Message – The Impact of Light
Our life is filled with moments, small and huge, good and bad, moments that we often use to identify time and history, moments that changed us, our community, and our world. US Surgeon General Jerome Adams compared our current crisis to the WWII attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attacks on New York and the United States. Here in Oklahoma we would add the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Moments that seem to take us into, what seemed like, an eternity of darkness.
We knew that we were coming out of these tragedies, these moments, when we began to see light, we began seeing hope, we had changed, we were forever different – we began marking time by those events. Events that changed us individually and as citizens of this world.
Interestingly, in the middle of one of those moments that forever change us, we, today, observe the most historic of moment of mankind, a moment that lasted for over thirty years, a moment when we knew it was ending as we saw the light piercing the darkness.
We call it Easter, we mark it by the darkness of the cross and the light of the resurrection.
Episcopal Scholar and Vicar, Dr. Judith Jones describes this moment this way:
The Gospel that began with a man [named Joseph] afraid to marry his disgraced fiancé and a fearful king [named Herod] who tries to kill potential rivals – ends with overwhelming joy. Jesus’ command to the women becomes a command to all of us: Stop being afraid! God has defeated death. Rejoice, and share the good news!
Let’s look again at the people and events of the Story of Easter, the moment that the darkness was overwhelmed by the light, the story of the resurrection, the story of the moment that forever changed the world.
Our story begins with the women on a morning when darkness was the only way to explain the atmosphere surrounding them, and the feeling about everything in life, as the women left the safety and security of their homes. Even though the sun could be seen in the horizon ever so slightly, it still felt like it was the middle of the darkest night. It wasn’t just at this moment that the women sensed the absence of light, the light had become increasingly absent for days.
Even before Jesus was arrested, there was a sense of it. Darkness. The kind of darkness that kept you from seeing anything except for the nothingness in front of you. The light just seemed to fade, the peace and joy seem to disappear, as the week had progressed.
There had even been a sense of darkness, a hopelessness, present as Jesus had entered the city. Almost everyone was lining the path as he entered, people were throwing their cloaks and palm leaves on the ground, children were waving the leaves singing. It was a celebration but it had this darkness.
It had already become difficult to not look for the darkness, to not focus on it entirely.
The men that followed Jesus had made it very clear that Jesus should not go anywhere near Jerusalem. Jesus, however, had made it even more clear that he was going to Bethany with or without them. He was going to raise Zazarus from the dead.
‘We will die for him,’ Thomas had proclaimed as he, and the other disciples, picked up their cloaks and followed Jesus.
Then, after Bethany, Jesus turned to go to Jerusalem. Again, the disciples were incensed, they were outraged and confused, ‘why would Jesus go to Jerusalem when it was obvious his enemies were determined to stop him and his movement.’
The women had been drawn to the teachings of Jesus probably because of the way he lived while he taught. He respected everyone, even the women, even the samaritans, even the gentiles. He talked about God in loving ways, not mean spirited and brutal ways.
Jesus was a breath of fresh air for the many dismissed people like the women who were heading to the tomb that dark morning. He seemed to breath life one light wherever he went.
He didn’t hesitate to speak truth, he accepted all with love and compassion, he was a friend, he was defender, he was hope, he was the light, he was life.
Now, he was dead, they had seen him die on the cross. They had followed as one of the religious leaders took the body to his own tomb. They stayed there as long as they were forced to return to their homes.
Sitting in the loneliness at the tomb had been when the darkness had settled in. They had sat there in their disillusionment, their grief, their hopelessness, their confusion – they, just the women, had sat at the tomb together yet very isolated, alone, and scared.
A new reality for the women, but it is also a new reality for us in the year 2020 more than ever before, as this sense of isolation, fear, and darkness that the women experienced being much more understandable to us in our world today.
They had sat there in the darkness assuming that the world would now be dark forever. They assumed that the light was gone for good.
So, on this dark morning they did exactly what they did when they lost a loved one – they went to the cemetery. They went to do what you do when a body has been placed in a tomb. They went to anoint the body just as Mary and done with her precious perfume. Now, however, they were not anointing the body of a corpse.
They were a little surprised that the men and others were not going with them. They were also not surprised as the men had disappeared back before Jesus had been nailed to the cross. Who could blame them though, they were the most identified followers and friends of Jesus.
It was understandable that they were absent on this dark morning, they were scared, they were surely targets of the same people that instigated the death of Jesus. Still, this is what you do when a friend dies, you go to the grave.
The Story of that morning that followed the Sabbath day, which had followed the day that Jesus was crucified on the cross, is truly a story of darkness. It is actually a study in the response to that dark and light of those people, and groups of people, that were impacted, not just by Jesus death but also by his life. A story that explains their actions, on that morning, through looking at the entwinement of their lives with the life of Jesus in this moment.
