When I awoke this morning, the temperature was minus twenty-four degrees Fahrenheit, and snow many feet deep. Spring seems very far away. Yet I have hope, for the sun is shining brightly, and daylight hours are steadily increasing. Spring will come! This hope is based on fact, on experience, on the promise.
Hope was gone for the women trudging to the tomb of Jesus that first spring Resurrection morning long ago. Visualize with me their hopes for a conquering delivering Messiah being trampled by the brutal Romans, the betraying Judas, a “crucify”-crying crowd, and Pilate’s pronouncement of death. Even their hope for continuing a genuine friendship with this man who would eat with sinners was gone. All they could do was carry on, doing what they knew how to do. They knew how to anoint their friend’s broken body, so they planned to carefully complete Friday’s hastily finished task due to the approaching Sabbath. They could mourn together at his grave. They knew how to do that. Numb that they wouldn’t hear his teaching again, see his tender treatment of children, or marvel at his miracles. No more chances to ask him about his often-mysterious sayings like, “Your brother will rise again.” “I am the resurrection and the life.” Or “I go to prepare a place for you…” Life had changed; bewilderment had replaced hope. But they trudged on.
Death often produces helpless, hopeless feelings. I still feel a little numb myself, though it has been a couple of months since my Mom died. She passed away three days before Christmas. I understand that she lived a full life, and isn’t in pain anymore. But I still miss her. I needed those people who just carried on, doing what they knew how to do: women who brought food, friends who braved a blizzard to sit and share stories at the funeral home, women who decorated church tables and served caramel rolls—just like Mom would have done mid-afternoon, and the concerned friends who asked, “How are you doing?”
Perhaps her death makes me particularly aware of others recently touched by someone’s death: a child, a parent, a friend, a grandparent, a baby. Death is so final. No more chances for words or a touch. Grief hovers, covers, overwhelms, paralyzes. Memories crowd in, painful at first, then gradually becoming sweet remembrances of time spent together, if there is hope of seeing that loved one again. Is there hope?
Back to the women at the tomb… You know the story. This was no anointing the body, no mourning at his tomb: Jesus was alive! His mysterious statements about being the resurrection and the life now made sense! He really was providing a place and a hope for our lives beyond the grave. And that hope is based on the fact of his resurrection, on witnesses’ accounts of their experiences, and on the promises he made to those who believe in him. Oh yes, there is hope!
More than spring is coming! Life eternal is ahead—and the exciting privilege of spreading that news!
Cheryl Olsen is the Faith & Fellowship correspondent for Women’s Ministries of he Church of the Lutheran Brethren.