A couple of thousand years ago, in the chilly, silent hours before dawn, a small gaggle of grief-struck women approached the tomb of their best friend.
He had been murdered only three days earlier in a very public and humiliating way. His stiffening body had been hastily wrapped and temporarily laid in a carved-out rock cave. The women carried spices, expensive but worth the price, to honor their friend by preparing his body for proper burial according to the tradition of their culture.
Since they were women the job was theirs, but it was not going to be pleasant. Their friend had been dead three days. The wrappings they’d have to unwind would be smelly and stiff with blood. His body, beaten and tortured, would be ugly. But it would be their last act of friendship. A final gesture of love.
As a nurse, I’ve been around death. I hate death for what it is–an evil brought into the world as a result of original sin. Now our lives have bookends. We’re born, we live, we die. I have, on occasion, helped a family prepare their loved one for burial. We lovingly washed the body while sharing memories, picked out a favorite outfit, placed a Bible or a rose or a toy in the hand that wouldn’t ever really hold it again. This nursing care has always felt like such an honor to provide.
But the women who meant to honor their dead friend’s body were shocked and horrified when they arrived at the tomb. No corpse. The tomb was empty. A couple of angels showed up, though. The appearance of angels has always been described as a fearful experience; angels are powerful and wonderful beings, and the terrified women fell to the ground.
“He is not here, he has risen,” the angels said.
Jesus died, fought death, and won. He is alive. And he did it for me.
Because of this, the bookend of death is no longer permanent. It’s nothing more than a hiccup between my life here and my eternal life in the presence of God.
Ever the pragmatist, I wonder what the women did with their expensive but unnecessary spices. A burial gift, now irrelevant.
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” Luke 24: 1-6