There were guards at the tomb. The governmental officials had placed them there after hearing, from those who opposed Jesus, that Jesus had spoken of being resurrected from the dead. All the leaders knew that such a feat would be inscrutable and irrefutable so they made sure such a resurrection did not happen.
The guards were just pawns, doing what they had been told to do by powerful people who were scared. They had, long before, chosen to only see darkness which calls for doing everything possible to keep others from seeing light. Control is much easier if people only see, and know, what you what them to see and hold. The guards, even with their own lives hanging by a limb, had no ability to stop the resurrection, it had already happened. Without them knowing, right before their eyes, Jesus had risen and left the tomb. When the angel rolled away the stone for the women to see, Jesus was already alive and no longer in the tomb!
It is ironic that it was a government official, a King named Herod, who had been scared, over thirty years earlier, that the baby Jesus was coming to take away his power. Herod, at that time, had tried to stop Jesus by killing all the baby boys who could possibly be Jesus – however, by the time Herod took this action, Jesus was already gone. Now, with the government officials, including another man named Herod, trying to keep Jesus dead by placing guards outside the tomb – once again, Jesus was already gone.
There was the story of the Jesus’ disciples. This group had committed their lives to following Jesus for the past three years. They banked their future, even their eternity, on him. They followed Jesus because the believed in Jesus, they loved Jesus. The last moment they had all experienced together with Jesus was just a few days earlier when Jesus told them that, after he ‘rose’ he would go ahead of them to Galilee.
Now, in the darkness, they had forgotten about this promise, after all, they had seen him killed, as they watched the crucifixion from a distance, from hiding. Now, they were hiding again, they were not on the way to Galilee, nor were they headed to the tomb. They, like the women, were disillusioned, grieving, hopeless, confused, and scared.
Their fear was understandable, fear is completely expected when you can only see darkness. Darkness is all you can find when you have forgotten the light.
And, finally, there was the story of the women. In the greek language, when a group is defined as ‘male, it merely means that it has at least one male, however, a group of women is truly all women. This is the story of the women, the women who, on the morning following Sabbath, the first time they could go, they went to the tomb. It was the same women who had remained at the cross until the body of Jesus was taken down and moved to the tomb. It was the women who had often provided for Jesus, listened to Jesus, learned from Jesus, and now were called by Jesus to be the first apostles. As the angel explained to the women that Jesus had risen and left for Galilee, he also told them to go and share, then when Jesus met them on their way to tell the men, he told them to be the first witnesses to the fact that Jesus was no longer dead.
As they left the tomb, and then again as they prepared to leave Jesus, the were filled with fear and joy, filled with darkness and light. The fear was as understandable with the women as it was with the men. Jesus, however, told them to just go in joy, there was no need for fear. Jesus gave them a choice, go in fear for what the darkness could do to them, go afraid for the unknown, or, they could go in joy, looking at the light, allowing the light to overtake the darkness. To not be afraid even though the earthly scary things were still earthly and scary.
That is what light does, it lights up the darkness, it makes the darkness not seem so scary.
Things to ponder from this historic moment:
- Prior to the resurrection of Jesus, prior to the arrest of Jesus, prior to the entry into Jerusalem of Jesus, prior to raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus proclaimed that he IS the resurrection. He was not GOING TO BE, but ‘I AM’. When the women arrived at the tomb, the angel proclaimed, ‘He is not here, He has risen!’ He IS our resurrection, He has defeated death.
- Jesus proclamation before his arrest was that he would go ahead of them to Galilee after he arose, after He rose, he said that he would go ahead of them to Galilee.
- Following the events of the cross all His followers could see was darkness, hopelessness. They were only seeing with their eyes and not with their hearts. Each responded in their own way, many hid, others went about their life seeing to the body of loved one that had died.
- Darkness causes Fear, but in Seeing Jesus and gaining a modicum of understanding of the resurrection they began seeing the light, they began experiencing Joy. Jesus reminded them to live in the light and to not be afraid anymore – to quit looking for darkness when the light was in front of them. It was their choice. To let their peace and hope be found in what they now know was true rather than what the world has defined as truth.
- Recognition of light changed their lives in that moment and forever.
How do we, then, live in the Light, how do we live in the Truth? How do we make the choice? The apostle Paul explained it this way:
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
Light or Darkness is always a choice of our mission – our mission is to seek, to search, and to find light, to find truth.
The impact of Darkness is Fear/Confusion – a focus on Self
But the impact of Light is Joy/Peace/Truth – a focus on God
Darkness or Light
What is your choice in this moment?