The Lord is risen!
We've seen the stone rolled away. We've glanced inside the tomb, seen the empty space where his body had been placed. We've heard the good news, the great news: Death has no victory here! And we've heard the instruction: Go, and tell! The songs of this day help us recount the story: "Christ the Lord is risen today! Hallelujah!" "Up from the grave he arose!" "I know that my redeemer lives!" "He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today!"
The stories we tell, and even the songs we sing help us communicate what we believe, and help us celebrate even those things that we "hope for, but have not seen" with our human eyes. How Jesus was born, how he lived and loved, how he died and how he defeated death, and (I noticed this morning, in one worship song we sang on this Resurrection Day) how he then ascended to heaven. The Apostles' Creed, a long-standing traditional affirmation of Christian belief, does this same little trick, jumping directly from "rose from the dead" to "ascended to the right hand of God."
But something very important--I would even go so far as to say something vital--happens in between Jesus' resurrection from the dead, and his being lifted up into the sky: he lives! He lives again, on earth, in a body, with us! After his death and rising, he is no ghost, no apparition. He's no floating diety, sprouting wings and sporting a spiffy new halo. The very miracle of his resurrection is not that he immediately and fantastically rises directly up to his heavenly home. The miracle of resurrection is that he comes back here. He's comforting his grieving friends; challenging his disciples for their (continued) lack of faith; directing them to get out into the world, teaching and baptizing and healing. In other gospel stories, he's cooking a beach-side breakfast and advising on fishing strategies; he's walking home with some friends and breaking bread; he's showing them his wounds, and having some supper; he's giving Great Commissions.
In fact, his ascension into heaven gets less air-time in the gospels than his baptism, or his temptation in the wilderness, or the transfiguration. This event, on which our tradition places so much lyrical and credal importance, is reported in exactly two verses in the entire four gospels (if you're curious: in Mark and in Luke), with one additional brief mention at the beginning of Acts. It's certainly an understated occurrence, and maybe even (dare I say it?) anti-climactic.
So let us not end this season of Lent by rushing to bid Jesus farewell as we watch him sail away into the sky. Let us honor his love for us and for our world--such a love that he came to give his life for us, and such a love that he returned to life to return to us. Let us welcome him back from the grave to the home he has with us. Let us walk alongside him on the journey. Let us be nourished by him, and let us eat at his table. Let us receive his teachings, and let us follow his instructions. Let us tell the world: The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed!
Friends, thank you for sharing this journey of Lent with me. I hope these weeks have been an encouragement to you and have helped you to participate meaningfully in this season. It has been a challenge and a great joy for me to read and write through Mark's Gospel, and I'm grateful for the companionship I've felt along the way.
I'll be taking a breather now... but I plan to be back in upcoming weeks, possibly with another walking-through-a-Bible-book writing practice. I hope you'll join me then.
In the meantime---
The Lord cause his face to shine upon you
and be gracious unto you.
The Lord lift the light of his countenance upon you
and grant you his peace,
now and forevermore.