As we approach Easter amidst war in Ukraine, it does not take much imagination for us to join the 11 disciples and the throngs of faithful women in their heaviness, powerlessness, confusion, and fear at the death of Christ.
As we read John’s account of the Resurrection this morning, the grave clothes stood out to me. The joy of Jesus unfurling the linens that had been wrapped about his mangled body by the hands of weeping loved ones captured my imagination. He knew they would never weep the same kind of hopeless tears again. While they would weep and grieve, as he had promised they would, they would do so under the light of the living hope that rose with him.
Because His body which was literally crushed on the cross for our sin took conquering steps out of the tomb, death cannot crush us, not even in a pandemic. We dry our tears in the linens he left in the tomb!
Now we can say in our grief and confusion with the Apostle Paul, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
We are not destroyed by death because Jesus destroyed death in His rising, infusing grief with a surpassing glory.
This morning I discovered a short poem by George Herbert which I have somehow missed in my reading before. What a timely gift from God to me! A special little Easter surprise that lifted my soul, as I hope it does yours.
From The Dawning, by George Herbert
Awake sad heart, whom sorrow ever drowns;
Take up thine eyes, which feed on earth;
Unfold thy forehead gather’d into frowns;
Thy Savior comes, and with him mirth:
And with his burial linen dry thine eyes:
Christ left his graveclothes, that we might, when grief
Draws tears, or blood, not want an handkerchief.
That we can now dry our tears with God’s loosed grave clothes is such good news. It is the news that every human heart hungers to hear always, but especially in a season when death is dealing heavy blows globally.
In the Resurrection of Christ we have been given gospel hope and the happiest handkerchief. He is risen, indeed! Dry your eyes with his linens this morning! Death has not won; life in God has the last word!
Though we still live in the already / not yet of the kingdom of God, though we still live in the valley of tears, Christ’s resurrection provides the hope and the handkerchief we need to live until the days when tears will be no more.