our minds and hearts around. It takes time to see things
from the angels' perspective.
also takes something more than time. Mary Magdalene's mind was
not turned around simply through the passage of time. It was
turned around because she had a love for the Lord that would not
rest until she found him. She had a devotion to the Lord that
brought her back to him even when she thought he was dead. And
through that devotion, her tears were transformed into joy.
Easter message is a very powerful and beautiful one, telling us
that the Lord has power even over death--that from God's
perspective, death simply means the continuation of life on a
higher level. But that message does not come to us
automatically. We can hear the story of the Lord's resurrection
every year, and still feel more of life's pain than of life's
joy. As long as we remain stuck in our worldly view of events,
we will continue to experience our losses here on earth as
something that must simply be endured, with nothing but time to
dull the sting of our pain. If the pain is too much, we may turn
to various therapies, or to various addictions, in order to ease
the pain. But for the deepest losses in life, none of those
external things will work in the end--whatever temporary solace
they may bring.
Easter story gives us the only deep and lasting antidote to the
pains and losses of this earthly life. The Easter story gives us
the only true road out of our tears. And the centerpiece of that
story is the Lord himself. It is the Lord himself who overcame
death. And by doing so, he transformed the tears of his
followers into the joy of new life.
offers this same new life to each one of us. The only way our
tears can finally be transformed to joy is when we ourselves are
transformed by the love and power of the Lord, from the inside
out. When we discover a new presence of the Lord awakening
within us, out of the ashes of our old life, then we know that
death and pain will not win in the end. Then we experience the
Lord Jesus coming to us in the locked room of our heart, where
we hide ourselves away from the fear and pain of life. Then we
hear those wonderfully healing words of the Lord, "Peace be
we hear these words of our Lord within ourselves, we know that
we no longer need to keep ourselves locked up inside. Like the
disciples of two thousand years ago, we are freed to go out and
transform both ourselves and the world around us. For now we
know the message of Easter. Now we know that life is stronger
than death; that joy is stronger than grief; that love is
stronger than fear; and that God is reigning above all. Amen.